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by Lan Ngo

Should I Transfer Out of My College?

November 4, 2012 in Four-Year Transfer Articles, Q&A, Specific College, To Transfer or Not

We hear a lot of great questions and stories in our forums.  We would like to highlight one thread that might be helpful to students who are deciding whether they should transfer out of their current college or university:

Student: I’m currently a freshman at Spelman College, and I am thinking about transferring after this year. I have been at my college for a little over a month, and it’s fine, but that’s it: it’s just fine. I applied as a sort of throw away safety, but ended up attending (for some reason I always had a feeling that that would happen though…). The school has an amazing reputation in the African-American community, but is not as well known nationally, and I am not sure how that will affect me when applying for jobs.

When I was talking to my dad about this (he completely supports the idea) he gave me a few things to think about: and the last thing he said was “Think about what you want your college experience to be like.” I know I don’t want my experience to be “just okay.” I want more diversity, more school spirit (maybe some sports teams), and more people that challenge my ideas (often I’m one of the only people talking in class).

I’m from California, so I was contemplating applying to UCs (Berkeley and UCLA) the applications are due in November, so it would be great to get advice about applying to those because the deadline is so soon! I loved Northwestern when I visited in high school, so I would probably reapply there and to USC.

Also, I’m trying to figure out what extracurriculars to do: would playing soccer for the school (they are D-III) significantly help a transfer application?

TransferWeb: Thanks for sharing your situation.  I have a friend who transferred TO Spelman.  She recently graduated from there.  I asked her for her thoughts, and here’s what she said:

I will say that Spelman is not for everyone. I believe that it is way too expensive to stay there if it is not where you want to be. It is not a place with sports teams and that type of “college experience”.

However, I would not worry about Spelman not being nationally known. Spelman is internationally known. Graduate school recruiters from the Ivies and Fortune 500 Companies recruit Spelmanites. If there is anything you want to accomplish, Spelman will do nothing but help you accomplish your goals.

So in reality, it is all up to you. I would say apply to transfer out if you feel you need or want to, so that at least you will have options. No harm done if you decide to stay. Also, if you want more information on the Spelman experience, I could help. I recently graduated from Spelman, and I actually transferred to Spelman.

Student: Thank you so much for your reply/advice from your friend! I really appreciate it.

My main concern is that I am not being challenged enough in classes. Literally yesterday my English professor canceled class because only 2 (including me) girls in a class of around 15 did the reading and she didn’t want to have a discussion with 2 people. There is an honors program, but I would not be able to get into it until sophomore year, and I’m still not sure how much more difficult the classes will be.

I also have many different interests that I think a bigger school would offer classes in. For instance, I’ve always had a weird obsession with Russia and many of the schools I am looking at have either a Russian or Russian Studies major/minor or a Slavic Studies program. I feel like I wouldn’t be able to explore these interests after college, so that is another reason I’m considering transferring. However, the major that I am in right now, International Studies, is great, and not many colleges offer something like it.

Spelman definitely does have great career opportunities. Representatives from major companies come on campus all the time, but I was worried about if companies will recognize the name after I graduate if they did not actively recruit Spelman students.

I’m aiming for a 4.0 this semester but if that doesn’t happen I think I will not get less than a 3.7-3.8. I’m in Model UN and I really love it, I’m going to join the Spanish Club (I’m a Spanish Minor), and I joined another community service club but I am not sure how organized they are so I may have to find a different one. Do you have any suggestions regarding EC’s to make my application stronger?

Here are some of the schools I’m considering: USC, Tulane, Northwestern, Brown and UCLA/Berkeley

What do you think my chances are?

TransferWeb: As the Spelman grad explained, you should go ahead and apply to transfer, and then decide later if you want actually make the switch.

Holding a 4.0 GPA or a GPA that’s as close to 4.0 as possible certainly makes you more competitive than other students applying to the schools you listed.

Regarding extracurricular activities, I would say to do what you’re really interested in and what would be worth your time and effort, and then point out that genuine interested somewhere in your application.

