Man with computer sitting on large bookTransparency is fundamental for college applications.

When you apply as a transfer student, there are two areas in which you must be transparent, honestly and clearly disclosing information:

  1. Your past
  2. Your future.

Disclosing Your Past Openly and Honestly

Information about your past includes:

1. Your Academic Record

When you apply as a transfer student, not only will you have to supply your grades from the previous college but often also your transcript from high school. While this seems obvious, it may also be hard.


Perhaps you have been at more than one previous college. The reasons for that vary. It could be that you were not ready when you first started college and so you were not doing so well. Or maybe you were struggling with other things in your life. As a result, you could possibly have a college record of low grades.

First, if that is your case, and you have not brought your grades up yet, you should not transfer. Second, if you have improved your grades, be wary of falling into the temptation of not including those low grades, even if that was at a college a long time ago. Omitting them can create very serious problems.

For what reasons?

A. Your academic integrity and career is at stake

Academic integrity is one of the most profound and important values—covering almost every aspect—of higher education.

It includes more than just honestly reporting your past grades. It guides the way faculty and professors do their work. For example, if they falsify a study, their career is over simply because they were not honest and clear about their work.

Therefore, not disclosing your academic record, even if think it will be detrimental because they are bad, is a very serious issue. If you get caught, your academic career could be over.

B. Colleges can access your past records via the National Student Clearinghouse

The National Student Clearinghouse is a non-profit organization that many colleges use to keep a database of students who have enrolled at their school. It is not a requirement for colleges to do so—some use it and some do not. But through this organization, the college you apply to can check if you reported all the institutions you have attended previously.

2. Your Life Story

If you are a student that had lower grades in the past, telling your story is really important. Not only does it help you explain what was going on, it allows you to come clean and let the college know that you are aware of those grades and do not want to cover them up. It gives you the opportunity to show the school what you did to improve.

If you are a student with good grades, but you had to take time off from college or between college and high school, or you have changed majors. Or, you may have had other life experiences that influenced your choices—for good or for bad. Sharing your story with the admission office (avoiding TMI), helps the school to understand your past situation.

Disclosing Your Future Clearly

Obviously, being transparent about your future can seem a bit tricky. After all, it has not happened yet!

However, when transferring you should be able to answer these questions:

1. Why are you transferring? What is not working at your current college?

Part of the answer comes from your past. But the other part has to do with with the reasons why you want to go to this particular college, what you hope to achieve there, and what your goals are for your future. And the answer cannot simply be, “because I want to change to a good school.”

Of course, your story about what you are hoping to get out of this college will differ from other students. It depends on whether you are transferring vertically or horizontally, if the transfer happens at a community college or 4-year college level, or if you need a different educational environment with opportunities that you did not have at your previous school.

Therefore, your answer may be simple and straightforward. For example, you are in a 2-year college, and you need to change to a school that can help you get a bachelor’s degree.

However, your situation may also be a little bit more complicated. Perhaps, you are going to a 4-year school already, but it is not the right one for you. Maybe you have changed as a person, you cannot afford the school tuition anymore, or you are not happy where you are. Maybe you need to be closer to home or further away, or your current school does not have the major you want.

Whatever your personal situation, it is important that you answer the questions: Why am I looking for a change?

2. What do you want to get out of college? What is your focus for the future?

Often, colleges are concerned about transfer students being focused on a major that may be connected to a career or not. The reason is that they do not want you to transfer to their school and spin your wheels, taking too much time to graduate.

Most of the time, they want to see that you have already spent time exploring majors. So that when you arrive at their new college, you are ready to hit the ground running, focusing on a particular major.

You do not have to have your life all planned out, of course. But the college expects to see you make reasonable progress toward finishing your degree in the equivalent of 4 years (past college and new college combined). That is why you want to be able to show them that you put some serious thought into your future.

If you need help with transferring to another college, please contact me. I am an Independent Educational Consultant and have had many years of experience with the college transfers and application process. It would be a pleasure to collaborate with you.