Sample College Transfer Essay

David Writes an Essay to Transfer from Amherst to Penn

Archaeology at Zippori in Galillee
An Archaeological Site in Israel. by IAISI / Getty Images

David wrote the essay below for the Common Transfer Application in response to the prompt, "Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve" (250 to 650 words). David is attempting to transfer from Amherst College to the University of Pennsylvania. As far as admissions standards go, this is a lateral move — both schools are extremely selective.

 

David's Transfer Application Essay

During the summer after my first year of college, I spent six weeks volunteering at an archaeological excavation in Hazor, site of the largest tel (mound) in Israel. My time in Hazor was not easy—wake-up came at 4:00 a.m., and by noontime temperatures were often in the 90s. The dig was sweaty, dusty, back-breaking work. I wore out two pairs of gloves and the knees in several pairs of khakis. Nevertheless, I loved every minute of my time in Israel. I met interesting people from around the world, worked with amazing students and faculty from Hebrew University, and became fascinated with the current efforts to create a portrait of life in the Canaanite period.

Upon my return to Amherst College for my sophomore year, I soon came to realize that the school does not offer the exact major I now hope to pursue. I'm majoring in anthropology, but the program at Amherst is almost entirely contemporary and sociological in its focus. More and more my interests are becoming archaeological and historical. When I visited Penn this fall, I was impressed by the breadth of offerings in anthropology and archaeology, and I absolutely loved your Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Your broad approach to the field with emphases on understanding both the past and present has great appeal to me. By attending Penn, I hope to broaden and deepen my knowledge in anthropology, participate in more summer field work, volunteer at the museum, and eventually, go on to graduate school in archaeology.

My reasons for transferring are almost entirely academic. I have made many good friends at Amherst, and I have studied with some wonderful professors. However, I do have one non-academic reason for being interested in Penn. I originally applied to Amherst because it was comfortable—I come from a small town in Wisconsin, and Amherst felt like home. I'm now looking forward to pushing myself to experience places that aren't quite so familiar. The kibbutz at Kfar HaNassi was one such environment, and the urban environment of Philadelphia would be another.

As my transcript shows, I have done well at Amherst and I am convinced I can meet the academic challenges of Penn. I know I would grow at Penn, and your program in anthropology perfectly matches my academic interests and professional goals.

Analysis of David's Transfer Essay

Before we even get to David's essay, it's important to put his transfer into context. David is attempting to transfer into an Ivy League school. Penn is not the most selective of the Ivies, but the transfer acceptance rate is still below 10%. David needs to approach this effort at transfer realistically — even with excellent grades and a stellar essay, his chances of success are by no means guaranteed.

That said, he has many things going for him — he is coming from an equally demanding college where he has earned good grades, and he seems like the type of student who will certainly succeed at Penn. He will need strong letters of recommendation to round out his application.

Now on to the essay... David is responding to the prompt on the Common Transfer Application: "Please provide a statement (250 words minimum) that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve, and attach it to your application before submission." Let's break down the discussion of David's transfer essay into several categories.

The Reasons for Transfer

The strongest feature of David's essay is the focus. David is pleasingly specific in presenting his reasons for transferring. David knows exactly what he wants to study, and he has a clear understanding of what both Penn and Amherst have to offer him. David's description of his experience in Israel defines the focus of his essay, and he then connects that experience to his reasons for wanting to transfer. There are lots of bad reasons to transfer, but David's clear interest in studying anthropology and archaeology makes his motives seem both well thought-out and reasonable.

The Length

The Common Transfer Application instructions state that the essay needs to be at least 250 words. The maximum length is 650 words. David's essay comes in at around 380 words. It is tight and concise. He doesn't waste time talking about his disappointments with Amherst, nor does he put much effort into explaining the things that other parts of his application will cover such as grades and extracurricular involvement.

The Tone

David gets the tone perfect, something that is difficult to do in a transfer essay. Let's face it -- if you are transferring it is because there is something about your current school that you don't like. It's easy to be negative and critical of your classes, your professors, your college environment, and so on. It's also easy to come across as a whiner or an ungenerous and angry person who doesn't have the inner resources to make the most of one's circumstances.

David avoids these pitfalls. His representation of Amherst is extremely positive. He praises the school while noting that the curricular offerings do not match his professional goals.

The Personality

Partly because of the tone discussed above, David comes across as a pleasant person, someone who the admissions folks are likely to want to have as part of their campus community. Moreover, David presents himself as someone who likes to push himself to grow. He is honest in his reasons for going to Amherst -- the school seemed like a good "fit" given his small-town upbringing. It is, therefore, impressive to see him so actively working to expand his experiences beyond his provincial roots.

The Writing

When applying to a place like Penn, the technical aspects of the writing need to be flawless. David's prose is clear, engaging and free of errors. If you struggle on this front, be sure to check out these tips for improving your essay's style. And if grammar isn't your greatest strength, be sure to work through your essay who does have strong grammar skills.

A Final Word on David's Transfer Essay

David's college transfer essay does exactly what an essay needs to do, and you'll see that he follows most of these transfer essay tips. He clearly articulates his reasons for transferring, and he does so in a positive and specific way. David presents himself as a serious student with clear academic and professional goals. We have little doubt that he has the skills and intellectual curiosity to succeed at Penn, and David has made a strong argument about why this particular transfer makes a lot of sense.

Odds are still against David's success given the competitive nature of Ivy League transfers, but he has strengthened his application with his essay.