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Second Time's the Charm: Navigating The Transfer Admissions Process

The College Transitions Team (from left to right): Dave Bergman, Andrew Belasco and Michael Trivette
The College Transitions Team (from left to right): Dave Bergman, Andrew Belasco and Michael Trivette

During the regular admissions cycle, accurately calculating your odds of admission at a given school with relative accuracy is not all that hard to do. Much like an oddsmaker at a horse track, you can analyze the data and arrive at a fact-based probability. Unfortunately, in the less predictable world of transfer admissions, sizing up your chances is more analogous to handicapping a cat race.  

To this point, if you examine Georgetown University’s transfer admissions statistics over a five-year period, you’ll take away two general truths about the fickle enterprise of swapping schools:

1) The acceptance rate varies greatly year-by-year at most institutions and is maddeningly unpredictable (Georgetown’s acceptance rate was 23% in 2010, but only 10% in 2011).

 2) What remains steady is that you still need big-time credentials, commensurate with the rest of the school’s class, in order to have a shot (the college GPA, high school class rank, and SATs of those accepted at Georgetown remained consistent, even as the acceptance rate fluctuated).

Tip #1: Make sure you really want to transfer

The grass may indeed end up being greener on the other side, but don’t forget, you still have to mow the lawn. Okay, that’s a ridiculously folksy way of saying that it is important to realize that transferring schools is not going to be a panacea for everything that ails you. You may still end up with a roommate you may not like. Some of your professors will likely still be condescending and uncaring. Even worse, some of the credits that you already earned and paid for may not be counted at your new school.

That being said, if you’re sure that transferring is the right move for you, it’s time to start thinking about how to sell your new school on why a change will do you good.   

Tip #2: Craft a positive narrative

Make sure that the reasons you communicate for wanting to transfer do not end up sounding like a nasty Yelp review of your present school.  While you may want to leave College X because the professors are all centenarian windbags and your roommate is breeding rabid skunks to sell on Craigslist (is there really a market for that?), remember that the school to which you are applying wants to feel wanted. Think about it; would you rather listen to your girlfriend/boyfriend rant about their ex or hear them tell you what makes you awesome. Admissions officers considering a transfer student feel the same way.

Share with your prospective new academic home what makes them attractive and unique. Smaller classes, a particular academic program, a more diverse environment, or even proximity to home are just a sampling of the legitimate selling points you can offer.

Tip #3: Grades are king

Simply put, if you are looking to transfer to a competitive school, your college transcript, embryonic as it may be, needs to sparkle. If you are looking to transfer as a college freshman, your high school grades, especially those from senior year will take center stage. Candidates that had strong SATs but poor high school grades can no longer sell their “potential.” A 1490 SAT score and a 1.9 GPA your freshman year of college does not paint an appetizing student profile.  

Bottom line: Even if you are unhappy at your current school, put every ounce of effort into achieving top-notch grades. It will be your best ticket onto the campus of your dreams.

Tip #4: Research whether schools are transfer-friendly

While it is impossible to predict the transfer process on any given admissions cycle, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that many selective schools are known to be “transfer-friendly.” Notre Dame, Wesleyan, and UCLA are just a few of the premier institutions that fit that bill. Visit College Transitions’ complete list of selective colleges that are known to be transfer-friendly on our Build Your College Knowledge page. 

For more information about our organization, please visit www.collegetransitions.com.





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