How to Score a Spot at Your Dream School with the Ultimate Transfer Application - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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College Admissions
March 23, 2020

How to Score a Spot at Your Dream School with the Ultimate Transfer Application

In an increasingly diverse college environment, the 'typical' student experience of yesteryear no longer applies. Not only do many students attend college later in life or return after a hiatus, several switch schools at some point.

Transfers are far more prevalent than many students realize. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reveals that over one-third of today's college students switch institutions at least once within six years. Many others, however, apply to transfer and are swiftly turned down. Keep reading to discover how you can avoid such rejections.

What Do Colleges Look for in Transfer Applications?

Transfer criteria can differ dramatically from one institution to the next. Some colleges encourage transfers by providing a streamlined process as well as options for overcoming areas of concern such as grades or transfer credits. In other cases, however, the process can prove far more burdensome. Either way, it's important to optimize your application to increase your chances of receiving that desired acceptance letter.

Keep an eye on the following criteria as you move forward with your transfer application:

Grade Point Average

Like it or not, grades matter. In addition to examining your general GPA, the admissions team at your prospective college may dive into grades in specific areas—especially if you've already declared your major or minor. While good grades across the board will prove the most beneficial, you could potentially make up for the occasional flubbed class with a solid track record in core courses and electives for your major. In some cases, colleges provide substantial scholarship incentives for transfer students who are high performers / have high GPAs.

If you previously relied on strong SAT or ACT scores, you're in for a bit of a challenge: The further your college experience extends, the less consideration such tests will receive. In all likelihood, a stellar test score will not overcome a low GPA, although it could help if you transfer after just one or two semesters.

Experiences Outside of the Classroom

What did your daily life at college look like away from the classroom? Were you involved in extracurricular activities such as sports teams, music groups, or activities related to your major? Did you work a part-time job or pursue internship opportunities?

Framed correctly, extracurricular experiences can grant you a significant edge over other students with similar grades. These activities also show that you made an effort to get involved with campus life—and that you're likely to do the same after you transfer.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation prove useful at all levels of the academic trajectory. As a high school student, you relied on such letters to set you apart from a myriad of similar applicants. As a transfer student, however, recommendations provide a deeper sign of your potential.

Ideally, recommendations will come from trusted instructors or advisors—somebody who knows you not as a promising high school applicant, but as a college student with postsecondary experience under your belt.

The Reasons Behind Your Decision to Transfer

The unique circumstances surrounding your decision to transfer can play as significant a role in the final decision as the essentials highlighted above. Some explanations will prove more favorable than others. For example, admissions staff may appreciate that your desired college abides with your academic philosophy or goals. Concerns such as homesickness are less likely to hold sway, although you could benefit from framing your decision as an issue of campus culture.

If you're asked to outline your decision in an essay, aim for a mature answer that reflects your values and future intentions. Resist the urge to speak ill of your current college, especially if your primary grievances involve roommate incompatibility or aggravation with a particular instructor. These concerns, although often valid, will come across as petty.

How to Get an Edge with Your Transfer Application

Now that you're aware of what, exactly, constitutes an ideal transfer application, it's time to put this knowledge into action. Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done—especially if you're not particularly thrilled with your early grades or other elements of your previous college experience.

No matter how you feel about your academic resume, it's possible to make the most of your experience and highlight your accomplishments thus far. No, you might not have achieved perfect grades, but other elements can set your application apart. These suggestions might help:

  • Check out your intended college's transfer policy. Before you complete your application, confirm your eligibility and viable path to a degree. Also take note of application deadlines; the last thing you want is to miss the cutoff and be forced to wait another semester to be admitted.
  • Research the school you intend to transfer to. See if they offer scholarships specific to transfer students.  Doing the extra financial aid research early can help you narrow down the right college for your future and your wallet.
  • Consider top takeaways from your previous experiences with applying for college. As you reflect on your initial application process, consider what you wish you'd changed. Apply this insight to your current application efforts.
  • Stick with new application material. Your previous experience can inform your current efforts, but the content itself should be fresh. You've grown since attending college and that should be reflected in your latest application. No matter how well-written, material created from the perspective of a high school student will read as less mature.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. From family members to fellow students, a variety of people should glance through your application to ensure that it is complete and free of errors. Admissions staff members are often less forgiving with transfer applications, as they assume that students with college experience should know better than to submit any material that contains obvious mistakes.

The process of transferring college can feel frustrating but, depending on your situation and long-term goals, it could ultimately prove worthwhile. Take time to consider your options for completing a strategic transfer. You will one day thank yourself for your detail-oriented approach.

If you are considering a transfer and you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email