Transferring colleges can seem a daunting process and rightfully so considering most school’s transfer admit rates. That said, we’ve compiled an invaluable list of transfer tips and specifics on writing the transfer essay.
Many transfer deadlines have passed, but many schools are March 1!
As a transfer student, the idea of fit is even more important than it was the first time around; you’re already in a college, so why is this new school valuable and necessary for your education, and why would you be a beneficial and instrumental addition to the student community there? What have you DONE in a specific academic area to show your depth as a scholar? Harvard admits a very small number of transfer students (12 per year on average) and specifically lists on their site that they require ‘a clearly defined academic need to transfer.’
A few transfer plan pointers:
Know Your Place… and Do Your Research
Schools vary on their transfer specifics, some don’t accept junior transfers at all and some such as Brown accepts sophomores and first semester juniors. Yale also will consider a sophomore and junior transfer, though they typically have only 20-30 spaces to fill with 1,000+ applicants. Community college students, veterans, and hooked students may take priority. Do your research ahead of time if you’re contemplating a move.
NO Regrets –Go Big Or Go Home
If you’re unhappy at your current school, you aren’t comfortable there, the environment, academic or otherwise is not your cup of tea, you don’t feel you’ve found your niche and never will or simply want one more chance at your dream school(s) then absolutely consider transferring keeping in mind the next tip…
Go In With Eyes Wide Open
Transfer admissions is more difficult and the admissions rates are lower (especially at the Ivies) than first-time applicants which in today’s admissions world speaks volumes to the abysmally low admissions rates! Like many top schools, Stanford’s transfer admit rates tend to be between 1 and 4 percent. For instance, 42 out of 1,959 transfer students were admitted to Stanford in fall 2016 for a 2.1% admit rate. Princeton does not even accept transfer applicants though that tide is turning as they’ve recently stated that by 2018 they will have a new transfer plan in place. Transfer admissions is not a walk in the park but it is doable as evidenced by the hundreds of students who successfully transfer schools each year. Just be wise and cast a wide application net.
Be confident in yourself. Be confident in your decisions and be confident in your essays and application as a whole. We can help you get there! As a transfer student, this isn’t your first rodeo; you’ve done this before and now you should have a clearer picture of the exact right school for you! That said, if it didn’t work out for you at a specific college the first time you applied and nothing has changed in your details (new test scores, high grades freshman year in college, awards) then don’t expect you will magically get in this time.
Kill It With Your Transfer Essay
Application essays offer an invaluable opportunity for you to present yourself to admissions officers—and they are the one piece of your application over which you have total control.
Regardless of your grades, scores, or extracurriculars, essays give you the flexibility to show who you are and what you care about in your search for a new school. An original, thoughtful, genuine essay can delight and impress admissions officers. In an applicant pool full of transfer students with great grades and interesting college resumes, the essay could even be the one element that sets you apart from your fellow applicants.
College essays are an unusual genre: they are intensely personal, but have a specific purpose, an academic focus, and a specific audience. Your goal is to express who you are, but in a way that shows colleges that you are a good fit for them intellectually, emotionally, ethically, and otherwise.
- Use the main essay as an opportunity to show academic heft and focus. We worked with a young man who attended a strong liberal arts college in CA but he had an interest in poetry and couldn’t find professors to mentor him or rich enough course options in poetry. He transferred to Bowdoin College, which was a better academic fit. In his transfer application essay he wrote:
After the rich depth of poetry and literature classes, discussion, and mentoring during high school, X College feels like a step backwards—there is no poet-in-residence, no class in Creative Writing, and scant students who share my interest in poetry. X College prizes its tight focus on economics, history, and government at the expense of other programs. The words “Lit Major” are spoken with a slight turn of the lip.
- Think of the supplemental essays as opportunities to share an aspect of your life that is missing from other parts of your application. Maybe you want to illustrate your sense of humor, your expertise in an additional area not highlighted on your resume or activity sheet, an unusual hobby you have, a difficult family situation, or a remarkable emotional or intellectual discovery you made.
