College Transfer Applicants: Exactly What You Need to Say to Improve Your Odds


April 24, 2010 in Admissions, All Transfers, Community College Articles, Four-Year Transfer Articles

A college’s office of admission is a fountain of information. You just need to know how to bottle that info. In this post, we will tell you exactly what to say to get the info you need to put together a winning transfer application. If you haven’t decided on which colleges to apply to yet, these tips will help you pick your best fit.

Making the Call to Schedule an Appointment

This is exactly what you need to say when making that first step:

Office: Hi, Office of Admission. How may I help you?

You: Hi. I’m thinking about applying to transfer. Would it be possible to schedule an appointment to meet with a counselor who works with transfer applicants? (If you can’t meet in person: “Would it be possible to schedule a phone appointment with a counselor who works with transfer applicants?”)

Office: Sure…

You: May I have the counselor’s email address and direct phone number just in case?

Office: Sure…

Using Your Appointment Time Wisely

Don’t go to your appointment empty-handed! Bring:

  • Your high school transcript (an unofficial copy is fine)
  • Your undergrad transcript (an unofficial copy is fine)
  • Resume
  • List of questions to ask the counselor
  • A notebook and a pen/pencil

When you meet with the counselor, s/he might ask you to first introduce yourself. Say:

I’m currently a [freshman/sophomore] at [undergrad school name]. I’m studying (or I want to study) [major]. I plan to apply to transfer to [college/university name] because [reason 1]. I also want to [reason 2].

Wait for a natural break during the introduction phase to segue into the real meat of the meeting:

I hope you don’t mind, but I prepared a list of questions that I wanted to ask you.

Questions to include on your list:

  • What does X College look for in a competitive transfer applicant?
  • How can I distinguish myself from the other applicants?
  • How much weight is put on an applicant’s high school record?
  • How important is my SAT score?
  • What advice do you have regarding the application essay?
  • I read on the school’s website that [info you garnered from the site]. Can you tell me more about that?
  • etc.

As you go down your list of questions, take a lot of notes. Consider these notes your holy grail as you complete your transfer application.

Very important: periodically check the time to see how much you have left in the appointment. Don’t waste the counselor’s time by running over. When you have about 10 or 15 minutes left, very politely say:

Just to provide you with a frame of reference, I brought my transcripts and resume. If it’s not too much trouble, would you mind taking a look at them and letting me know if I might be a competitive applicant or if anything stands out?

Responses will vary, but many counselors are there to help, so they won’t say no unless it’s against the school’s policy or something. If the counselor does look at your credentials, ask a few burning questions you have. For example:

As you’ll notice I have [something negative/weird] in my transcript. That’s because [reason]. How should I explain that in the application?

In the end, you can close by very, extremely politely asking:

I know that you, obviously, can’t tell me if I’ll get in, but I was wondering if I even look like a competitive applicant and if I should even bother applying.

This is a straightforward question that, sorry to say, won’t necessarily lead to a straightforward response. However, you’d have to be really dense to not get the hint if the counselor is utterly hesitant to say, “Sure, why not give it a shot?” Same goes for a positive response. You’ll have to rely on the honesty of people and your ability to judge tone and facial expression to get the most out of this question.

If you have to do the appointment over the phone, email the counselor in advance:

Dear [Ms./Mr. counselor’s name],

My name is [your name]. I’m planning to apply to [school name] as a transfer applicant. I have a phone appointment with you on [date and time].

You must be very busy, but I was wondering if it would be fine to email digital copies of my transcripts and resume to you to provide you with a frame of reference for our appointment. Of course, I would understand if you preferred that I didn’t.

Thank you for your time.


[your name]

The answers are all right in front of you. Pick up the phone and make that call. Once you get all the insider’s tips, use your new knowledge and get to work on your winning application!

(Photo: hiddedevries)

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6 responses to College Transfer Applicants: Exactly What You Need to Say to Improve Your Odds

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you (:

  2. tj said on July 13, 2010

    This is great. I applied it to a short interview I had with a transfer admissions officer and feel a lot more confident and informed now. Thanks again.

  3. Hi Lan, thanks for such amazing advice. It is amazing how I collect so much information in such a short amount of time.

  4. Hey Chris and Lan,

    My name is Winnie and I’m currently a sophomore in college. I did my freshmen year studying engineering at Northwestern University, but now I’m back at home in California because at the very end of this summer and after a lot of though, I made the decision to take the year off instead of returning to a potentially unhappy year at school. Since I waited until August to decide, I didn’t have very much time to figure out what I was going to do with myself, except that it was just really important for me to figure out a way for me to continue my education even though I was taking ‘time off’ from a 4 year institute. So I opted to take a full load of classes at my local community. In addition to that, I have a part-time job and I volunteer at our county soup kitchen once a week. Although it was initially really hard to adjust to staying at home while I watched all of my friends leave for their second year at colleges they absolutely love, I’ve learned to really appreciate and enjoy my decision to stay at home because I’ve been able to spend more time with my family and I’ve been able to pick up some of my hobbies again.

    Now I’m looking at figuring out what to do next semester and ideally, I’d really love to study abroad. I kinda figured that if I’m going to take time off from college, I might as well go abroad right? Well Northwestern’s study abroad office hasn’t been very helpful but I’ve done my research and I’ve found a few programs that might work. Including one that would allow me to study engineering with students at Tsinghua University in Beijing but that application is due in a week. And if I were to go abroad next semester, it’d make putting together my transfer applications in the spring really complicated. On top of that, if I go abroad then it’d make it almost impossible for me to complete the pre reqs that UCs require of their junior transfer applicants. Although, I don’t know if I’d choose to go to a UC over another out-of-state school that I like, I don’t think I’m confidant enough in my qualifications as a transfer student to completely ignore them. I’d like to see what you guys thought about this. Would I be selling myself short by staying at home for another semester at community college? How can I show colleges that I’m not just staying home and ‘bumming’ around, when I’m super self-conscious about that already?  Do you have any suggestions of other things I can do abroad that won’t cost as much, and won’t be as risky as studying abroad in the spring? 

    I’ve read your book twice and now, and I’ve especially loved your collection of interviews. However, even after learning about other people’s experiences, I’ve still have a hard time convincing myself that I am not alone and that I haven’t failed because I felt so lost and upset when I didn’t like my freshmen year, when I decided to withdraw from a really ‘good’ school and when I decided live at home for a year. Since you guys are the experts, I’d really love to hear what you have to say about my current situation. 

    It’s a lot of stuff all of once. Sorry! 

    • These are things we can discuss.  In the mean time, if anyone else has any thoughts, please post them here!

  5. Awesome! Just wondering– is anyone having interviews/ visiting schools?

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