The Common App for Transfer Students - A Summary
The Common Application transfer prompt essentially calls for a personal statement. This is largely true for most transfer applications. However, some schools have more targeted prompts. The 2019-2020 personal statement for the transfer Common App asks you to detail your educational journey. The Common App for transfer students also offers you the chance to explain why transferring will help you achieve your academic/career/personal goal(s).
Further, a transfer essay (and the Common App transfer essay in particular) allows you to highlight qualities you’ve developed as a result of your efforts at a two-year college/wherever you might have previously pursued higher education. Be proud of your journey! Showcase the lessons that have helped shape you as a person and a student.
At the same time, you want your transfer essay to stand out. Many students might have chosen to start their journey at a junior college for similar reasons, so how do you make your reason resonate?
A Unique Transfer Essay Starts With Your WHY:
The way you tell your story is crucial. It should capture your unique perspective and voice. More importantly, it should delve into the source(s) of your motivation. Where you’ve come from informs where you’re going. Take the reader on your journey of discovery - your WHY.
Many of my students struggle with the WHY of their personal statements. Getting at that depth can be difficult, so let’s look at a real-world example.
Student Sample - USC Transfer Candidate:
Jasmine struggled to form complete ideas for her Common App transfer essay. Her dream school was USC and she worried there was no way she could make her transfer experience or story sound unique.
We had to find Jasmine’s WHY. These were the simple questions we used to get there:
What do you want to study? “I want to study philosophy.”
Why? “So I can study law.”
Why? “Because I want to advocate for minority women.”
Why? “Marginalized peoples--especially women--need advocates who can help protect their rights.”
Why? “People like my own mother didn’t know where to turn for legal support.”
Final WHY: “My lived experiences have allowed me to understand the dire need for female lawyers in minority communities.”
You know you’ve hit the root of your motivation/ transfer essay gold when you can no longer ask why. Your Final WHY should have two main components: 1) What career/mission you want to apply your studies to, 2) and what experiences/events have inspired your interest. You might use this as the last sentence of an introductory or a closing paragraph.
By asking WHY, you can work back to understand the relevant pieces of your unique story.
Your WHY is the idea that should guide your essay. Transfer essay samples like the one above often emphasize a personal story or struggle that helped inform a passion/goal. While there may not be one defining moment fueling your goals, it’s important to consider the locus on your interest. What events or issues make you passionate? Is your fulfillment tied to a specific action or idea? You are pursuing an education to make an impact of some kind. Explore that impact and you will get closer to your WHY.
Getting Support & Feedback:
Accept the feedback of a friend, instructor, colleague, or tutor to help you brainstorm the deepest source of your motivation. It can be hard to write about yourself, so an outside perspective can be helpful to draw out the ideas that drive your goals.
Distilling your WHY down into a concise, articulate concept is crucial. Many of my students have expressed that this is the most difficult aspect of writing a personal statement. However, when you understand all the components of your WHY, you can write a stronger, tighter personal statement.
Whether you’re tackling the Common App transfer essay or a specific prompt for the school of your dreams, these tips can help you enter the headspace to write your WHY. Consider how your essay stands alongside additional/related prompts and ensure the root of your motivation is the theme throughout.
Oh! And good news, the student from our sample, Jasmine, successfully made it into USC this year. She did so by exploring the depths of her WHY. Good luck in discovering your own!