How to Write an Effective Transfer Essay

Transferring to a different university can be a stressful process. The transfer essay, which is usually 500 words, is one of the most important features of your transfer applications. This essay is your chance to show an admissions officer their school is the right fit for you. In this post, we will walk you through how to write effective transfer essays along with strategies, tips, and examples.

How to Write a Transfer Essay

Co-authored by Jaya Ghosh

What are Colleges (or Admission Officers) Looking for in a Transfer Essay?

Transfer essays are different than the original application essay you wrote to be accepted in the first place; transfer essays are more focused on:

  • How you have grown from your time at your current university
  • Why do you want to transfer
  • Your specific goals for your future at your new university

DOs and DON’Ts of a Transfer Essay

Every student is different from the other and hence a specific method cannot be maintained for everyone when writing transfer essays. Let us first see the DOs and DON’Ts of college transfer essays.


  • Explain how you have benefitted from your current college (or university)
  • State the goals that you intend to achieve by attending the new university
  • Make a logical and consistent case for why the school to which you are applying is apt for you.
  • Explain how you spend your leisure time, particularly your extracurricular activities, which you are extremely dedicated to.
  • Give reasons why the new university is the right place to pursue your academic interests.
  • Your transfer essay should be written in such a manner that the committee gets a sense of your talents, character, and personal qualities. In other words, they get to know you well through your essay.
  • Be descriptive when writing. Focus on specifics that will grab the attention of admission officials and give them something to hold onto—and remember you by. Always remember the “Show; Don’t Tell” rule.
  • Some schools do not offer interviews, hence this essay would be a good platform to establish a personal connection between you and the committee and thus make a personal connection to a fellow human being.


  • Do not write anything negative about your current school.
  • Never make excuses for past academic performance or your lack of outside-the-classroom involvement.
  • You should not make sugar-coated statements regarding your desire to attend a new school.
  • Do it alone: Give your essay to a mentor and/or counselor to review your work—preferably someone who knows you well, who may be from your hometown or high school—both for errors and content. Friends and family can be helpful as well.
  • Last but not the least, do not forget to do adequate research on your prospective academic home. Details do matter a lot.

Related Article: Transfer Admission to US/Canada from India – A Mother’s Perspective

Key Components of an Effective Transfer Essay

Start with Your Core values

make the opening paragraph awesome and impressive and everlasting. It should be to the point. Focus on establishing a few core values or the essential part you are suffering in your current school and present situation. Focus on the needs that are not met within the present school.

How to Express Core Values in Transfer Essays

You need to come up with an essence image that captures that value (or those values).

See this example below, where the applicant wanted to communicate her core values of connection, intimacy, family, and listening. So she chose the dinner table:

Breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day. In my family the most sacred meal is dinner. The aroma from my mother’s authentic Persian saffron and Barberry spirals around the circular dining table as we prepare to pile each other’s plates high with current events, future plans, and questions about what we learned that day. Slowly, the notification bells and piercing ring tones are replaced by the clamor of metal utensils as my sisters try to fit the plates and silverware around our carefully crafted dinner table. Each person sits the same distance from the center as we listen to my little sister’s attempt at hopscotch from earlier that day with as much interest as my Dad’s stories about his patient with Atherosclerosis. Listening is how we take care of one another.

Here is another example:

Before I could even walk, my parents instilled in me a love for history. And thanks to their passion for travel, much of my early education was experiential. At eight, I could not only recite knowledge of Corrie Ten Boom, I’d visited the house where she’d hidden Jews in her home during WWII. By 10 I’d seen the Roman Ruins just outside Paris and by 11, I’d visited Rome and Florence, and begun to develop a passion for Michelangelo. By 14 I’d climbed the caverns of Mykonos and by 16 I’d walked barefoot through India and jogged along the Great Wall of China. Though moving around wasn’t always easy, travel gave me the opportunity to become more adaptable and resourceful, and I came to embrace differences as not only normal but exciting. My passion for cultural experiences and history continued in high school, and I looked forward to more experiential learning opportunities in college.

Explain the Reasons for Choosing this Particular College

Share with your prospective college what makes them unique. You can mention the class size that matters to you, a particular college program, a diverse environment, or the opportunity for hands-on learning and research opportunities.

Write about specific courses that you are eager to take at their institution, certain distinguished professors who you desire to study under, and unique clubs, activities, or campus traditions in which you are excited to take part.

Here is your chance to impress admissions officers with your thorough knowledge of their institution and how you will take advantage of your next few years there. Doing this will definitely make you stand out from other transfer applicants.


Tell the Readers Why you Want to Leave your Current College

What you communicate to the admission committee through your essay is very important. You need to start with the reasons for choosing the current college in the first place. Here is an example:

I originally chose Pasadena Community College because I wanted to a) stay close to home to take care of my mom, who was recovering from cancer when I graduated high school, b) save money by living at home and finishing my general ed requirements for under $50 per credit, and c) help my dad at his TV repair business.

Make sure that the reasons you give for leaving the present college do not leave a bad note on the mind of the person reading your essay. Do not give a bad review of your present school, or sound bitter about your experiences there.

Remember that the school to which you are applying wants to feel wanted.

Demonstrate the Attributes you will bring to the Campus

While admissions officers toil on the transfer admissions process, they are tasked with intensifying the diversity of their undergraduate student body and adding individuals who are likely to be contributing members of the campus community.

It could range from a particular club that you are eager to join or wish to start your own, or a desire to assist a professor in research work, the kind of books you like to read, if you have a hidden talent or area of expertise; you may also add that point.

Your nature as an introvert or extrovert could both be used in a positive way. The ideas, activities, or dreams that haunt you. Give the admissions officers a full picture of what your life and what it will look like at their school and how you will make an impact over many of your peer groups.

Speak about your Extracurricular Interests

Most high schools (and colleges) provide a plethora of extracurricular activities for their students. Exposure to a wide range of such special interests — sports, drama, dance, painting, singing, scouts, volunteer work, debating, fundraising, and even a foreign language can be the single thing that sets you apart from other candidates.

These activities bring many benefits and improve your social skills as a result. This is also a perfect opportunity to demonstrate your record of involvement on your current campus. It is far easier to sell yourself as someone who will be a contributing member of the campus community if you displayed these qualities at your previous college.

Students with an eye on transferring are sometimes so focused on escaping the first institution that they fail to become involved in anything outside of the classroom and thus miss out on valuable opportunities to demonstrate leadership and passion—the very traits needed to transfer to a prestigious school. Write about what you are most proud of.


transfer essays examples
Source: US News

Write about your Academic Aspirations and Career Goals

Use your transfer essay as a tool to communicate your genuine passions and what motivates you. Doing so gives your essay broader context and deeper meaning, as it explains the true significance of all of the information you shared.  

You could write about the subjects that interest you and how they will help you progress in the future. As a transfer student, you should share where your experiences and interests will take you someday.

Related Article: All You Need to Know about Transfer Acceptance Rates

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Sources: 1, 2, 3.

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