Customize Your Common Application “Why Transfer” Essay as Needed
We have been getting a lot of questions regarding what to write for the Common Application main “why do you want to transfer” essay. Our advice is to customize your essay if doing so would tell the story you want to tell the reader, keeping in mind the rest of your application. You might then ask, “What? I can tailor my Common App essay? But the Common App instructions says to NOT customize my essay.” You would be correct, in that the Common App main essay instructions say this:
Note: The Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Members that wish to review custom essay responses will request them on their Supplement form.
However, you can actually customize the Common App essay if you want to. The technicalities of the Common App allows you to submit different versions of your application and essay to different schools. Here are the Common App’s instructions for submitting an “alternate version” of your application:
The standard functionality of the Common Application allows an applicant to submit a single application to many Common Application member institutions using one application. In the event that an applicant chooses to provide slightly different information from institution to institution, she may do so by creating alternate versions of their application.
You can read the complete instructions for submitting alternate versions of your Common App at the end of this article.
We think that the Common App’s instruction not to mention a particular school in the main essay is incredibly awkward: it’s strange to ask students to explain why they want to transfer but at the same time tell them that they can’t mention where they want to transfer to. If it were up to us, we would do away with the Common App and have a simple separate application for each school, allowing the student to explain clearly and exactly to each school why he or she wants to transfer to it.
Like we said in our previous blog post on the Common App essay vs. the school supplement essay, depending on the story that you want to tell each school you’re applying to, you should customize your Common App for each particular school. That means that you might want to submit the same “why transfer” essay to some of the schools you’re applying to. At the same time, you might want to customize your “why transfer” essay for, say, Dartmouth, which doesn’t ask for a school supplement essay where you can talk about why you want to specifically transfer to Dartmouth. We’ve seen both general and customized main essays work for admission to the most selective schools in the country.
Let us know which approach to the Common App “why transfer” essay you take and how it works out for you!
The Common Application should generally be completed once, with identical copies sent to all colleges. You should create a new version if you wish to correct an error discovered after submission or provide new information not available when you first submitted the application. It is not necessary to “customize” your Common Application for individual colleges. Individual college supplements and supplemental essay questions should be used to provide special information to different colleges. Below are the steps necessary to create an alternate version.
Step1: You must submit the Common Application to at least one institution first. You cannot create an alternate version until this has occurred.
Step 2: You must log out of the application then go to this special URL:
and login using your existing User Name and Password.
Step 3: Upon login you will be taken to the ‘Common Application’ page, where you will see information about the application you have already submitted. The ability to create an alternate version of your submitted Common Application is now activated, and you should click on the ‘Replicate’ link to make an alternate version of your submitted application. When this is complete, a second version will be visible on your screen and a special drop down list will appear in the upper right corner of your application. You can use this drop down to move between application versions.
All data from your original version of your Common Application will be transferred to your alternate version, with the exception of any documents that you uploaded. You may edit any of this information before you submit it to another institution.
You only need to go to the special URL the first time you create an alternative version. Thereafter, additional application versions can be made by going to the ‘Common Application’ section within your original Common Application and using the ‘Replicate’ link. You may make up to 10 versions, including the original version. You only need your original User Name and Password to access all versions.
When you create the first alternate version of your application you will see a simple confirmation message. If you create any additional alternate versions of your application you will need to complete two affirmation statements then click the ‘OK’ button. You may also click the ‘Cancel’ button to not create the new alternate version.
You will have a separate My Colleges page for each application version. Each institution can only be on the My Colleges list of one application version, and you can have a total of 20 institutions across all versions.
You can move an institution from one version to a different version at any time prior to submitting the Common App to that institution by selecting the college on the My Colleges page and clicking on the “Move College” button.