Answering the "Why Are You Transferring?" Question in Your Essay 


A College Transfer Article

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The Transfer Student Essay


If you’re planning to apply for admission as a transfer student, you’ve noticed that the process is almost the same as applying as an incoming freshman. The one big difference between the two is the student essay.  

Essays for freshman admission are typically left wide open — you’re given the opportunity to write about whatever would most showcase your uniqueness and potential. But the topic for transfer essays is much narrower. It’s likely to cover some variation of the question, “why are you transferring?” 

Even though transfer students need to answer that same fundamental question, it’s still difficult to give hard and fast advice for writing the essay because every student’s story is unique. That said, a few pieces of advice are generally worth following. We’ll share them now and then walk through a “why do you want to transfer” college essay example. 


#1: Don’t Trash Talk Your Current School 

To start, no matter how much you dislike your current school, don’t bad-mouth that institution. Sure, it feels right to disavow your current school before pledging your undying love for your new one, but it’s just not a good look.  

For starters, you chose the first school. So, consider explaining why you did, whether because you thought you’d enjoy a small school atmosphere or because you were too nervous about traveling far from home. The best way to handle the topic is to own it.  

Speak candidly about what this situation taught you, what you want from your education, and how it will guide your future. Put a positive spin on it if it works. 


#2: Be Specific About Your Reason for Transferring Colleges  

Simply saying your current school isn’t a good fit probably won’t work. Your prospective college will want to know that you’ve put thought into this and are sure about why you want to make the change. That means explaining why you want to transfer and how you see the school you’re applying to will be better for you.   

As a caveat to this, don’t put extra emphasis on non-academic stuff that isn’t necessary. It’s OK to mention that your living arrangements are challenging, but that topic shouldn’t take up more real estate than it’s due.  

You’ll want the level of emphasis to be in tiers that look something like this:  

  • 1st Tier: Academics (rigor or major) 

  • 2nd Tier: Opportunities/Location 

  • 3rd Tier: Social Situations/Extracurriculars 

Ideally, most of your essay will be dedicated to the top-tier subject, your academics. However, you can also mention social situations (like a problematic roommate) or challenges with your extracurriculars. It’s a hard line to balance sometimes, but if you stay focused and talk about what’s important, you’ll get it right.  

Good reasons to transfer schools 

This is a little off-topic but important to mention. We often get asked what’s considered a “good reason to transfer schools.” There are many different reasons to transfer, ranging from needing to move back home or simply being unhappy with a school to changing your major or being unable to afford tuition. Ultimately, transferring is a personal decision only you can make.  

But if, for some reason, it’s not working out at your current school, and a new college will allow you to further your education goals, you can’t go wrong with considering a transfer.   

Still searching for colleges that fit what you're looking for? Take our college match quiz to find colleges you can transfer to by clicking on this link


#3: Demonstrate Your Value to the New School 

You had to do some of this when you wrote your incoming freshman application, but your transfer essay should highlight your potential contribution even more. You should hold all your college-thus-far successes up on a platter for the prospective college. After all, you’re wiser now and have a better idea of how you can provide value to a school as a student and an alum.  


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“Why Do You Want to Transfer?” College Essay Example 


I can tell you what time it happened. I remember the moment when I realized that I needed to transfer colleges. It was 5:03 PM on Thursday, the 21st of September. I’d been back at school for just over a month, and I was avoiding the cafeteria, watching the same episode of Law and Order: SVU for the umpteenth time while mindlessly spooning honey nut Cheerios in my mouth.  

At this exact moment, I realized something so simple but profound. It was profound purely because it was a thought I’d never had before, not because it was revolutionary or would change the world. It would just change my world with only seven words: This place is everything I don’t want.  

A month ago, at home, I was on the outskirts of one of the largest cities in the US. I was surrounded by writer friends and a constant stream of lively, thought-provoking (if sometimes inane) conversation about the use of clauses, the effectiveness of first-person versus third-person POV, and the age-old Oxford comma debate.). I had a potentially endless supply of opportunities for internships and jobs, and adventures within a 35-minute train ride away. 