We hope this is helpful to you!  Please share your questions and stories in our forum!

(Photo: dalbera)

Transfer Admissions Rates for US News 2013 Added

September 27, 2012 in Admissions, All Transfers, Community College Articles, Four-Year Transfer Articles, News, Stats

Harvard gates

We just added the recently released Fall 2011 transfer admissions numbers for some of the top schools in the US (the “2013″ Top 50 National Universities according to US News). These are the stats for students who applied to transfer and start Fall 2011 term.

(US News releases its Top 50 every September, based on information from the previous fall. So these transfer stats for students transferring and starting school Fall 2011 is for the US News Top 50 rankings released September 2012.)

Check it out by clicking here, or by hovering over the “Statistics” tab at the top of the page and clicking on the first option in the dropdown menu.

Additionally – because we love you, obviously – we also put together a table comparing the transfer admissions rates for Fall 2011 and 2010 at the same schools. Click here to check it out, or hover over the “Statistics” menu and click on the second dropdown. It’s one thing to see what a college’s transfer admission rate was in a given year, but it’s also interesting to see how consistent (or not) the admissions rates are over a period of time.

Generally speaking, it looks like the trend of shrinking admissions rates continues this year. Here’s our quick analysis:

Transfer acceptance rates vs. freshman acceptance rates

18 of the 50 schools had higher transfer admissions rates than freshman admissions rates, while 31 of the 50 had lower transfer admissions rates versus freshman admissions (Princeton, which doesn’t take any transfers, is the remaining school).

Fall 2011 applications filed vs. Fall 2010 applications filed

The number of transfer applications filed for the Top 50 that we have data for (48 of the 50 schools) increased by 9%, to 182,729 from 167,498. In other words, about 15,000 more transfer applications for the Top 50 were filed for Fall 2011 versus Fall 2010. We don’t have the numbers for Rensselaer Polytechnic, which wasn’t in the Top 50 last year, so we can’t compare their numbers.

Fall 2011 transfer acceptance rates vs. Fall 2010 transfer acceptance rates

16 of the 50 colleges had their transfer admissions rates increase versus last year, while more schools (32 of the 50) became more selective.

While the number of applications went up 9%, the number of acceptances stayed flat, at 62,615 Fall 2011 versus 62,556 Fall 2010. So, 9% more applications fighting for pretty much the same number of acceptances equals lower transfer acceptance rates overall.

Duke only accepted 26 transfer applicants for Fall 2011 versus 74 the previous year, a 65% drop. Georgetown, Penn, Brandeis, Chicago, and Wake Forest all reduced the number of “yes” letters they sent out by 20% or more.

On the flip side, MIT and Stanford both more than doubled the number of transfer students they accepted versus last year. MIT accepted 44 transfers for Fall 2011 versus 18 for Fall 2010, and Stanford accepted 58 students versus only 25 last year.

The biggest change: transfer applications to Harvard more than doubled

Looking at the biggest changes, the number of people applying to transfer to Harvard more than doubled to 1,486 from 612 the previous year. We’re guessing this is because Harvard just re-initiated its transfer program last year, and it takes a little while for the word to get out.

Conclusion: transfer rates move a lot so apply to several schools

We think the key piece of information here is that transfer admissions rates fluctuate a lot more than freshman admissions rates. This is mainly because transfer space varies a lot each year depending on the spaces available given each colleges’ development plans and their own dropout/transfer out rates.

Based on that information, two important takeaways:

(1) Don’t let a single year’s acceptance numbers determine whether or not you apply to a school. Do the best you can, and if you’re a competitive applicant, you have good reasons for transferring, and you want to go the school, apply. You really don’t know if they’ll have more space or less space next year, and you don’t know how many students you’ll be competing against for those spaces.

(2) If you’re really interested in transferring, apply to several schools. For example, maybe you think you’re the perfect fit for X University, your top choice. And maybe you are, but unfortunately it turns out they just don’t have any space this year. You should’ve also applied to Y University, which is almost as good a fit, and which happens to have plenty of space due to a housing initiative they just started.

