Part 1 of our Transfer Application article, we explored the two main criteria that universities use to assess transfer applications beyond what they already expect from freshman applicants. As a quick refresher, let’s list them out here again:
- Will this transfer applicant graduate on time without problems?
- Can this transfer applicant handle college-level work?
While a “yes” to these two questions won’t guarantee acceptance, it will go a long way towards making you a strong transfer candidate. But even if you’re unhappy with your current university and hope to transfer, that doesn’t give you a free pass to mope! University admissions officers want to see dedicated and engaged students, and part of that is making full use of the resources available at your current university – only after you’ve done that and still believe a transfer would be in your best interests can you make your application convincing.
Here’s a list of the absolutely vital “to-dos” for any transfer applicant.
1.Complete as many general education requirements as you can, including writing-heavy classes
It can be exciting to jump into your major from your first year (if you’ve chosen one already!), but it may not be the best plan if you might consider transferring. Instead, you should focus your efforts on completing your general education requirements in a broad range of disciplines. In particular, there are two courses that almost all admissions officers want to see in a transfer applicant’s transcript:
- A first-year writing course
- A mathematics/calculus course
First-year writing courses are often one of the most dreaded but also most useful courses you will take during your university years – the skills you pick up will help you throughout the rest of your university career and beyond. Colleges also pay attention to your specific writing course grades and often highlight this as a specific requirement for transfer. Many majors, particularly those that are heavy on quantitative skills, also require a student to take a college-level calculus course before applying as a transfer student.
Some universities allow students to waive these requirements through credit transfer from AP/IB/SAT exam scores, but this would not be recommended for a transfer student. Both of these courses give a good indication of an applicant’s ability and foundation, just like in high school.
Outside of these two courses that are basically required for a transfer student, completing as many of your general education requirements as you can give confidence to your transfer admissions officer that you’ve explored enough and have a good idea about why you want to transfer. Admissions officers want to accept students who have clear goals and are motivated to succeed – not undecided students who are still exploring.
2. Meet with your university’s academic advising center
Practically every university has an academic center, staffed by academic advisors who can help students plan their courses, explore majors, and develop long-term goals. These advising centers are also one of the most underutilized resources, especially among transfer students. And while it may be difficult to talk about transferring away from your current university with an academic advisor from that university, they can still help you in a number of ways.
- Help plan out your courses, and inform you about options you may not have known about (see Tip #1!)
- Help you clarify your goals and considerations for your future
- Explore majors and especially concentrations/pathways within a major
As we discussed in Tip #1, planning out your courses so you complete your general education requirements means a transfer university can be confident that you won’t fail to graduate because you can’t handle a specific area.
But beyond that point, transfer universities want to see motivated students who have compelling reasons for why they want to transfer based on their own goals. Most academic advisors have counseled countless other students and can share those experiences with you to clarify your goals for university and beyond. Strong transfer applicants will have goals that can’t be met by their current university – speak to an advisor and fully explore what your current university offers first, and if your goals still need more, then you’ve already made a big start on your transfer application essays!
3. Attend office hours
With most first-year classes being held in giant lecture halls, it can sometimes be hard to get to know your professors. Your instructors can only write useful letters of recommendation if they can put a face to your letter, and there’s no better way than to make use of office hours to meet them one-on-one! Another heavily underutilized resource, professors are very happy to work with students who genuinely want to learn.
4. Do research with professors
Here in Hong Kong, many students focus on internship opportunities, but neglect to consider doing research with professors. For a transfer applicant, the latter is far more compelling because of the prospect of a letter of recommendation. Furthermore, doing research into specific topics within your future major can show your dedication and depth of knowledge in the field, making your reasons for transferring more compelling.
It can certainly be intimidating to ask professors for research positions in your first two years of colleges, but more and more universities are now running undergraduate research opportunity programs (often abbreviated UROPs), focused on helping first- and second-year students get involved in academic research. A lot of students also mistakenly believe that research is only for STEM subjects, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Professors in all fields, from Art History to Urban Planning, all have their own research interests outside of the classes they teach. By taking the initiative to work on projects with a professor, not only will you have a chance to get a strong letter of recommendation, but you’ll also show your admissions officers how you’ve taken concrete steps in your desired field – two birds with one stone!
5. Take electives that can show specific interests
As a transfer applicant, you’ll want to save some space in your schedule to take electives that can highlight your specific interests, and show that you’ve explored them at your current university. Make the effort to meet your goals with the resources available at your current university, but if it still can’t meet your needs, your reasons for transferring will be far more compelling, especially if you’ve exhausted the options entirely. If your current university doesn’t have the major you want and you’ve taken all of the relevant courses already, your reasons for transferring will be self-explanatory to any reader.
At the same time, many transfer universities require all upper-level major coursework to be done at their own institution. Rushing into the core sequence of your major might be a wasted effort, so take that time to explore some electives (whether within the major or without), and consider taking some smaller seminar-style classes. With smaller discussion-focused classes, you’ll also have a better chance of getting to know your professors, and landing a good letter of recommendation.
Quantum Prep is an education consultancy that focuses on placing their students at the best colleges or universities. We boast of diverse results. In addition to the traditional rap sheet of prestigious university acceptances, our consultants like to highlight the different paths they have sent students on. All of our students are different; we are proud of our one-on-one tailored approach towards university counselling. Contact us for a complimentary 30-minute initial meeting, where you can get tailored individualized advice on how to put your best foot forward. Read our reviews to see what our clients think of us.
By Conrad Yu, Director of Development