Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by International Vice President for Division 4, Philippe Schicker.
The building blocks to a successful transfer journey are as necessary as vowels are to our language — and as easy to remember. With scholarship deadlines, finals week, and college application deadlines approaching, I am breaking them down into categories and sharing what has worked for me and some of my close friends.
This is a guide on how to not completely drown in your work, along with some personal anecdotes.
Before starting, you should do some soul searching. What is it that you want to do? What are you hoping to achieve? How would YOU like to make an impact?
Then, think about how to get to that goal or at least the next step. Use tools like PTK’s Transfer Edge or PTK Connect to look at all aspects of a school. Do some research and see what schools offer a degree program regarding your passion.
I know that I want to become an engineer. More specifically, I plan to study engineering with an emphasis on renewable energies. This shrunk down the universities I was researching since only a few offer pathways like that.
Lastly, create a list. This can be a big one with universities that somewhat fit you. Look at some pros and cons and put it all in a spreadsheet. That worked for me, but any way for you to stay on top of it is perfect. This is a process, so don’t rush.
Extracurricular activities are not just what you have done. It is very likely that you have done service projects, are in an honors society or campus club, on a team, or started a business. These are all fantastic achievements and definitely deserve a spot in your application.
However, you should also look at the schools on your list to see what they can offer you. Is it a small liberal arts college or a big research institution? How does campus housing look, and what does the school offer outside the classroom? Will you be able to participate in intramural sports, Greek life, undergraduate research, and clubs that sound interesting, or is the school part of a big football conference?
These are all aspects to consider. Due to my penchant for the sciences, the universities I am looking for have opportunities for research and collaborative teamwork, but also a way for me to use that scientific knowledge to advocate for change. Always remember though, if the school does not offer exactly the organization you are hoping for, you can always create one!
In the end, it is as much about what you can offer the school as it is about what the school can offer you.
Informative decision making
It is time to narrow down your list. You should make conscious decisions about which schools would actually be a good fit for you. Hopefully researching some of the programs helped to shorten your list.
You should also look at financial aid offerings and merit-based scholarships. As an international student with very little financial backing, this is one of the most important aspects for me.
In my opinion, you should have around 10 schools you are genuinely considering. This list should also be diverse. Some of them should, of course, be so-called “reach schools” — universities that are hard to get into … your dream schools.
Additionally, you should have some “target schools” on your list. These are really good schools that are transfer friendly and, while you cannot be sure to get in, it is much more likely.
Lastly, you should have some schools where you can be fairly sure to get in, whether it’s because your GPA is way higher than the required one or because your current school has some sort of transfer agreement.
Once you have finalized your list and are happy about those schools, it is time to really sit down and get to work. Make sure you know when the deadlines are! Nothing would be worse than finding a university you are excited about, only to miss your chance because you missed the deadline.
Understand what is required of you. What do you have to submit where and by when? Are personal statements, essays, a resume, an art portfolio, and letters of recommendation required? If so, make a list or find a way to stay on top of this.
Ask your professors, advisors, and mentors for that recommendation letter way ahead of time. They get a lot of requests, and to ensure yours is outstanding, they should have multiple weeks to prepare it. After writing out which schools need what, I have been going to my professors and asking if they would be willing to write a recommendation and how much time they would like.
Make some time to sit down with them and really talk about the school, your passions, and your hopes for the future. These are all details the professor can use to make the letter more personal. If you cannot make that happen, write it out and send it to them via email.
In the end, universities look at recommendations to get to know you from more than just one point of you, so you want to make sure those letters help you.
Utilize your time
You are almost there. Try to finish your applications at least a week before the deadline. This will give you time to ask others to look them over. A second or third pair of eyes can never hurt, and maybe they will catch something you missed.
Ultimately, you do not want to give the university a reason not to take you. Double and triple check that all documents are in place. If you have to send transcripts and submit test scores, ensure they are on their way.
Last but certainly not least, submit before the deadline. I don’t just mean two hours before the application closes, but rather two days before. Systems crash and students from all over the world are submitting as well, so you do not want to leave anything to chance. You have just spent countless hours researching, drafting, and finalizing your application — you do not want some malfunction to stop you from applying.
Now all that’s left is for you to finish the year strong and hope for the best. You have done everything in your control to make this the perfect application. Go relax a little.
You Got This.