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5 Tips for Transfer Application Essays

ESM Prep’s resident College Transfer Coach Courtney Couch and UK College Coach Rachel Edgell share five tips for applicants as they write their transfer application essays.

If you’re considering transferring to another college, whether you’re coming from a community college or your circumstances have changed at your current university, here is what you need to know about transfer essays: 

  1. Transfer essay prompts are different than first-year application essay prompts

Make sure you look carefully at essay requirements --  the personal statement is not used as often as it is for first-year applications, but individual universities could require that students submit a personal statement. 

The Common App offers seven personal statement prompt options, and the seventh prompt allows students to write about a topic of their choice. Before writing, list the qualities and experiences that you want to share, and then compare the supplemental essay prompts for all of your transfer universities. 

  1. Most universities have a “Why us” essay that asks why you want to transfer specifically to that university

Whatever you say should be specific to each university. If you can insert another university’s name into your essay and it still makes sense, then your essay isn’t specific enough. Focus on your academic rather than social reasons for transferring.

  1. Be prepared to address how you’ve prepared you for your intended major

If you have 60+ units, then you should be able to articulate how those classes have prepared you to take upper-level courses at your new university. Describe any related research, internships, employment, volunteer work, or course work and explain the knowledge and skills you have developed. 

  1. Be honest (but try to limit negativity) when addressing your reasons for leaving your current college 

If you’re transferring from another four-year institution, it’s okay to explain why your current school isn’t a good fit for you by explaining how the new university is a better fit, but avoid placing blame on your current college. 

  1. If an essay prompt is optional, you should still consider writing the essay

But only if it applies to your situation, and if the information you would share is nowhere else on your application. 

For example, Duke has an optional essay that states, “Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If you would like to share with us more about your identity, you can do so here…” -- if you do not have a specific sexual/gender identity that you feel is important to share, then you should not write this essay.


Should students use their personal statement from when they applied as a first-year student? 

No, you’ve grown a lot since then. Brag about it!

Should I mention in my essays that I’ve applied before? 

It’s fine to mention in passing, but don’t waste too much space restating information that is already in the rest of your application.

Who is the audience of my transfer essays? 

The person reading your essays is just that-- a reader. Don’t assume that they are overly familiar with your intended major or that they understand jargon specific to your current college. 

If you’re reading this and have questions about the transfer application process or transfer essays, please feel free to contact Courtney at or Rachel Edgell at