Here’s an “I told you so”
When I wrote about the issue of how high schoolers pick their colleges, the very first “bad” reason was:
Possibly temporal personal reasons
Do you remember? Well, I’ve got another essay for you, but this time I’ll let you read the essay first and then I’ll tell you about the writer.
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Luft vom anderen Planeten
When I was nine years old, my favorite movie was E.T., flying bicycle, Reese’s Pieces, and all. The scene that pierced my heart, though, was where E.T., gray and unconscious, lay dying in a stream. I didn’t understand then that E.T.’s crisis came from the thinness of Earth’s atmosphere. He needed richer air to breathe.
And, symbolically, so do I. The academic and cultural atmosphere at Washington and Lee (W&L) is too thin for me. Certainly others here are prospering, but I am in need of greater specific substance. Here I can’t find the variety of majors offered at Yale. I know now that my life’s passion is languages. I need a school that offers a linguistics major. I’ve tried to compensate here by maintaining my German skills and starting to learn Russian. I have even taken on Hindi studies on my own, outside of class. This has been frustrating on two fronts. I receive no credit for my independent language studies and, within my formal language classes, there is practically no linguistic context. There is just not enough teaching depth.
Another area where W&L starves me is the arts. Several years ago, I began my study of classical guitar. This has now become a vibrant, central part of my life. W&L’s faculty, however, has no classical guitarist with whom I may study. This sounds hard to believe, but I am the only classical guitarist on campus. Yale offers not only the tradition of Eliot Fisk through world-class guitarist Ben Verdery, but also a group of talented guitar students who stimulate an aura of infinite possibilities. For example, during a visit to Yale, I met first-year student Alex Henry who also plays classical guitar. His academics, musicianship, and dedication to the guitar inspired me to raise my own level of performance in these areas. This is the kind experience W&L does not offer.
Such teachers and students live outside of the classroom as well. The diversity of people and opportunity adds to the richness of Yale. The residential colleges promote the level of diversity I seek, the kind I so sorely miss here at W&L. The overwhelmingly homogenous social strata at this small, 1,400-student school prohibits me from learning anything about the world’s cultural fabric. We have a so-called International Club here. I say “so-called” because International students comprise only 2 percent of the student body, a mere shading within this very white, upper-class school’s profile. The residential colleges at Yale will give me the integrated perspective on diversity that I want rather than a student body where 90 percent belong to fraternities or sororities.
The atmosphere at W&L is suffocating me. My growth is being blunted. I’ve done the research, defined my needs, and selected the school where I know I’ll prosper. Yale has what I need to become the scholar, artist, and social member I must be. Perhaps the most sobering thought for me these days is imagining myself ten years from now, frustrated and dissatisfied, constantly wondering “What if . . .?” Yale has the power to fulfill me now, without any “What-ifs.”
* * * *
Ted Grice couldn’t stand Washington and Lee University. He reached that decision about half way through his first semester there. His goal: transfer immediately to another more highly diverse college or university. This essay, which essentially served as his transfer statement to other schools, displays his frustration and longing for greener pastures. Keep the tone of Ted’s essay in mind as you read this e-mail that he sent to me:
“Hi. As for the vital statistics:
– Applied to: Swarthmore (ED), Haverford (RD), W&L (RD), PSU (RD), St. Joseph’s (RD)
– Rejected: Swarthmore
– Accepted: W&L, PSU, St. Joey; waitlisted then rejected at Haverford
– Applied for transfer to University of Chicago and Yale; denied at Yale, accepted at Chicago
My majors now are Russian Studies and German Language.
GPA (overall): 3.8; GPA (major): 4.0
Just a personal note: I stayed here at W&L. I’m extremely glad I did. I really underestimated what a small college can do. There are opportunities that I never dreamed of. I’d still have some fightin’ words about the whole Greek system, but the place is really changing and has offered me some incredible experiences in terms of conferences, study abroad, and getting to know professors. W&L has a lot to offer and life here can be pretty challenging and enlightening if you take advantage of it. Anything else I can provide you with, I’d be happy to do.
* * * *
I wanted to share Ted’s essay with you to illustrate the point that, indeed, temporary personal circumstances can cloud our thinking. Consequently, we sometimes do things that we may later regret. Had Ted bailed out and gone to the University of Chicago, he would have missed out on all the benefits that W&L had to offer. He hadn’t given his school a chance. The lesson here is: don’t be quick to commit to or abandon something unless you have done thorough research.
