How to Write a Common Application Transfer Essay

how to write a college transfer application

First, boot up your computer. Now write.

Well, actually, it’s a little more complicated than that, but it’s still not as difficult as you might imagine. This essay differs from your first college essay, because it has slightly less of a focus on your personality. Why do you have to write this essay? There is no secret answer. The college wants to know why you’re motivated to attend that particular school rather than just carrying on at your current one.

What’s Your Reason?

“I hate my current college,” is definitely not a good answer. You should never say anything negative about your current school. Chances are, you have valid reasons for a transfer even if you weren’t quite happy, and it’s important to highlight these rather than complain.

For example, class sizes at your current school might have been too big, so your professors were unable to pay any attention to your needs. Don’t voice the criticism. Instead, say something like this, “I was impressed with the smaller, more tightly-knit classes in X College, and I believe I would benefit from the enhanced opportunity for interaction with teachers and fellow students.”

Perhaps you’ve decided to change your major, and your current college doesn’t offer the courses you want to take. You may have decided to get some academic credits at a community college because it’s cheaper, and now you want to move to one of the big league colleges┬áto benefit from its reputation as a leading learning institution. Maybe you’ve been studying out of town but would like to be nearer to old friends and family, or you might have fallen in love with a certain college because the professors are famous experts in their field.

The reasons why you think going to a new college is likely to be a good move will probably take up quite a lot of your essay, but even if your reasons are simple, they should be clearly written, be positive, and be valid. Your previous college isn’t working out for some reason. Why do you think that transferring offers a solution?

Should You Mention Academic Difficulties?

If some of your grades have been less than stellar, you should explain why this happened, but remember to take responsibility. Blaming others for poor performance doesn’t show you to be a responsible and mature student. If you found a subject confusing or difficult, or you lost your cool in the exam room and blanked out, say so. Then explain what you have done to overcome the problem. This shows you’re determined to succeed, and you won’t let anything stand in your way.

What Are Your Objectives?

When we have just graduated from high school, we often aren’t quite sure what we want to do with our lives. After a year or two at college, however, we have a much clearer picture. As you did in your first college admission essay, you will want to write what you want to achieve in life and how you plan to do this. The people who read your essay want to know whether their college will meet your needs and whether you’ll fit in OK.

Tips from the Experts

Here’s what many of the experts on transfer aplications say you should and should not do:


  • Read instructions carefully, stick to deadlines and remain within the recommended word count.
  • Structure your writing well, with a thesis, supporting information, and conclusion.
  • Stay focussed. You have to say the most important things about your transfer in a limited number of words.
  • Back up your reasoning. What happened to make you think in a certain way? Did someone say something to inspire you? Did something significant happen that caused you to form an idea?
  • Show what you want by putting it in context, rather than just saying what you want.
  • Grab attention with a compelling first paragraph.
  • Proofread carefully, and if possible, get someone in the know to double-check.


  • Regurgitate hackneyed phrases just because you think they will impress. They won’t.
  • Dish up information that is fully covered elsewhere in your application.
  • Fake it till you make it or tell lies. Be yourself.
  • Wander away from the point you are trying to make.
  • Use “big” words because you think it’s impressive. Keep it simple.
  • Do it in a hurry at the last moment. You could blow your chance.

Need More Help? Here’s an Outline

1. Use an anecdote to show how you became interested in your field of study.

2. Talk about the positive experiences you had at college so far.

3. Say why you feel you would benefit from a move to the new college. Back this up with examples and your own reasoning.

4. What do you want from your new college? How will it help you to succeed? What do you ultimately want to achieve?

5. Tie it all together with a concluding paragraph.

  • I sent in a bunch of these applications over the last 2 months because I need to get into a school that’s better suited for me. I hope at least one of the transfers comes through…

  • I need to do this but I simply don’t have the motivation. How do you motivate yourself to write a transfer essay?

  • I found the common transfer essays to be quite easy compared to the application essays to get into school. The school already knows you are good enough it get in, it just wants to know why you want to leave and why their school is the correct fit for you.

  • Nice article! Thank you for sharing! It’s good to know the differences between an application essay and a transfer essay and they aren’t the same or wanting the same information.

  • Writing an essay like this is easy if you have actually done something in school. It’s difficult if you have only studied.

  • What if I have something that’s important to the reason for my leaving, but I think it will not be looked upon favorably by the school I’, applying to. Should I be honest and include it or should I finesse it so I’m honest, but I avoid writing about it?

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