Making the switch: Tips for prospective college transfer applicants

The beginning of the school year is generally mellow; unfortunately, it’s crunch time for college applicants. Transfer applicants, especially, have to once again dive into the dreaded application process. However, this time around comes with previous experience, so transfer applicants should feel more confident whilst applying. If you’re not quite confident yet, here are some…
<a href="" target="_self">Annika Brandes</a>

Annika Brandes

September 19, 2017

The beginning of the school year is generally mellow; unfortunately, it’s crunch time for college applicants. Transfer applicants, especially, have to once again dive into the dreaded application process. However, this time around comes with previous experience, so transfer applicants should feel more confident whilst applying. If you’re not quite confident yet, here are some tips on how to tackle those apps.

Start now.

The first and most important step to any process is the simplest– to start! It’s never too early to begin the transferring process. Think of it as applying to college as you did when you were in high school; if you procrastinated then, don’t make the same mistake! College is much more demanding than high school was, and although you may think you can juggle it all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Applying for any school can be tedious and winding, but it starts as soon as you decide to transfer. Do yourself a favor and don’t wait until the last month. All of the tasks at hand may seem intimidating, but pacing yourself will allow you to stretch your responsibilities over time.

Discuss plans with your parents/guardian

Before you start anything, however, make sure you’re in agreement with the people who may also be involved in your college education. If your parents are paying for your tuition, make sure to discuss with them what schools you’re applying to in order to have a grasp on your family’s financial situation. Then, you can collaborate and create a plan in order to tackle the logistics of your application process. If you’re independent or your situation differs from the aforementioned, try to keep in mind and inform those that may be affected by your decision.

Apply for scholarships!

This is something you should constantly do anyway, but applying for scholarships is always important! The universities you’re applying to may or may not have different tuition and living costs than where you are now.

It’s important to prepare for a financial change. Scholarships can help you minimize or even eliminate potential student loans and debt. Some great websites include and You can also consult with your current school’s and your prospective schools’ financial aid offices for more opportunities. Who doesn’t want free money?

Organize your deadlines

As you’re finalizing your list of prospective universities, grab a calendar or planner and organize your application deadlines. Deadlines can differ– between public and private university, first-year and transfer students, and fall and spring semesters.

Both the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems typically declare Nov. 30 as the deadline for all applicants (for the fall semester). The University of Southern California requires that applications are submitted by Feb. 1. Stanford University’s deadline isn’t until March 15 (Fall 2018).

Documenting these deadlines will help you prioritize which applications to tackle first. Also, you’ll be able to divide the work evenly with the time you have– from the day you start until each respective deadline. Whether you’re applying to one or ten universities, being aware of your deadlines is always a good idea and will help you formulate a plan of action.

Revisit your application

Don’t feel like you have to complete your entire application in one sitting. Writing prompts and questionnaires are intimidating for many people, so don’t feel discouraged if you need to take a break. The whole process can be anxiety-inducing, so write what you can in one sitting and come back to it when you’re mentally prepared. This can also help you reflect on what you’ve previously written; you may come back to your writing and find that you’ve found a better approach to the prompt or that your previous response was inadequate for what you want to convey. You can also ask someone else to look at your prompts.

We tend to be biased when looking at our own work, so getting an outsider’s perspective can be incredibly insightful. Having multiple drafts and revisions will relieve the pressure of completing a perfect draft on your first try. Your writing will be more concise, poignant, and on par with exactly what you want the admissions officers to learn about you.

Make sure you’re meeting the requirements

Transferring universities involves a whole lot of planning, especially with your credits. When researching which universities you want to apply to, make sure to take note of courses and credits they may require you to have before you’re enrolled at their university. This is also applicable to your application. Some majors have a different application process that requires an extra portfolio, essay, or letter of recommendation, so make sure you’re aware of these as well. If available, you’ll want to get acquainted with your prospective university’s articulation agreement– formal agreement on transfer policies– with your current school. This will help you plan what courses to take right now that will keep you on track to graduation.

However, although you may be set on transferring, make sure you’re also fulfilling your major requirements for your current school. That way, in worst case scenario, you’ll still be on track if you’re not accepted that semester. Consulting with your college’s advisors can assist you with this process.

Connect with your professors

You may be eager to leave your university, but networking is important on any college campus, and your professors are a great place to start. Many universities will require you to provide at least one letter of recommendation from a college professor specifically (rather than a high school teacher or professional connection).

Though it’s important regardless of if you’re transferring or not, befriending at least one of your professors will not only potentially land you a letter of recommendation, but it can also lead to job and internship opportunities as well. That being said, you should approach your professors with genuine interest. They’re people, too! Any student will tell you that visiting office hours and interacting in class is a major key to a successful college career.

Connect with a transfer student

It’s not easy to do all of this alone! Seeking advice from your former classmates and friends who’ve already transferred can help you gain personal insight to the application process. It’s a huge bonus if they go to any of the schools you’re interested in (and a bigger bonus if they’re in the same major).

Online articles and guidebooks can only help you so much; utilizing direct sources can give you a more raw understanding of the process that you wouldn’t find in any professional publication. Your peers may know the tips and tricks on how to go about the application, and they can help you get acquainted with organizations, classes, and resources on campus.

Get acquainted with the prospective school’s admissions officers

Every school’s admissions officers are different, but it won’t hurt to get in contact with them. Your current university’s counselors will likely have little to no information on each of your prospective college’s transfer programs, so it is up to you to seek out this information. It’s really easy to find an admission officer’s name and contact information online, so there’s no excuse! Send them whatever burning question you have regarding anything: the transfer process, the school itself, or the resources you’ll need in order to find that information. This will show the officer you’re very interested in their university.

Although it’s not guaranteed, it may help them remember you (or at least your name) more out of the thousands of applications they receive. So, just like with your professors, be professional and courteous with your correspondence!

Get involved on campus!

There could be several reasons why you’re choosing to transfer universities. Maybe you’re coming from a community college. Maybe you didn’t get into your dream school the first time and you want to try again. Maybe there’s a better major program at a different school. Whatever the reason may be, it won’t hurt to try to gain valuable experience from your current school!

Every campus offers so many options for you to find people with shared interests, so make sure to take advantage of them. Not only will you network with like-minded people, but it’s also something you can add to your application. Admissions officers want to see that you’re involved at your own campus; that way, they can see you contributing to their university with similar organizations on their own campus. Try to have a positive attitude while you’re at your current school; college is what you make of it!

Hopefully, these tips have at least motivated you to start thinking about your apps. If you’re admitted, celebrate! If not, don’t be too disheartened; every college experience is different and everything happens for a reason. Applying can be a daunting task, but it’ll all pay off once you end up where you’re meant to be. Good luck!

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