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The Transfer Admissions Writing Process

Jonathan Chavez (Honors Program LaGuardia 10; Bard College 13; Kaplan Educational Foundation Leadership Program Scholar) shared

the following guidelines based on the strategies that he learned as a Kaplan Scholar.


Skills that you will be required to develop as you prepare your personal essay:


  • How to choose and develop personal anecdotes.

  • How to define and present your academic and professional goals.

  • How to write an introduction that will capture your reader's attention.

  • How to structure your essay so that it builds a compelling portrait of you.

  • How to tailor your essays to specific schools.

  • How to avoid overly general, vague, and clichéd language.

  • How to use tone appropriately.

Brainstorming Questions
Your answers to these questions will inform the content of your personal essay.  At the start of your transfer essay writing process (the Fall before you plan to begin at a 4-year college), use these questions to brainstorm and freewrite.  Do not expect to produce the final version after the second or third draft.  Instead, understand that this is a process, and do yourself a favor by beginning early and staying persistent.


  • What is special, unique, distinctive and/or impressive about you or your life story?

  • What details of your life (personal or family, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?

  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field?  What insights have you gained?

WAIT! There's more:

  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your professional goals?

  • What are your career goals?

  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (eg. economic, familial or physical) in your life?  (Note that the emphasis is on how you overcame the obstacle.  Avoid sob stories.)

  • What personal characteristics (eg. integrity, compassion, persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession?  Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?  (Just stating that you have a specific characteristic is not enough.)

  • What skills (eg. leadership, communication, analytic) do you possess?



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