- Plan for the “Why are You Transferring” essay question that appears on all transfer applications. Don’t diss your current school or say something about the social scene; instead focus on why the school isn’t a great academic fit for you.
- Make your essay memorable and unique. The essays that stand out are typically those that approach a subject from an unusual angle or follow a student’s interests from childhood by illuminating a specific vignette. Be concise and SHOW don’t TELL. As a transfer student, it’s in your best interest to write about something that has happened in the past year or so while you were in college.
- Organize! Decide exactly what qualities you want to stress then make sure your essay is structured to highlight these traits. Be careful, however, of writing a chronological essay. You might start there, but then go back and rework it so it’s not a mini autobiography.
- Be specific and concrete using details that will allow the reader a more vivid picture of who you are.
- Don’t choose a style with which you aren’t comfortable. Your reader will ‘smell a rat’ if your prose is pretentious or overly edited. Remain natural and write in your own voice.
- The best essays expand a small ‘slice of life’ into an essay. You may want to choose a specific moment or incident in your life that changed the way you think and explain how that change took place.
- Steer clear of clichés in both your essay topic and your writing. Focus on your academic interests and avoid the Outward Bound—“I made it up the mountain and didn’t die.” As a transfer student, your essays will be judged to a higher standard than your original college application essays. You’re a college student now, and your writing needs to match the standards of the school you’re applying to.
- Find your voice and hook your reader through a strong opening.
Bowdoin College Application Essay Prompts
How did you first learn about Bowdoin? (limit 140 characters)
The first thing that should capture your attention is the 140 character limit to answer this question. Given such tight constraints (no longer than a tweet!), it goes without saying that Bowdoin is not searching for an extremely in-depth response to this question. Simply and straightforwardly stating the method through which you learned about the college will suffice for this question; however, if you wish, you can add some embellishment. If you can express strong interest, leave a humorous response that will make adcoms laugh, or communicate why it is the perfect school for you within the constraints of 140 characters, we encourage you to do so!
For instance, if you learned about Bowdoin College at a college fair your sophomore year and you’ve been enraptured ever since, consider responding along these lines: “I learned about Bowdoin at a college fair as a sophomore. Since then, my research has only strengthened my conviction that I belong here.”
Though character restrictions prevent you from detailing why you belong at the college (thankfully, you have the other component of the writing supplement to do that), a response like this is effective because it communicates to adcoms that you’re both committed enough to have conducted extensive research, and passionate about the campus culture. While your response to this question likely won’t have a significant impact on your application, it never hurts to demonstrate your interest in and passion for a school.
In an effort to understand your interests and aspirations for college, we ask you to select one of the three topics below and provide a response of up to 250 words.
Bowdoin students and alumni often cite world-class faculty and opportunities for intellectual engagement, the College’s commitment to the Common Good, and the special quality of life on the coast of Maine as important aspects of the Bowdoin experience.
Reflecting on your own interests and experiences, please select and respond to one of the following topics:
The Common Good
Connection to Place
This prompt is challenging because unlike most, it doesn’t ask any specific questions — the only explicit guidance you’re given is to reflect on your own interests and experiences and respond (in 250 words). But how do you respond? Thankfully, Bowdoin gives us some clues throughout this prompt about what they’d like to see in an essay for this prompt.
Understanding the Question
Firstly, you should notice that Bowdoin is asking you to respond to this prompt “in an effort to understand your interests and aspirations for college.” There are two things to consider here: first, that the school wants to learn more about your interests, and second, that they want to understand what you hope to eventually accomplish in college, and how a Bowdoin education will allow you to do so. Thus, in writing your essay, your primary objective should be to clearly describe what you intend to study and why the college is the best place for you to study it.
The fact that these three aspects of the Bowdoin College experience –“Intellectual Engagement,” the “Common Good,” and “Connection to Place” — are highlighted here is also significant. These are clearly three qualities of which the school is extremely proud and of which they hope students will take the fullest advantage. Before writing, you should make an effort to research how each of these factors into the student experience. This will help you later on when determining which of the three factors will be most important to you in achieving your goals at the college.
