Frequently Asked Questions about Transfer to Selective Colleges
Compiled by the Honors Student Advisory Committee
When should I start thinking about, researching and preparing for transfer applications? What should be my first steps?
You should begin to plan for transfer immediately after beginning at LaGuardia Community College. Establishing goals and knowing where you want to go will give you a good sense of direction and allow you to plan accordingly. Begin by earning STRONG grades since your high school grades will take the back seat to your college transcript. Your SAT scores will still play a major role so prepare to take it if you haven’'t already. Also remember to develop strong relationships with your professors because you will need recommendation letters from them.
Is the process different for international students as opposed to students who are U.S. residents, and if so, how?
International transfer students are required to submit the same applications as domestic applicants. However, an official transcript from each institution attended (secondary and post-secondary) must be submitted, which means that you will have to contact the overseas schools that you had previously and ask them to send your transcripts to the school to which you are applying. All transcripts (whether originals or copies) must be officially certified and sent directly by the educational institution or certified by the appropriate embassy. If original transcripts or academic certificates are not available, certified copies must be presented. Photocopies are generally not accepted.
International students also qualify (most of the time) for advanced credits obtained while taking courses within the International Baccalaureate, the British Advanced Level Examinations, the French Baccalaureate or the German Abitur. Make sure that you contact the office of admissions in order to ensure that you qualify.
Last but not least, all international transfer students have to demonstrate their ability to use the English language by submitting their TOEFL (Test of English as an English Language) score to the school to which they are applying. Most of the selective senior institutions required a score of at least 100 out of 120 points possible.
How should I choose colleges?
When thinking about choosing a college, you have to keep in mind that you should choose colleges that will be a good fit for you, a college in which you will grow intellectually and as a person. When you start looking for a college, you should start by determining what you would like to major in, and develop a list of colleges that would eventually be a good academic fit.
In addition, you should also take into consideration the location (urban/rural), the class sizes, the campus resources (libraries, faculty, labs), the cost and the financial aid package available. Last, but not least, you should definitely try to visit the school in order to get a glimpse of the campus atmosphere to ensure that the school will be a perfect match for you.
How many colleges should I apply to?
Applying to college can be a challenging and stressful experience. You should research colleges according to your academic and professional interests, and create a list of colleges that match your academic, geographic and cultural needs. Don’t forget that admissions officers want students who really want to attend their school, so you shouldn’t apply to too many schools. If you are aiming to cast your net wide and maximizing your chances of getting into a to highly selective school, then you should apply to around 10 to 20 schools and classify them according to your interest. Doing so will also give you some choices when the acceptance (or rejection) letters come in.
What are my chances of getting into the colleges I select?
Your chances of acceptance into the colleges that you have selected will depend on your performance and involvement during your time at LaGuardia Community College. Schools mainly look at factors like your GPA, the type and rigor of courses taken, SAT scores, letters of recommendation, awards and achievements, and extra-curricular activities.
Where can I obtain information about the transfer process besides each 4-year college’s official website?
You can begin obtaining information on the transfer process from LaGuardia’s Office of Transfer Services (B-215). They have many 4-year college catalogs for you to review. There are also many useful websites that provide valuable information about the transfer process such as:
How can I prepare myself to maximize my chances of being selected for transfer to the selective colleges?
You should maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher, take Honors courses and 200-level courses. You should have high scores in standardized tests such as the SAT, SAT 2 and the ACT (or the TOEFL if you are an international student). Being involved in extra-curricular activities and competing for scholarly awards will also increase your chances of acceptance. Keep in mind that these schools are interested in students who not only excel in the classroom, but also demonstrate leadership skills and community involvement.
Do some majors transfer better than others?
Yes. Not all colleges offer the same majors (e.g. Finance). Usually elite private colleges are looking for liberal arts students. However, if you are transferring to another CUNY school, you might want to ask an admissions counselor about what would be your best choice, since most CUNY schools are also known for their specific programs such as Baruch (Business) and John Jay (Criminal Justice).
