9 Tips for Transferring to UT-Austin

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I have written extensively about transferring to UT-Austin in these blog posts and Youtube Videos.

Consider the following tips as you navigate the transfer application process and build your strongest application.

A. Familiarizing yourself with prerequisites and eligibility

Understanding whether you are eligible to transfer is the first step in building your application. Review the most up-to-date requirements here.

Applicants need to have 24 hours completed or in progress by the deadline with a minimum 3.0 GPA for to be considered. Without either of these, your application will be thrown out.

Reviewers also give preference to applicants who have less than 60 hours, and less priority is given to those who are current juniors or seniors at four-year universities or applicants seeking a second bachelor’s.

You must submit transcripts from all universities attended and credits earned, the required Essay A Statement of Purpose and a second essay of your choice, a paper/expanded resume, and a $75 application fee or fee waiver.

Reviewers do not look at any academic information from high school like your Rank or SAT/ACT.

Apply Texas must be completed by March 1 for Fall transfers and October 1 for Spring. If you have less than 24 hours completed by the deadline, you need to send your transcript as soon as you receive your grades so you can receive your decision.

Some majors like Business, Engineering, Computer Science, Geosciences, Economics and a few others have required courses that you MUST have completed or in progress by the deadline. These are non-negotiable, and it’s also important to check whether your sections transfer to UT correctly.

There may be other application requirements like a portfolio, audition, or additional essay.

There are a lot of “recommended” courses, but unless you’re applying for a STEM major, they aren’t so important.

B. Understanding the competition

I discuss the Fall 2018 admissions outcomes extensively in this post.

Transferring to UT is highly competitive, moreso than it was a few years ago. If you don’t have mostly A’s, your chances of gaining admission are low even with great essays and a resume.

All grades taken whether you passed or not or the courses were years ago are considered as part of your overall GPA. UT does not replace repeated grades.

UT has released limited data that is of interest.

  • Average GPA for all admitted transfers: 3.75

  • In-state admissions rate 28%

  • Out-of-state admissions rate 11.6%

  • 95% in state, 3% out of state, 2% international

A 28% admissions rate confirms that this was the most selective pool ever. The Fall 2017 rate, by comparison, was 37%.

Many students with 4.0s were rejected across all majors for Fall 2018, which I discuss here.

Admissions for the spring semester is a lot less predictable than the Fall because UT uses the spring semester to fill a hundred or so spaces for students who left during the fall. Your grades and quality of your application are still very important, but equally important and also unknowable is how many students UT intends to admit.

Interested in maximizing your transfer admissions chances? Get started today with a free consultation.

C. Starting the application process early

The biggest mistake I see all applicants make whether they are first-time freshman or transfer is submitting hurried efforts at the last minute. Particularly if you have earned credits for multiple universities, you need to request your transcript well in advance of the deadline.

For Spring transfer applicants, you should request and send your transcripts once you begin your fall classes. For Fall transfers, request them when you return to school in the spring to show your courses in-progress and account for your Fall grades.

For Fall transfers, working on your essays and resume over winter break is often the best time. That way you can wrap things up before Spring classes start and not have to worry about balancing college applications with classes and work.

D. Demonstrating that you are a strong fit for your first choice major

Transfer admissions looks at your college GPA and rigor of your courses as 50% of the criteria with the other half being an admissions reviewer who scores the rest of your application on a scale of 1-6.

Reviewers want to see that you’re capable of doing the work, will bring unique perspectives to campus, and sufficiently demonstrate your interest for your first-choice major. The second choice is rarely considered for admission.

There are a few reasons why students might attempt a transfer. Some remain committed to the UT dream and want to get there as soon as possible. Others enroll at a great university, but the major they come to love isn’t offered there, so they must switch campuses to pursue their new interest.

Students sometimes want to stick with their major, but they feel limited by their current environment and that their ceiling for growth is low. They are attracted to UT’s extensive opportunities and resources.

Many transfer students are nontraditional. They are mid-career professionals looking to complete their degree or pursue a second bachelor’s in a different field. There are veterans who want to take advantage of the GI Bill, which covers most costs.