Selecting Experiences and Aspirations to Write About
Once you understand the role that these topics play in defining student life at Bowdoin, it’s time to choose which aspect of the experience is most significant to you and would best empower you to accomplish your goals. But before selecting a topic, you first have to to decide on the experiences, interests, and aspirations you plan to speak about in your essay.
You may find it helpful to jot down your most educationally formative experiences, and how those have impacted your academic and extracurricular goals.
For example, maybe growing up near the ocean, you are accustomed to observing all sorts of marine life year-round. You’re fascinated by the impact that time and seasons have on the delicate ocean ecosystem, and you’ve decided to study biology in college to better understand the science of life on earth.
Or perhaps you read a Vonnegut novel in English class your junior year, and it had such a potent effect on you that you’ve decided to major in English in order to create stories that also have the ability to change people’s lives. Whatever the experience, no matter how mundane or silly, write it down; even seemingly dull or unintellectual experiences can make for great essay topics.
Once you’ve reflected upon your most formative experiences, you should also put some thought into what your aspirations are and how you plan to use your college education to achieve them. Specificity is key; you will have trouble describing exactly how a Bowdoin education will enable you to achieve your goals if you don’t have a clear idea of what your goals are.
Students who are currently undecided on their career path can choose to speak on an area that is of particular interest to them, even if they’re unsure whether they want to enter into that field in college. Alternately, they can speak on their aspirations for college that aren’t academic in nature, or could apply to various academic fields: for example, a desire to develop strong writing or research skills.
Making Sure You’re Unique
When brainstorming for your essay, it is of the utmost importance to discuss experiences that are highly unique to you. Since this prompt asks you to frame your interests and aspirations in the context of a Bowdoin education, it is in some ways similar to a “Why X school?” essay — the major difference is that you’re only at liberty to discuss one of three aspects.
Since there is no way to be unique in your discussion of what about the college appeals to you, you must strive to differentiate yourself when discussing why that aspect of Bowdoin appeals to you. As such, try to describe experiences and aspirations that will leave a lasting impression on adcoms.
Very specific, detail-rich descriptions of experiences and passionate explanations of your aspirations are the best way to do this. If adcoms can understand exactly what shaped the development of your goals, and you can make a clear connection between these goals and the school, you will have put forth a more compelling case for your admission than a student who speaks only in very general terms about her aspiration and how it relates to Bowdoin College.
Tie Your Experiences into a Topic
When you’ve finished brainstorming experiences, the goal is to be able to tie these experiences into one of the topics. If you find that some of what you brainstormed previously is difficult to tie into an essay topic, you can cross that off your list. Ideally, the experiences and aspirations you speak about should clearly relate to one of the topics.
For example, if you consider yourself an intellectually curious person who seeks to learn for learning’s own sake, the intellectual engagement Bowdoin offers its students may appeal to you. If you want to change the world with your college education, you are probably especially interested in college’s investment in the common good. If you find your life has always been defined by your environment and that you could find unique solace and sense of belonging on the coastal Maine campus, it is most likely your connection to the place that will shape your experience.
Once you’ve selected the experiences, aspirations, and aspect of the Bowdoin experience that you’ll write about, the only thing left to do is write! With such a limited word count, it’s important to ensure that every word you include communicates something significant about yourself to the school.
A great way to start your essay is by telling an anecdote that sheds light on your interest or skill in your desired field, though you can also begin with an unexpected statement that grabs the reader’s attention, a thought-provoking rhetorical question, or any number of clever hooks.
If you find it difficult to work in a hook without taking up too many precious words, feel free to jump right into the body of your essay. As you write, consider using rhetorical devices and interesting word choice to lend your writing a unique voice that will stick in readers’ minds.
With the advice above, you should be well on your way to writing a Bowdoin College essay that will set you apart. Good luck!