by Whitney Enwemeka

Deciding to transfer colleges can be a challenging decision to make, and it presents various obstacles, whether you are transferring from a community college to a 4-year university or from one university to another. When I was an admissions counselor at the University of Southern California, I enjoyed reading the applications of transfer students because they always had a unique journey and experience to share. Some were predictable and straightforward stories of students who had attended their local community college and after a year or two of attending, decided it was time to transfer to a university. Other stories included students attending multiple colleges, switching their major numerous times, or even several career changes. I didn’t mind reading through the twist and turns of events because it always left me with a better understanding of the applicants and feeling inspired by their stories.

If you’re considering transferring to a 4-year institution, now or in the future, it’s important to keep in mind a few tips to be successful in the admission process:

Look at the data
Depending on the schools that you’re considering applying to, some institutions are more difficult to get into than others. It’s important to be aware of the university’s transfer acceptance rate, as it can be very different from the freshman acceptance rate. If you’re considering applying to an Ivy League university, they typically only accept a dozen or so students out of the thousands of applications they receive. whereas schools such as USC, NYU, and Boston University actually have a higher acceptance rate for transfer students than first year (high school) applicants. You can typically find this information by going on the school’s admission website or doing a quick Google search.

Take the required (and recommended) courses for admission
The courses that you’ve taken are critical in the admission process. When the admissions committee reviews your transcript, they’ll use it as a tool to assess what type of student you are and how well they think you’ll do at their institution. It’s a good idea to make sure that you are, at the very least, meeting the minimum requirements for admission; keep in mind that it may take a couple of semesters to complete a particular requirement. For example, a school may require Algebra II for admission, but you’re currently enrolled in a remedial math class. It may take you up to a year before being able to enroll in Algebra II. It’s also important to be mindful of any recommended or required courses for admission based on your intended major. For example, many top business schools require students to take Calculus I for admission to business or accounting programs. It’s crucial to know what’s required for your intended major ASAP, as it may take a few semesters to complete the required and/or recommended coursework. Earn strong grades You should be aware of the average admitted transfer student GPA at the universities that you’re applying to so that you know what GPA to aim for each quarter/semester. If you’re nowhere near the average GPA, you have to be honest with yourself and set realistic expectations for your chances of admission. Although GPA isn’t the only factor that’s taken into consideration for admission, it is imperative and typically heavily considered when evaluating you as an applicant. If you aren’t meeting (or close to) their average GPA, the admissions committee might not feel confident in admitting you to their school if you haven’t proven that you’re able to perform at the level of other admitted students.

Maintain full-time enrollment (whenever possible)
Taking about four classes each semester or quarter will show the institution that you can handle full-time college coursework and are prepared to attend X university as a full student. Universities care about enrollment status and graduation rates because it’s an indicator of how well the institution is serving its students. Schools with high graduation rates want to ensure that when they offer admission to their new incoming class of students, those students will have a positive impact on their rankings, reputation, etc. If you are a part-time student or have had gaps in your education history due to personal reasons, you should explain this in your personal statement or the additional information section so that the reader better understands your situation. Admission counselors are typically understanding and will consider special circumstances as long as you provide them with the necessary context.

Get involved
You’re excited to transfer to X university to take advantage of new opportunities and grow personally and professionally, but how have you taken advantage of the resources and opportunities that are available to you at your current institution? Keep in mind that college applications have a section where you’re able to list your inside and outside school involvement, and you shouldn’t leave it blank. How have you made an impact in your community? Are you involved in a major-related club or organization? Are you doing academic research with a professor? Are you involved in student government or other campus activities? Are you volunteering? Do you have a part-time job? Colleges want to know what else you’re doing besides attending classes and studying. If you feel that you’re lacking in this area, try getting involved with something ASAP.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken
Many transfer applicants don’t spend enough time on their personal statement because they think their transcript will speak for itself, but I would argue that the personal statement is by far one of the most essential components of the review process. It’s your opportunity to tell the admissions committee who you are, what you value, what motivates you, and ultimately why you want transfer. The personal statement brings your application to life and helps the admissions committee understand you and what value you will add to their campus. Without sharing your unique story, you’re pretty much a number. Your story helps them humanize your application and will help you stand out amongst the crowd. You should be transparent, vulnerable, and put everything on the table. Don’t try to write what you think admission counselors want to read; just be yourself and no one else.

What requirements and how applications are reviewed vary from school to school, but hopefully this blog post will provide you with a few tips and strategies as you prepare to transfer. Wishing you the best of luck and nothing but success in the admission process!