Did you all see the season finale of 24 on Monday night? Wow, I can't believe what Jack Bauer did -- what a risk! Boy, what a day number six turned out to be! Or did you watch that ending of the first season of Heroes? It was cool to see all the "heroes" gather at the end and try together to save the world. That Sylar is a bad guy. What a way to end a great debut season! And are you all really excited for tonight's two-hour finale of LOST???
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha ..... Why am I laughing you ask? Well, because I am just assuming that is the television week so far. See I am on vacation in paradise and that means taking a vacation from my TV shows too - thankfully my TiVos are working overtime the next couple of weeks. I am also laughing because I am writing this entry even before these shows aired. As a special treat to all the Hopkins Insider readers, I saved a few entries to post while I am away. This way you stay informed and entertained, while I enjoy my time away. (I just hope something huge doesn't happen or else these posts will be out-dated before they even publish???)
So today's entry is the long-long-long awaited post for the transfer applicant. I think it was over two months ago when I first started working on this entry, but delay after delay after delay kept me from finishing the post and publishing it. Despite the delays though I think this is a timely moment to publish this entry as within just a few days the transfer decisions will be released for the Fall 2007 term.(No I don't know the exact date for transfer decisions will be released, nor can I let you know via an update since I will be on vacation through June 1st. So basically, decisions will be released via any time between now and the end of the month.)
As I write this entry I hesitate to know exactly what to write about since in my nearly ten years in Admissions I have never been part of a Transfer Admissions Review team. It is one of the few areas in my field that I have only experienced from the periphery - I am truly a novice in the area. Despite having never officially been responsible for transfer reviews, I am still confident in my ability to advise and instruct prospective students about the transfer process.
The main reason for this confidence is the fact that even before becoming an admissions counselor I learned about the process of transferring schools -- first through the experiences of my sister and then through my own college search. In addition to those experiences that I will explore below, I am also confident in my understanding of the world of transfer students by shadowing my colleagues over the years. In fact, all of those have led me to create a kind-of working thesis on the types of transfer students that exist. But more on that in a second...
The first time I learned that college students could actually switch the schools they were attending was when my older sister came home during her sophomore year and announced she wanted to transfer. The conversation that ensued between my sister and parents intrigued me because I was a sophomore in high school and just beginning to think about where I might want to go to college. So I listened intently as my sister laid out her reasons for switching schools -- limited academic options at her current school, the desire to attend a more prestigious institution, and the interest in attending a more diverse school (without crazy roommates). So my sister set her mind to transfer, completed all the paperwork, and then "sold" herself to the school she wanted to attend. And at the end of two years, my sister packed her things, departed the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and traveled downtown to her new school - New York University. I also wholeheartedly believe that it was by going through this process and really pushing herself upon NYU that my sister paved her way to her successful career in communications.
My sister's experiences with her two college searches were unique though - she applied to one school in her senior year of high school ... got in ... and enrolled. She then applied to one university as a transfer student ... got in ... and enrolled. All well and good, but as I began my college search I had little to go on. My parents did not have traditional college experiences either, so in a lot of ways I navigated the college search with out much guidance. Maybe that is why I chose my alma mater based on the fact that the tour guide was really attractive ... just kidding ... well sort of, I was a 17-year old boy back then.
It was though in my sophomore year when I began to think there might be a better institution of higher education for me. Frustration with the types of students I was attending school with, the lack of academic guidance I was receiving, and the politics and policies of the University's administration made me seriously consider the path of the transfer student. I did my research, discussed my options with my family, and then weighed all the pros and cons. Ultimately I decided against transferring for personal reasons different than my sister's reasons for switching. I was already at a prestigious school that had the academic areas I was most interested in. But most importantly, I did not want to give up on my current school despite all the forces conspiring against me. I wanted to stick it out, fight, and prove to all that my school could not take me down. So I had dipped my toe into the transfer pool, but decided to not dive in.
Since entering college admissions, the stories of many potential transfer students have greatly intrigued me. Each transfer applicant has a unique story to tell, and unlike when reviewing freshmen student there is little redundancy. Aside from the essays, to be honest many freshman applications look and read the same. This can not be said of transfer applications I am told. There are stories to read, multiple reasons behind the desire to switch, and oh yeah the college GPA and transcript to consider. All in all though, there is no formula other than looking into each individual application. (Thankfully we don't get nearly 15000 transfer application, but a much more manageable ~700 per year.)
As I mentioned, I believe over my years I have been able to compile a list of main reasons why students want to transfer. I call it my "Thesis on Transfers."
The I've Changed My Mind Group: Here are the students, like my sister, who started college interested in one area of study and then as they academically matured they want a different area that their present institution doesn't offer.
The More Prestige, More Competitive Group: In this group are the students who seek a greater challenge and more renowned school to call home. Maybe you didn't get into a "top school" at first of maybe you have grown greatly as a student -- whatever it is ... name matters to this group.
The Dream School-itis Group: Here are the "afflicted" re-applicants -- those students not offered admission to their top school their first, second, or third time around but they continue to try. Some of these students work really hard and prove themselves worthy of a top tier school -- the right approach. Others feel that just because they have found their dream school and want it so much that they deserve it. See the movie Rudy to witness this group in action.
The Looking For a Better Fit Group: Some students don't make the right choice academically and or socially the first time around. Others are duped by the marketing of a specific school (or the hotness of a tour guide) and need to re-consider what kind of school they want. And even others don't invest the time and effort during their first college search allowing the wrong forces to sway their decision.
The Need to Start Anew Group: For any number of reasons some students just need to start their collegiate experience again. Personal changes, financial reasons, social concerns, etc. This is in many ways the category I would have been in if I had decided to transfer way back when.
The Miscellaneous Group: I have learned one lessons when creating a list ... there are always things that do not fit into the main categories so it is always smart to have a miscellaneous group to collect everything else.
Whatever group a transfer student fits in does not alter the way the Admissions committee will review their application. It will be a thorough evaluation taking into account all parts of the application. Just as with the freshman review, the process is holistic and comprehensive. However, there are differences -- the college transcript (grades and courses) matter greatly in the review. And as I mentioned above the reasons behind one's desire to transfer and their personal situation will factor in the review.
Finally, more significantly with the transfer admissions process, the numbers matter -- and not just the numbers for an individual applicant. The number of transfer spots will vary from year-to-year based on the size of the enrolling freshman class, the retention rates of returning students, and the size of the applicant pool. In many ways, space availability becomes an important part of the transfer review process, equal at times to the strength of the applicant pool. The one thing you can do now if you are a transfer applicant is sit back and wait to hear -- it is out of your hands now.
Best of luck to all you transfers out there ... and I will post again soon ... now back to my vacation (Ha Ha Ha.)