Overall, just use the stats as a metric to get a roundabout sense of how hard it may be to transfer to a particular school. Either way, if you have a good profile for a school and have good reason to transfer to it (such as any of the many successful real stories mentioned in the book), the stats shouldn’t affect your approach too much either way.

Question of the Day: Do you see any interesting patterns in the stats? Surprised that a particular school has a particular transfer admissions rate? Intrigued that a certain college’s transfer admissions rate changed so much? Let us know in the comments! We plan on following up with some of the schools to better understand their particular policies toward transfer admissions.

Photo: timsackton

Avatar of Lan Ngo

by Lan Ngo

Adjusting to Stanford University as a Transfer Student

September 21, 2012 in Adjusting, Costs, Four-Year Transfer Articles, Ivy Plus

In this article, Chris (co-founder of TransferWeb) interviews me (Lan) about my transition to Stanford as a transfer student. These are the main topics I discuss:

  • The academic adjustment
  • The social adjustment
  • Financial aid

You’ll see why, in reflecting on my experience trying to adjust to Stanford, I tell other transfer students, “Basically, don’t be like me. Don’t be a fool.”

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Chris: Some people have asked about what it’s like to transfer into Stanford. How was it for you transferring in, the process of adjusting, and getting used to Stanford?

Lan: It was really, really hard. In hindsight, I wish I had done many things very differently. Going from UCLA to Stanford was very difficult because just the name Stanford alone was very intimidating. I, in some ways, was surprised that I got in because I could not accept the fact that I got into this extremely prestigious school, especially coming from a very humble background with very little education.

Once I got there, I was overwhelmed by how amazing everyone else seemed. I was scared, actually. It seemed like everyone around me was so accomplished. Everyone around me had already started a business or a non-profit, or they had done some amazing internship while they were in high school, and they were continuing to pursue such amazing endeavors while in college. I felt very little. You often hear the cliché that you’re a superstar in high school, and then you go to this awesome college, and suddenly you’re not a superstar anymore. That was a blow to my confidence.

I made the wrong move by giving myself a light load the first semester. I thought, “I need to adjust, so I’m just going to take three classes instead of four.” I think that might work for other people because they have transfer shock. Right when you come in, you’re shocked, and to lighten up the ramifications of this shock, you might want to take fewer classes to ease yourself into taking a more difficult load later. You have to assess your situation. For me, I like to be in intense situations, so actually, taking a lighter load was not good for me in retrospect.

I took a lighter load, and I think it made it harder for me to adjust because I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. The following semester, when I wanted to take more classes, it was a hard transition. I should have just taken the regular load, which was four classes, the first semester.

The social transition was the hardest. We heard a lot of transfer students that we interviewed talk about how hard it is because you’re not a freshmen anymore, but you’re also not a continuing student like everyone else. I lived in a dorm with a lot of other transfer students and also non-transfer students. My roommate was a transfer student. I think because I was also very focused on doing well in school, I didn’t take the initiative to be social. I should have been actively pursuing social endeavors, but I didn’t. That’s why I’m glad we’re talking about this now, and we wrote this book on what you should do and shouldn’t do. Basically, don’t be like me. Don’t be a fool. Don’t lock yourself in the library. That is what I ended up doing, just going to the library all the time to study. At the same time, I was very involved in a lot of different clubs, and that’s another mistake I made, because I was spreading myself too thinly, trying to be an active member in everything. I wasn’t just a member; I was in leadership roles in a few clubs. That made it very difficult to be focused and emotionally and mentally devoted to an organization or to a cause.

Chris: Let me try to sum up. If you had the chance to do it over again, you would’ve taken your normal course load right off the bat. You would have made more of an effort to put yourself in more relaxed, non-formal social situations. Clubs, for example, is a formal social situation. You think you should have hung out a little bit more. Was there anything else?

Lan: The last point I made was about spreading myself too thinly.

Chris: So, don’t spread yourself too thinly in terms of clubs.

Lan: Correct.

Chris: It obviously varies every year, but some people might be curious; do you remember the schools that other transfer students transferred from when they came into Stanford the same class as you?

