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already expects high GPAs and top test scores. “We need to dig deeper,” he says.


“That’s where the essay comes into play. That’s where we find out more about the student. We are looking for your story. Academically, we’re glad you’ve done well. We want to know who you are. What did your experience mean to you? How did it shape you?


“I never run into a colleague’s of- fice and say, ‘Look at this 4.0 GPA,’ Wise adds. “I will run into an office with a good essay to share; that ex- cites me.”


What do you want colleges to know about you? Your essay should show who you are beyond your grades, transcripts, and test scores. Consider your best traits and characteristics, not your accom- plishments and experiences. Colleges want to know who you are, not what you did. They want genuine stories that illustrate a positive trait or char- acteristic. When applying as a trans- fer student, they also want to know why this school is a better fit for you. What do you want to do there? The transfer essay is a variation of


the “Why College X?” essay supple- ment. It can be challenging for fresh- man applicants as well as transfer students. A prompt from the new Common App transfer application reads: “Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for trans- ferring and the objectives you hope to achieve” in 250–600 words. Most transfer essay prompts will be a variation of this question. For example:


Cornell University:“Tell us what you’d like to major in at Cornell, and why or how your past academic or work experience influenced your decision, and how transferring to Cornell would further your academic interests.”


University of California, Los Angeles: “Please describe how you have pre- pared for your intended major, includ- ing your readiness to succeed in your


upper-division courses once you en- roll at the university.”


University of Virginia College of Arts and Sciences: “How do your possible career or professional plans relate to your planned course of study?”


What turns him off? Stories that Consider your best traits and


characteristics, not your accomplishments and


Every college wants to know why you are applying to that institution specifically. You started somewhere else, either community college or a school that just didn’t work out the way you envisioned. They expect you have good reasons for making the move, so share them in your es- say. Be thoughtful. Be honest. Is there something this school of- fers that your current school doesn’t? Are you more clear about what you want to major in and realize the pro- gram at the other school is stronger? Let them know. You know more about yourself now; you’ve matured since you first applied to college. Perhaps you took time off to work. Just tell them why you want to make this move.


What makes a good transfer essay?


In your transfer statement and other writing supplements, you need to reveal something meaningful about yourself. What are three traits you want to share with a new school? Are you resourceful? Dependable? Curi- ous? A hard worker? Shy? Funny? Competitive? Determined? Shawn Felton, the Director of Un- dergraduate Admissions at Cornell, reviews thousands of applications each admission cycle. What delights him? A story that rounds out an ap- plicant’s package and an essay that helps him understand who the per- son is. “We want to put a face to the pile of paper,” Felton explains. “It is part of a number of identifiers that de- liver who you are as a person.”


transfer.collegexpress.com n 2021 29


experiences. Always remember that colleges want to know who you are, not what you did.


aren’t genuine, don’t answer the prompt, or fail to give him any in- sight into the applicant’s char- acter. He doesn’t like it when students try too hard to impress him or write essays that seem inauthentic or forced. “The es- say isn’t a thing to be cracked,” he cautions. There’s no de- fined rubric for a “good” transfer essay,


but the ones that stand out


share a few common features. Re- gardless of the prompt, they: • Answer the question; • Showcase a positive trait or characteristic;


• Sound like a college student; • Illustrate something meaningful about the student;


• Explain why a student wants to transfer to a new school; and • Demonstrate reflection.


The best transfer essays showcase a more mature student and are often simple and to the point. As a student who has already succeeded in a col- lege classroom, you can tell your new college of choice that you know how you learn best (e.g., you shine in small classrooms, love leading group proj- ects, excel in science or math or any subject). How can you build on your current educational (and work) ex- perience at a new college? Tamara Siler, Senior Associate Di-


rector of Admission at Rice University, says any application essay will add context to any transfer application. “A personal statement can provide context and truly show why a certain student is a better match than other clearly capable students,” she says. “Sometimes an essay can be the con- duit for a student to reveal something to the admission committee that we would never have thought to ask.”


Kim Lifton is the President of Wow Writing Workshop.


@CollegeXpress


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