Transferring to Stanford: Why and How?

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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)

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2 responses to Transferring to Stanford: Why and How?

  1. Lan,
    Very interesting and helpful post! I liked the fact that your why transfer response was honest and not hyped up with a lot of flattery toward the school itself. It helps me feel less nervous about my reasons for transferring.

    But I have one question:
    In a Transfer application, is it good or bad to mention that you previously applied to a school, especially if it was through Questbridge?

  2. I’m glad that you find the post helpful!

    Regarding your question, my first reaction is to ask, why would it be bad? What are your concerns?

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