Lan: I remember someone was from Mills College. Everyone else was like me; they came from “lower” ranking schools.

Chris: What did Stanford do in terms of orientation services for you guys once you arrived?

Lan: We had a specific orientation just for transfer students. One of the deans was in charge of transfer students, and there was an advisor that was specifically working with transfer students. She led the orientation for transfer students. In addition to the orientation that was going on for freshmen, they had one for us. It was nice to start off with a little community.

First, there was a general welcoming of everyone, and then a meeting with our advisors. It’s a little strange. I guess the school had no choice; in the beginning they give you random advisors, and you meet with them. For me, it was useless. I got someone who was the coach of some sports team. I was not happy with that. I eventually transitioned over to an actual professor in the economics department, but that was not good to have that as my start in academic advising.

Chris: Because you’re not big into sports, right?

Lan: Not at all. We also had a peer transfer group. I think Stanford should have done a better job of maintaining a core of transfer students, a support network of transfer students, throughout the year. It was only at the beginning that we had a couple of group meetings or activities with this transfer peer group. Then, after that, it just tapered off.

Chris: Overall, how happy were you with your decision to transfer and transferring to Stanford?

Lan: I think it was one of the best decisions I made in my life, although when people ask me, “How was your experience at Stanford?” I often start with, “I didn’t know how to navigate the resources that were available to me, because I didn’t come from an educated background.” It’s nice to go to Stanford. You really move up from going to a public university when you go to a place like Stanford whose endowment is ranked third after I think Harvard and Yale. Stanford is totally loaded. Money translates into a lot of different services and resources. It’s nice just being in that kind of environment that is so rich in resources.  Resources include human resources. Think about these people that surround you; they are so accomplished, they’ve done so much, and they have all these connections. It’s really inspirational. I think going to Stanford inspired me to–it’s a cliché–branch out and to broaden my horizons. It allowed me to try a lot of new things because of all the different opportunities that were available.

For example, I did a fellowship where I was a resident director assistant for a program where college students from Taiwan and Japan came and stayed for a summer. It was an intensive program in American language and culture for them, and I was one of the five Stanford assistant directors. From that experience, I was able to go abroad, because it was an exchange program. I ended up going to Japan and Taiwan with these people and the other Stanford students. From there, I ended up going back to Japan and learning Japanese. Since then, I’ve been to Japan five or six times and Taiwan at least three times, and all that started from going to Stanford and having this amazing opportunity to be a part of this program. I think going to Stanford afforded me with all these different opportunities that allowed me to open my eyes to new things, new experiences, and new people.

Chris: Can you give us a ballpark of how generous Stanford was in terms of financial aid? Was it cheaper to go there than to UCLA?

Lan: Money is huge, and again because Stanford has so much money, if you’re low-income, you’re very much taken care of. I spent three years at Stanford. There were two terms when I took time off, but I figured out a way to still be able to use financial aid from those two terms. I think in the three years I was at Stanford, I took out $13,000 in loans. I can’t remember the exact amount, but my loans from my one year at UCLA were more than $13,000, which is what I had to take out to go to Stanford for three years.

Chris: You weren’t paying for anything out of pocket at Stanford?

Lan: I had to work at Stanford, but I worked when I was at UCLA, too. I did work-study, and I worked summers.

Chris: Three years at Stanford for you cost about the same as one year at UCLA?

Lan: I would say less.

(Photo: LeeBrimelow)

Avatar of Lan Ngo

by Lan Ngo

Transferring to Stanford: Why and How?

August 30, 2012 in Four-Year Transfer Articles, Ivy Plus, Specific College, To Transfer or Not

The decision to transfer is a very personal one, but it’s without a doubt one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Just how did I come to the decision to transfer, and what were my next moves after I made that decision? In this article, Chris (co-founder of TransferWeb) interviews me, and I provide very vulnerable responses. I admit that I didn’t really know what I was doing during the transfer application process. I operated on very little information. Since then, I have successfully completed many, many applications: master’s programs, doctoral programs, ultra-competitive scholarships and fellowships, etc. Knowing what I know now, I would have proceeded differently in my transfer application process. Through this website and The Transfer Book, I hope to help other students who are now in the same shoes I was in when I was an undergrad.

