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How to compose transfer essay for college admissions?
August 13, 2014 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I just began my application for certain UCs and CSUs (hoping to matriculate Fall 2015). In particular I'm concerned about my essays. What resources do I have to help me revise the essays before I submit them? Are there any topics I should be sure to cover/avoid?

Out of all the parts of the applications, this is the segment that I'm most concerned about (which I'm sure doesn't make me the most unique person). I did poorly in school last time (around seven years ago) and I'm not sure how much time I should spend on explaining why I did poorly vs what makes me excited to re-enter now.

Points I'm concerned about:

-I'm asked to describe my interest in my intended major and what experience I have in the subject. The first part is definitely doable but for the second, I have to admit that experience in my intended major (applied math) is scant. I'm taking advanced math classes at my CC and doing well, I certainly read a lot about math in my spare time, and I plan to attend grad school in the subject (along with all that entails - taking grad-level classes before I earn my BA/BS, doing research in the summer, etc) but it seems so informal compared to what they're asking about (student orgs, work experience, etc).

-There's a section on additional info where I'm planning on talking about why I did poorly in school the first time and what I've done to prepare myself this time around. I guess I don't know how to discuss these issues. I feel like I was pretty depressed in years 2-4 (regularly slept in until noon, had very self-critical thoughts, skipped class/HW all the time) but I was never officially diagnosed; does it sound like excuse-making if I mention it at all? And it was while seeing a therapist a few years later that I realized I wanted to go back to school; is it weird if I mention that?

-I've done very well in CC for the past year, taking a full course load while working full-time in a challenging position. Does this weigh in my favor? Does it adequately explain why I don't have any extracurriculars (not enough time to do any)?

Anyways my main question is, are there people who can help me out with this? Ideally free resources (would the writing lab on campus be appropriate to talk to? The transfer office?) but even people I would need to pay (e.g. private college admissions counselors) would be fine, as long as they know what they're doing! The applications aren't even due for a few months and I'm already feeling the anxiety build. I especially don't want to worry about this during the next semester because I'm taking some classes critical to my major and I want to compartmentalize the stress and focus on doing very well. I'm not looking for a guaranteed in (well, unless it exists!), I just want to know that I'm sending them the best essays I possibly could and not inadvertently shooting myself in the foot.
posted by miltthetank to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The writing lab is a great start. Also, if you're transferring out of a CA CC into the UC/CSU system, there's probably a dedicated office to it on campus as well (or at least there was when I went to community college in CA.) They might not necessarily be the ones to help you revise your essay, but they can point you in the right direction.

Also, if you've taken any English or Composition classes, see if those professors would help you out.

I feel like I was pretty depressed in years 2-4 (regularly slept in until noon, had very self-critical thoughts, skipped class/HW all the time) but I was never officially diagnosed

If there's no one official to back you up, I would avoid mentioning it as any sort of medical issue. Your grades are solid proof you're ready to do it this time around and I'd concentrate on that. You can refer to the past as having not been ready for school at the time (or something along those lines) and now you've grown and matured and and so on. When push comes to shove, being able to show that you're ready now works a lot more in your favor than having to show you weren't ready before.

I've done very well in CC for the past year, taking a full course load while working full-time in a challenging position.

Returning students are generally judged by somewhat different metrics than the 18-22 aged students. Definitely mention you got those grades while you worked full-time; there probably is no need to mention that's why there aren't extracurriculars. Good grades with a full course-load and a fulltime job is impressive enough on its own.

I did this whole thing myself (albeit I didn't end up in the UC/SCU system at the end) and it was a pain in the ass but ultimately very much worth it. Good luck!
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on August 13


Hi. Do not panic and snowball. You can do this. You're gonna be great. You need COUNSEL, from real people in this world. Anyone who works in admissions, or with faculty. Your mission is to call them up and say "Hey, I need your counsel, how do I make this happen?"

One thing that admissions people look for is students (including transfers) STRONGLY ENVISIONING THEMSELVES at the school they are applying to. If you tell them "I want to be doing math with x professor and y team at your school, and that is my dream, and I'm bursting at the seams to do it, and this is where I will hang out on campus, and these are the three [VERY SPECIFIC] related things I will do there," you are on the right path.

Also, even though you're not like a graduating high school senior, GO VISIT. Go meet the admissions people. Call them! Tell them "My gosh I want to transfer to your school and jump in and do x and y! I'm eager to make this happen!"

The one thing I've heard repeatedly from people involved with colleges is that colleges want to be wanted.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:09 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I feel like I was pretty depressed in years 2-4 (regularly slept in until noon, had very self-critical thoughts, skipped class/HW all the time) but I was never officially diagnosed; does it sound like excuse-making if I mention it at all? And it was while seeing a therapist a few years later that I realized I wanted to go back to school; is it weird if I mention that?

I get the idea you're really catastrophizing and over thinking this.

You have a recent record of directly applicable success. Just point at that. To some extent that's the advantage of being a transfer student: you have already done (some of) the work, which is a pretty good sign that you can continue to do so.

You don't need to justify the things that happened before your success, because it's quite obvious something is different now because you got different results.

Instead, as mentioned up thread, worry about selling yourself as super excited about the school. To put it crudely and over simplistically, they will be concerned that because you will have spent half as much time at school X as "traditional students", you will be (less than) half as engaged. (Hello Alumni fund!)

You have a demonstrated track record of performance. Signal enthusiasm.
posted by PMdixon at 1:44 PM on August 13


Thanks for the answers thus far. One quick follow-up: it appears that a single application is sent to all the UCs to which I'm applying. So I'll be writing two essays (plus additional comments in which I explain past performance) which get sent to all of the schools, rather than a unique essay for each one. Given that, is there another way to demonstrate my enthusiasm for these schools as mentioned above? I mean I'd definitely be pumped to study at any of the institutions in the UC system! Should I go visit as many as possible? Get in touch with their math depts? Anything else?
posted by miltthetank at 2:21 PM on August 13


I went to a UC, but that's not much of a qualification to answer this. That said: you seem like you really want to tell them what went "wrong" last time. I get that, but I don't think you should tell them. Or write it and don't send that part. You have awesome CC grades, you presumably took whatever classes are required to transfer. Why point out your previous flaws (I don't think they are flaws btw). Definitely talk about working full time now. Talk about good things! Also, I really don't think the essay counts nearly as much as many of us wish it did re UC applications. There are just too many for them to really use it as a metric beyond "can sort of follow directions".
posted by atomicstone at 3:35 PM on August 13


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