Spotlight: College of William & Mary, A Very Transfer Friendly College
William & Mary caught our eyes because we interviewed three transfer students there, and they all had great things to say about the support offered to transfers at W&M. We also noticed that W&M has a relatively high transfer acceptance rate; for fall 2009 it was 43.7%, which is higher than their freshmen acceptance rate of 33.5%.
When asked why she chose William & Mary, Tanya, who transferred from John Tyler Community College, explained:
I went to a Prospective Transfer Day at William & Mary. It was just for transfers. It set us apart from the freshmen. It was as if the college was saying, “We know you’ve been through this before. We know you’ve been in college. Let’s give you what we have to offer. Let’s skip the fluff.”
She got to meet with current transfer students and other people at the college, including the Dean of Transfer Students at the time:
I met with Kim Van Deusen, a dean who works with transfer admissions. I sat down and had a long conversation with her. I talked about what I wanted to do and my situation. She gave me the tools I needed. We talked about the application essay.
When it finally came time to decide on which college to transfer to, it wasn’t a tough decision for Tanya. She thought about the experience she had with William & Mary throughout her transfer application process:
All of these experiences helped me to feel a connection when I came to William & Mary. This is a very personal college that cares about the individual. A lot of colleges brag about this, but at William & Mary, they didn’t have to say it because they showed it to me.
Another great thing about William & Mary is the Transfer Student Ambassadors, a group of former and current transfers who are there to help people like you. Mea, who transferred from Bard College at Simon’s Rock, told us about the Transfer Student Ambassadors (TSA) and other ways that William & Mary makes transfers feel right at home:
TSA held social functions at the beginning of the semester and throughout the semester. They held meetings about picking your schedule and how to study for finals. The transfer coordinator for admissions has been especially helpful with getting credits. I’ve also gotten emails throughout the year about transfer students working to invite new transfer students in and host prospective transfers. So there certainly is a support system for transfers.
Of course, no school deserves a 100% transfer friendliness rating. At William & Mary, for example, housing isn’t guaranteed for transfer students (see W&M’s FAQs page here), which isn’t unusual for colleges. Do your due diligence to see what each school offers and lacks. If possible, talk to current and former transfer students to get the real deal.
To give you more details that you won’t find on the William & Mary website, here’s the story of Chris P. (not to be confused with Chris, the co-author of The Transfer Book). For Chris, transferring to William & Mary was a second shot at his first choice school.
Chris attended a small private high school just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. The school had about 400 students in total, and a very comfortable, small community feel. Chris enjoyed his high school experience, but when it came time to choose a college to attend, he felt that he should get out of “the bubble” and try something larger. So he applied to a couple of big schools, Ohio University and Ohio State, with student populations of about 17,000 and 36,000 respectively. Oddly enough, however, Chris’ first choice—and the school that he had applied to early decision—wasn’t a larger school at all, and really had a completely different feel than his other choices. It was the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, student population 5,500.
“My brother went to William & Mary and every time he would come home he would talk about all the things he was involved in, and he would go on for like an hour, and I was amazed,” Chris said. “How can you do that much stuff? How can you be that excited about it?”
“Maybe this is a pretty cool place to be, even if it’s on the smaller side,” he thought.
Unfortunately, Chris’s application to William & Mary wasn’t successful. He ended up starting out at Ohio University, and when he got there, he discovered just how different his new surroundings were when some of his introductory courses had as many students as his entire high school. It didn’t help that he and his roommate didn’t get along, or that he didn’t like the way the administration ran things. It wasn’t long before Chris started to think about transferring.
“It was difficult to accept, because I did have a regular group of friends I was hanging out with,” Chris said. “And it wasn’t because I wasn’t fitting in… I had more friends than anyone I knew, so it wasn’t a social thing. And it wasn’t an academic thing because I was doing fine, but it was a feeling thing… and I just felt I wasn’t being stimulated.”
Chris sought out advice from everyone he knew about whether or not he should transfer and where he should apply. He ended up applying to William & Mary and two other universities. Re-applying to William & Mary was made especially easy by the fact that the school offers students the option to re-open a previous application by filling out the Reopen Application Form available on their website.
Chris felt that he had a lot more to present to them as a transfer student than he did as a freshman applicant. First, he says that his SAT scores were “average,” and this often hurts otherwise strong applicants because colleges want to admit freshman classes that have high average SAT scores so that their statistics look good. Applying as a transfer, Chris’ SAT score would likely matter less. Second, as someone with some experience already as a college student, he was more able to demonstrate his enthusiasm for getting involved on campus through extracurricular activities, a trait that any school would love to have in one of its students. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he made the dean’s list the first quarter, and that he also submitted good mid-quarter grades, even though they weren’t asked for on the application. After a few months of waiting, Chris was accepted into all the schools he applied to.
Despite finally being admitted into his first choice, however, Chris still struggled with the decision to actually change schools all year, and ended up sending in his acceptance form to William and Mary on the last possible day.
“It’s weird because if you stay the whole year, by the end of the year you want to stay the next three years,” Chris said. “It got tougher and tougher as I went along in the process, because I got more and more tired of thinking about it and the decision. It leans you more toward staying at the school that you’re unhappy with.”
After sending in his acceptance form he finally went to William & Mary’s accepted students day, staying with his brother. There, he had “the most amazing day he’s ever had” during his college experience. “Just meeting with professors, seeing the different events you could go to— everyone just seemed so excited to meet you, and everyone was practically giving you hugs here,” Chris said. “I was just so thrilled because it was exactly what I needed.”
The summer before moving, however, he did a little research—looking at forums and in chat rooms—and discovered that his new school might be more academically challenging than he had anticipated.
“My first year of college was pretty tough for me. It was a big balancing act, my whole sophomore year here at William & Mary,” Chris said. “At times I thought, ‘Did I make the right decision?’ I love it here, I love the school, the people, the history [of the place], but the academics are much harder than I anticipated. But I was still determined to improve and work my way up… I’m doing a lot better, and I’m still involved in more things.”
Those “more things” include being involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, the University Center Activities Board Music Committee (UCAB), tutoring in the College Partnership for Kids program, and working at the library’s media center. Chris also studied abroad for one summer, an opportunity that not only let him travel while in school, but also catch up on some credits. On top of all that, he was also president of the Transfer Student Ambassadors group at William & Mary. In that role, he was working on having the school set aside a building as housing for new transfer students. He says he hopes that such a living situation will help new transfer students get a taste of what it’s like to be a freshman discovering a new school with their peers.
One great piece of advice that Chris has for transfer students is to remember when you were the most excited you’ve ever felt about going to your dream school, and injecting that enthusiasm into your application essay: “I pictured myself being involved, loving the school, and I thought, ‘If I can picture that, why can’t I make it happen?’