Key takeaways from this interview include the following:

  • You should have a solid reason for wanting to transfer.
  • Fit is very important in successfully applying as a transfer student.
  • You won’t necessarily get into all the schools you apply to transfer to, and that’s okay!
  • You can learn from Lan’s experience and mistakes.

Hope this interview is helpful to you!

Chris: You started out at UCLA, and then you decided to transfer, or at least to apply to transfer. What made you make that decision?

Lan: I started thinking about transferring my first year, just about maybe one or two months into being a freshman at UCLA. It was around October when I started thinking about transferring. A big reason why I wanted to transfer was related to my major. At that point, I was deciding about cognitive science. I was interested in focusing on something like linguistics within cognitive science. I was also thinking about majoring in business.

At that point, I was taking introduction to economics, and I wanted to major maybe in business, but UCLA doesn’t have an undergrad business school. It has a graduate business school. But if you want to major in business, the closest you can get to that is to either do economics, which is what a lot of people do when they’re at a liberal arts school, or you can do something called Business Econ at UCLA, which is just an econ major but you tack on some accounting classes that you take at the UCLA Anderson School of Business. But that didn’t sound very business-like to me, so I thought, “Oh, I want to go to business school.”

My first reaction was to try to apply to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business because I had a friend from high school who was studying there. I looked into applying to the Haas Business School. Berkeley is part of the UC system, which has some kind of special regulation, stating that if you wanted to transfer, you would have to transfer as a junior so that you had two years of undergrad under your belt before moving on to UC Berkeley. At that time, because I was just a freshman, it meant I couldn’t transfer as a sophomore. So I thought, “I’m going to look at other schools to apply to transfer to. If I don’t get in, that’s totally cool because then I’ll just stay one more year at UCLA and apply to transfer as a junior to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Chris: So, you applied to transfer to the Haas School of Business?

Lan: I didn’t because I ended up getting into Stanford. I didn’t need to.

Chris: What were the schools that you applied to transfer to?

Lan: I was thinking about business, and I really did not know anything about applying to transfer to a college in general, but I knew that there was this one person from my high school who ended up going to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. This is very rare because my high school sucks. Very few people ended up going to top schools like that. I just knew of that name because that classmate went there, so I thought, “I should apply to Wharton,” which is really ridiculous because I knew nothing about the school. It’s pretty hard to get into, and I know people do get into it, but a lot of people get into that school by transferring from other business programs, I think. These are people who actually want to study business. I applied to Wharton, which is a completely different process from applying to Penn itself. I also applied to Stanford just because I had heard of that name from someone. I remember when I was a high school student, one of my friends liked Stanford. She talked up Stanford.

Chris: If you didn’t get into those schools, you would have applied to Berkeley the next year; that was your plan?

Lan: Right.

Chris: Just as a side note, there was that one student that got into Wharton from a liberal arts school that we helped with our consulting service.

Lan: That’s right.

Chris: You applied to transfer to Stanford and to Wharton. Were the applications similar; was it different to apply to a business school?

Lan: I don’t really remember too much about the application process specifically for Wharton. I guess I’m trying to block it out of my memory because it wasn’t that interesting to me. I didn’t realize how unique it was, how the application to a business school is actually very unique, in that you have to show your business prowess. I think I didn’t emphasize that at the time because I didn’t know too much about applying to transfer to any school, especially to a business school. People we’ve talked to in writing The Transfer Book who have successfully transferred to a business school really emphasized their business skills, or showed how they are really entrepreneurs or mini-CEOs, and how they really fit in at business schools specifically, and not just an economics program. I think it was about fit and presenting your best self as someone who is very suited for business school.

Chris: Long story short, you didn’t get into Wharton, but you got into Stanford.

Lan: Yes, and I can see why I got into Stanford and not Wharton.

