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TRANSFERS: Application Season

Posted by on Saturday, January 14, 2017 in Admissions.

As regular decision, senior-in-high-school applicants are finalizing their college applications, it seems that transfers are only beginning their journey. We are the second wave of applications, presumably because admissions offices assume that freshmen will take at least the semester to try and adjust to their chosen university without the stress of applying to others instead.

I personally took a little bit of a different route as I took some time off between my previous college and Vanderbilt, but the pressure of different application deadlines and required documents was still daunting. I can only imagine students trying to apply elsewhere while still in the midst of assignments and adjusting to being away from home. One of the most stressful aspects of transferring was that it seemed like each school had a completely different timeline for the admissions process – nothing was standardized. School X wanted all application materials due March 1st and would let you know sometime mid-May, school Y wanted their materials on March 15th and announced acceptances in June, and school Z required materials to be submitted February 1st and released decisions mid-March (note: these are actual examples). With a mix match of deadlines, it takes organization, determination, and self-advocacy to get it all done.

Here are my tips for success when you are preparing transfer applications:

1. Make a spreadsheet.

Like I said: organization is KEY. This can include all of the requirements and deadlines for each school, as well as their admissions website – though that sounds obvious, sometimes it is not easy to find. Continue to do some research. Do they require you to have taken certain courses before transferring? Do they STILL require you to submit your SAT/ACT scores (this one haunts me forever…)? How many letters of recommendation do you need? All this information is crucial, and varies quite a bit. Vanderbilt has a separate transfer admissions page. Here is also Vanderbilt’s general dates and deadlines page (scroll down for transfer info).

The screenshot I took when I found out I got into Vandy!

2. Self advocate.

Remember, you typically need to submit your transcripts (this was two schools for me, and sometimes high school if they wanted that as well). This is where the self-advocacy comes in: follow up with your previous university to confirm that they have sent your transcript. Schools are on separate pages with this – for some you have to request the transcript online, and for others you have to write them down on a piece of paper and turn it into the school’s registrar (old school). One of my transcripts got lost in the mail, and I frantically called both schools on the day everything should have been submitted. It was a little bit of a cat-and-mouse game between the two universities, before I had to strongly request that my old school “resend” the transcript (or maybe send for the first time…hmm…). Interestingly enough, this is the one school I did not get into. Sometimes I blame it on the lost transcript :)

3. Double check you have the right address for TRANSFER ADMISSIONS.

Sometimes this differs from the regular admissions address, and this may cause some problems if not noted. You may have to send snail mail for a few parts of the application.

A beautiful April day when I was on Vandy’s campus for the first time.

4. Give the professors writing your recommendations enough time to complete them (or for you to ask someone else).

This goes without saying for any type of recommendation, but it is particularly important here. It is probably the most awkward stage in the process; asking for recommendations is difficult enough, but asking someone to write on your behalf from the institution in which you are leaving is even harder. I mustered up the courage to ask one of my psychology professors at my first school. Though I had two classes with him, he suggested that I ask someone else; he believed he did not know me well enough to write a strong letter and wanted to be transparent with me. Though I felt somewhat offended at first, I ultimately appreciated his honesty. So, after the next semester of classes, I asked my new English teacher as well as a different psych professor. They seemed a little more on board, and I thanked them endlessly. Just remember – people transfer in to schools, people transfer out of schools. It is not a reflection on them but rather more like a business transaction and can be treated as such when asking for recommendation letters.

5. Schools will release admissions decisions at different times.

Go Vandy!

And some may only give you two weeks to make a decision (shoutout to Vanderbilt when I applied). First, if you need a little bit more time to decide, you should call admissions and ask for an extension. Some schools are more lenient with this than others. Plan B: you may have to put deposits down at two schools at a time. Typically this is of not recommended as you may waste your own money and might be holding a spot that could be for someone else, but sometimes it is necessary when you are waiting to hear from another school. I did not have all my options at once when applying; I would receive a new acceptance letter from one university, than have to cross it off the list if I did not feel it was as good of a fit as another I had gotten into. I was often comparing two schools at a time. This can be a little stressful and requires some deep, detailed thinking, but without a standardized admissions process for transfers this is how it seems to work.

6. Continue to be courageous.

No matter how you slice it, transferring is a big deal. It takes a lot of guts to admit you are not happy at your current school/it is not the right fit for some other reason, and then do something about it. Here is one of my favorite quotes that a friend sent me through one of life’s many challenges, and I have continued to share since.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Pat yourself on the back for being in the arena, and go crush your applications! I’m rooting for you all!