But here, the most exciting thing that had happened was that I’d applied for a job at a gas station 10 miles down the road because it was the only thing I could find in this small town. Here, all those years in AP English are gathering dust with no honors program to put me through my paces and no way to find someone to giddily gush over my ridiculous love for the underutilized interrobang punctuation mark. Here, my head is filled with the ending "dun, dun" of the Law and Order theme song, reverberating in an empty mind with nothing more (or better) to think about.  

I realized I want and need a more challenging curriculum. I want to be surrounded by ambitious students, joining clubs until I find the perfect fit for my passion, and applying for competitive internships to get real-world experience for my major.  

For these reasons and many more, I believe I will be a good fit for Appily University's Creative Writing program. I am most excited to take advantage of the various classes available. In particular, I'm looking forward to taking ENG 304 Travel Writing with Professor McHenry. Her piece on exploring Lake Taupo and the Tongariro National Park in World Travel Magazine was so descriptive — sights, smells, touch, even taste — that I feel as if I've been to this place in New Zealand I hadn't even heard of until 13 days ago. 

I may still eat Cheerios for dinner at 5:03 PM on a Thursday. But if I'm accepted into Appily University, I know it will be because Cheerios was the quickest thing I could make and eat before running off to an event held by a literary magazine. It won't be because I couldn’t think of anything else to consume since all that was going on in my head was "dun, dun."  



The Plug-N-Play College Transfer Essay Format 

Applying to multiple schools is always a good idea, whether you're applying as a freshman or a transfer student. Note that much of the above example is usable, largely intact, for multiple applications. This will work for any application essay, even the Common App essay.   

Let’s look at our example. You can see that the plug-n-play section is the second paragraph from the bottom and begins with "For these reasons, and more..."  

For these reasons and many more, I believe I will be a good fit for the [INSERT SCHOOL NAME] [INSERT PROGRAM] and am most excited for [INSERT SPECIFIC OFFERING FROM SCHOOL]. In particular, I'm looking forward to [INSERT CLASS # AND TITLE] with [INSERT PROFESSOR NAME]. [INSERT SPECIFIC REMARK ABOUT YOUR AMBITIONS FOR USING THE CLASS, COMMENT ABOUT PROFESSOR, CLUB, ETC.] 

Outside of that paragraph, the essay is relatively universal, which is the goal when writing answers to basic questions like these. Rewriting the answer to personal statements and the "why are you transferring?" question is unnecessary. All you need to do is write a stellar piece and tweak it to fit the college or university you're submitting it to.  


Having Trouble Getting Started with Your College Transfer Essay?  

If you’ve already read the example transfer essay above and you’re still feeling stuck, take a deep breath. You really can keep it simple. This is how to write a transfer essay that works.  

Just lay out the page as follows: 

Paragraph 1 

You’ll want an introductory paragraph with a catchy opening line, like any essay. Use this as a chance to talk about your passion for your major and what made you choose your major. Try to make this opening paragraph as unique as possible.  

Paragraph 2 

Talk about why you chose your current institution, what drew you to the college initially, and what you hoped to gain there. 

Paragraph 3 

Explain what you have realized since choosing your current institution. Whether you need to change your major, want to go to a school with more opportunities, or hope to be closer to home for a personal reason, share it here in this paragraph.  

Paragraph 4 

Now is the time to jump into what you see in your new institution that your current one hasn’t provided. Get very specific here — look at the curriculum, extracurricular classes, and events. Explain how you want to participate at their institution. It’s never a bad idea to use the phrase “I will be a good fit for your institution because…”  

Paragraph 5 

Sum it all up and sign off. A nifty little trick to make a piece feel like it’s come full circle is to reference something from the beginning paragraph. Your ending can be short, sweet, and concise, expressing your hope to be a meaningful addition to their student body.  


Ready to Start Searching for Transfer Schools? 

Now that you know how to answer the “why are you transferring” question and have seen a “why do you want to transfer” college essay example, it’s time to make sure you have your transfer options lined up.  

Click the button below to create a Appily account where you can search and save schools, see transfer acceptance rates, access scholarships, and even apply for our $1,000 easy money scholarship.  

Search for transfer schools and apply for our $1,000 Easy Money- No Essay Scholarship.

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