This interview continues with Lan discussing her adjustment after transferring to Stanford.  Stay tuned!

(Photo: quinn.anya)

Avatar of Lan Ngo

by Lan Ngo

College Transfer Q&A: I Didn’t Do Well My First Semester. Do I Still Have a Shot at Transferring?

May 19, 2012 in Admissions, All Transfers, Community College Articles, Four-Year Transfer Articles, GPA, Q&A

Pasadena City College

Question:

I’ve just finished my first year of college, and I’m looking to transfer, either as a sophomore in the spring semester or a junior in the following fall semester. The problem is that I did really poorly my first semester. I didn’t get good grades. But in my second semester, I worked really hard to get good grades, and I’ve managed to really pull up my GPA. I’m still worried about my first semester, though. Do I have a shot at transferring?

Answer:

It’s quite common for students to not do so well their first year of college: Some people get homesickness, some people don’t realize that college is much more demanding than high school, and others get distracted by parties and other social activities. However, that bad, first semester does not necessarily have to scar your academic record for life. Getting As across the board, or very close to straight As, in subsequent semesters will boost your GPA and prove to the college that you want to transfer to that you’re certainly able to do well in college, despite your first semester mishap. Here are some success stories to inspire you:

Story 1: A student received a 3.0 his first semester during his freshman year, but worked really hard to get a 3.7 the second semester. He continued on that track, earning a 3.9 GPA his first semester of sophomore year. He was able to transfer to his dream school, the College of William & Mary.

Story 2: A student had a “pitiful” first semester. After not getting into the college of her choice, she did not work hard at the college she ended up going to. She got a 3.0 that first semester. However, she turned around and pumped herself up after reminding herself of her desire to succeed. She got a 4.0 each semester for the next three semesters, for a cumulative GPA of 3.75. She’s transferring to NYU.

Story 3: This student, like many others, thought that college was going to be easy, and therefore, was unmotivated his first semester at a community college. He actually managed to get straight Fs in the four classes he took. He decided to take time off, and after two years, returned to the same school and got mostly As. However, his cumulative GPA was still not great because of that first semester of Fs. He heard from a counselor that he could try to apply for an academic renewal. He was able to get an academic renewal, which, in his case, removed the first semester of his grades from being counted toward his GPA. Now, his GPA is a 3.7 and he will be transferring to one of the University of California (UC) campuses.

Academic Renewal Policies

The third story brought up an interesting concept: What exactly is an academic renewal? Different colleges/universities have different policies, but just as an example, let’s look at the academic renewal policy at Pasadena City College, a major community college in southern California that has transfer agreement policies with many of the UC campuses, including UC San Diego and UC Davis.  Here’s the explanation of an academic renewal from the Pasadena City College website:

The purpose of Academic Renewal (Sections 55764 and 55765 of the California Code of Regulations) is to disregard students’ previously recorded substandard academic performance when such work does not reflect current demonstrated ability. As a consequence, Academic Renewal allows students the benefits of their current level of ability and performance and does not permanently penalize them for poor performance in the past. Academic Renewal encourages students to continue their efforts toward their educational objectives when the weight of previously recorded substandard work would otherwise make the achievement of those objectives unlikely.

There are many stipulations, but the point is to give you a fair second chance if you really deserve one. This system doesn’t mean that you get to slack off for a semester and then reverse time by signing up for an academic renewal. You have to apply for an academic renewal, and you may or may not get it. Furthermore, in the case of the Pasadena City College, for example, even if you do get an academic renewal, the schools that you’re applying to transfer to might not accept it:

Academic Renewal by Pasadena City College does not guarantee that other institutions outside of the district will approve such action. This determination will be made by the respective transfer institutions.

Of course, try to avoid putting yourself in a situation in which you would need to apply for an academic renewal. However, if you really need to apply for one, it’s there for you to give it a try.

Concluding Remarks

Having a first bad semester doesn’t mean that your academic reputation is scarred forever. There are ways that you can go above and beyond to make up for a less than perfect first semester. Yes, you have a shot at transferring.

(Photo: Herr Hans Gruber)