Keep in mind that you have to take into account the differences amongst the various types of colleges out there (elite liberal arts colleges, selective private universities, state universities, programs for non-traditional applicants etc). You have to do your research to find out what majors are available, and what kinds of courses are transferable and attractive to admissions officers.
Pursuing a Business major should not stop you from taking literature, humanities and social science courses at the community college level. These courses will increase your chances of having the maximum number of credits transferred towards your major at a 4-year college (especially if the 4-year college does not have an undergraduate Business program, for eg. Columbia University). So the most important factor to consider is knowing which courses are accepted by the transfer college, and what skills will make you a strong applicant in eyes of the admissions offficers (for eg. writing, math, science etc.).
Here is some advice from Lassina Ouattara, a LaGuardia Honors alumn and former HSAC member who is majoring in Economics and Mathematics (Liberal Arts) at Columbia's School of General Studies:
"Before I applied, I knew approximately which classes would likely be transferable from a Business major to a Liberal Arts major. Because of this awareness, I went beyond my required courses for the Business Administration degree, and took extra classes. This helped greatly as 60 of my credits transferred."
When is it too late to change your major?
It all depends. First, see whether it is even possible or desireable to switch to the major that you’re considering, and find out what requirements you would have to meet. Then look at whether you are able to meet those requirements. That will help you decide whether it is toolate or not. Your advisor can provide you with more specific information about your choices depending on the major you are currently pursuing, and he/she will also help you go through the process of changing majors if you decide to switch.
How many recommendation letters should I get?
Although it can vary, generally, you will be asked for two letters. We recommend that you send only the number of letters requested. Admissions committees do not have enough time to read extra credentials. However, if someone who knows about your extensive involvement in a particular activity provides you with a very strong recommendation letter, that might be acceptable. But before sending an additional recommendation like this, ask yourself, what does this letter add to my application? Will it help me stand out in a positive way or in a negative way (will you come off as over-eager or not being able to follow instructions)? You should also check to with the specific admissions office to see if additional letters are accepted; at some colleges, doing so might harm your application.
Should I visit the college?
You should definitely try to visit the school that you are applying to in order to have a glimpse of the campus atmosphere and see if it will be a perfect fit for you. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet current students and ask them about their experience as current students.
If interview is optional, should I go anyway?
Yes! Meeting the admissions officers will allow you a chance to give them a sense of who you really are and put a face to the applicant they are considering. This can drastically increase your chances of acceptance and turn the tides in your favor.
What are colleges looking for in my personal essay?
A real, original story that only you in this world could possibly write. This means being specific about names, places, people, stories, & challenges you’ve overcome. Dig deep in your heart and your past. Speak with family for accuracy and their takes on your past. View a picture album of your life. Do whatever it takes to be you—original, unique, and special in your own way. This will take time, but it will be well invested. College admissions committees love to hear about what you came up with after hard work, and loathe to read what you can type up in 1 hour based on generic sample essays. That is why your personal statement should take months of revision!
If I cannot afford it, should I simply ignore the school and apply somewhere else?
Private institutions can often be cheaper than public schools! They have way more resources than public colleges, that's why. According to your and your family’s income range, a private institution worth $58,000 a year, might offer you a package of $55,000 with federal grants, institutional grants, student federal subsidized/ unsubsidized loans, etc. leaving you to come up with $3,000. The amount depends on the financial resources of your family. But overall, privates can offer much money to those in need!
Where can I find scholarship information?
First, take a 6-8 hours on a Saturday, say, and create a list of scholarship search engines (e.g. scholarship.com, scholarshipexpert.com, fastweb.com, so on). Get about 15-20 of these engines and create a profile with all of them (you might want to create a separate e-mail account just for these). Fill out all their questions and search your scholarships! There are literally thousands of scholarships of all kinds. You will be amazed at how many scholarships you will find in the “invisible” Internet.
How should I organize this much information? (Deadlines, requirements, etc.)
Get organized. For instance, create an Excel sheet and organize all of your scholarships!! Create 4 columns, e.g., name of scholarship, dollar amount, deadline, and website. This will seem tedious at first, but it is actually VERY easy to do once you get into the groove. Jump right in!! You are certainly not alone.