Ted’s title translates: “Air from Another Planet.” It’s an alludes to the fact that he is seeking a much different environment in which to pursue his college education.
* * * *
So, I hope these essay lessons will help you write your best essays come application time. Think outside the box and from inside your heart and mind. As always, remember: Don’t write what you think they want to hear; write what you want to say!
Need a little inspiration? Check out this sample transfer essay, and don't forget to check out our tips below! (And if you need help getting started on your transfer application essay, go here.)
“But Dad, I can do both!” I pleaded, doing my best not to raise my voice. He’d always been sure to remind me of the importance of a not making a scene.
“I’m sorry, bud. We just signed you up for baseball. The answer is no. No.”
“Dad, you don’t understand. I need to take painting lessons.” I tried to look as defeated as possible, hoping his heart would break just enough for him to agree.
“Yeah, well you said that about skiing and guitar too. Baseball is your top priority right now, and it’s going to stay that way. Besides, sports teach you how to work in a team. Painting teaches you...how to mix colors.” He turned back to the television and cranked up the volume, and I knew I’d lost this one. I retreated to the kitchen table to finish the jigsaw puzzle I’d abandoned moments before.
I couldn’t really argue with my dad. As a kid, I frequently bounced from activity to activity, often hurrying from one to the next. It wasn’t that I got bored with what I was doing—I just couldn’t wait to try something new. Everything was interesting and everything was fun.
In high school, I became involved in as many extracurricular activities as I could, getting elected to student council and playing varsity baseball, joining groups like the school improvement team, and yes, even the art club. I was intrigued by nearly every class I took, eager to dissect things in physiology or pick apart the ideas of Faulkner in American literature. I’ve wanted to be everything from an engineer to a chef to a professional baseball player. A friend once described me as a guidance counselor’s worst nightmare.
Years of searching, experimenting, and learning have brought me here.
When my classmates crossed the stage at graduation, it felt like nearly everyone knew which direction they were headed. Friends were moving across the country to pursue their dreams, and I couldn’t even figure mine out. I had a strong academic record and plenty of experiences to shape my application, but watching my friends leave for four-year schools with such determination reminded me of how lost I actually was. It was time to figure things out for myself.
Enrolling at a two-year community college gave me the opportunity to sift through different areas of study and find what worked for me. General education courses and a varied curriculum offered a wide lens through which I could see what different fields had to offer, and find a true fit. It wasn’t easy. I took classes ranging from applied sciences to ceramics, and—of course—I liked almost everything I tried! Then I took an anatomy and physiology course during the spring of my first year at ABC Community College, and it hit me. I realized that the medical field would allow me to help people while constantly learning, exploring different facets of the work.
After two years of studying, researching, and homework, I received an associate degree in pre-physical therapy, and I believe XYZ University is the next stop on my journey to achieve my dream.
It may have taken me longer to get here, and my path probably had a few more twists and turns in it than most, but every activity I begged my dad to let me do and every extracurricular club I joined complemented my course work and shaped who I am. XYZ University’s physical therapy program will lead me to the necessary bachelor’s and doctoral degrees I need to succeed in a profession I know will leave me fulfilled—and hold my interest—throughout my professional life.
What makes this a good transfer essay?
- You need to grab transfer admission counselors' attention right away, and that’s just what this essay does. Try starting with a bold statement or some interesting dialogue to draw your readers in. Remember: admission staff read hundreds and sometimes thousands of essays, so yours needs to stand out.
- He gives transfer counselors a glimpse at what makes him unique with just the right amount of detail. With a 500-word limit, you need to be succinct.
- Often, transfer students are asked to discuss what led them to changing schools. Like this student, you should address your reasons for transferring in a straightforward manner, without being defensive or negative. And you should address why you want to transfer into your college (or colleges) specifically, just like this student does.
- He also ends his application essay with a strong statement that ties into earlier themes, bringing the essay full circle to a satisfying conclusion.
- Finally, this essay is also good because of everything that’s not there: it is free of misspellings, it is an appropriate length, and there are no run-on sentences or lengthy paragraphs. And you can bet it was submitted well before the deadline! Meeting deadlines is crucial in the college application process, whether it’s the first time around or as a transfer. Even if your intended college has a rolling admission policy for transfer students, the earlier you submit your materials, the better.
Related: Find the right transfer college or university for you!
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