College Admission Essays: Answering the Most Common Short-Answer Question (page 3)

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Apr 30, 2014

Moving on: The transfer question

A variation of the “Why us?” question is aimed at applicants who already attend a university or graduate school and want to pull up stakes and transfer to another. This sort of “Why us?” question may call for a full-length essay or a shorter response. Either way, the content is the same:

  • Discuss what is lacking in your current school. Don’t trash the place; simply state what you need that your current college cannot provide — a larger student body, more activities, smaller classes, whatever.
  • Explain how the college you want to transfer to can fill the gaps in your educational experience. For example, if you’ve expressed a desire for a career in international diplomacy, mention the Foreign Affairs major of the school you’re applying to.

Do your homework and be sure that the school you want to transfer to actually offers what you say you want. In other words, don’t tell a college with an average class size of 3,498 that you’re seeking intimate seminarstyle learning with plenty of professorial attention. You’ll look like a fool and, more importantly, you’ll end up dissatisfied even if they do admit you.

  • Discuss the primary attractions of the new school, including as many specific details as possible: I want to attend Anhedonia State because of its scholarly collection of depressive literature and its campus-wide ban on keg parties, for example.

Here is a full-length transfer essay adapted from one written by a student dissatisfied with his freshman year at a major university, whose name I changed for privacy. This is the short-answer version shows you how this response may be shortened for a school that places this question in the short-answer section. In both versions, the author states what’s good about his current school, which I’ve called “Central State,” and what is lacking. He identifies factors that will be different in his hoped-for new school, the name-changed-for-privacy “Northern State.”


Fitting it in the blanks

You’ve got the perfect short answer, and it looks like the perfect length. But when you write it on the application form, you end up with 15 words that won’t fit anywhere. You consider — and reject — curving up into the margin in order to include that last crucial idea. Sound like your worst nightmare? Not to worry. Before you type or handwrite your answer, photocopy the form. Use the photocopies to practice writing or typing your answer in the space provided. If it doesn’t fit, trim it and check the fit on another photocopy. When you’re sure that you have room for everything, fill in the answer on the actual application blank.


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