International students, especially from China, South Korea, Taiwan, and India are increasingly enrolling at community colleges before finishing their bachelor’s degrees in the United States.

The range of transfer applicants is much wider than first-time freshmen who are overwhelmingly high school seniors. There is no “typical” transfer student.

E. Spending time with the required Essay A Statement of Purpose

Since most competitive transfer applicants will have almost all A’s, reviewers necessarily must look at the essays and resume to make their decisions. Transfer applicants must submit different essays from first-time freshmen. The required Essay A reads:

The statement of purpose will provide an opportunity to explain any extenuating circumstances that you feel could add value to your application. You may also want to explain unique aspects of your academic background or valued experiences you may have had that relate to your academic discipline. The statement of purpose is not meant to be a listing of accomplishments in high school or a record of your participation in school-related activities. Rather, this is your opportunity to address the admission committee directly and to let us know more about you as an individual, in a manner that your transcripts and the other application information cannot convey.

Reviewers have higher expectations for transfer students. Since you are at least one year removed from high school, your essays should reflect those additional experiences.

I provide Essay A Statement of Purpose Examples here along with commentary.

As a transfer applicant, you should have a clearer vision of where you come from, where you currently are, and where you want to go. You should ask yourself these questions to help craft your statement of purpose:

  • What reasons have you identified that make your current situation less than ideal?

  • Is it the cost of attendance, lack of access to needed coursework, have you outgrown your environment, or are there things going on at home?

  • What were your expectations before enrolling and how did those differ once you arrived?

  • Does your decision to transfer go back further than the past few years?

  • What experiences did you have growing up at home or in high school that help tell the story of where you currently are?

  • If you attended a community college immediately after high school, what were the circumstances surrounding that decision?

  • Did you want to attend a university closer to home or do you want to save money?

  • Did you not feel quite ready to jump feet first into a four-year degree?

  • Was there a particular program or set of courses offered at your college that appealed to you?

UT admissions reviewers expect you to identify resources on campus and in the city of Austin that appeal to your specific goals and ambitions. You can easily find this information online. It is important to demonstrate that you have done research before applying.

Since you have already taken at least some college-level courses, it may be important to identify and describe a few which inform your chosen major. You should also discuss what differentiates UT from other universities and how it is the right fit for you.

It is important to avoid vague statements like “Austin is the Live Music Capitol of the world” or “I want to research and study abroad and I believe UT is a great place to do this.” Be as specific as possible. Consider this example:

I am intrigued by the Humanities Honors Program in the College of Liberal Arts because I have a variety of interests: education access, child development, and the political economy of poverty. UT is one of the only Texas universities that has a self-designed interdisciplinary curriculum where I can create my own major. I am from the Rio Grande Valley and I am the first in my family to attend college. I am interested in researching education access in Mexican-American communities, and I am excited to conduct research at the Benson Latin American Collection.

I want to work with Dr. Robert Crosnoe in the Department of Sociology. He investigates the complex web of poverty, education, and human development. I am also interested in pursuing a Children and Society certificate in Bridging Disciplines. I am fluent in Spanish, and I am interested in spending a summer in Guatemala working with indigenous elementary school students through UT’s School of Social Work Maymester Abroad. Eventually, I want to work as a college adviser at a low-income school in the Valley to share my knowledge and story with future college students.

Notice the explicit link between their biography, academic goals, and professional aspirations. This applicant minimizes vagueness by citing concrete examples unique to UT. They have demonstrated at least some prior research and offer a level of maturity more than one would expect from a high school senior.

You should also highlight characteristics or your personal story that may set you apart from other applicants. Since there are no standardized exams or a class rank to compare you to other applicants quantitatively, it is particularly important to use your personal statement as an opportunity to stand out from the pack.

Interested in submitting your best UT Transfer application? Complete my questionnaire for a free consultation.

F. Tailoring your resume to demonstrate a fit for your first choice major

Unlike for first-time freshman, UT-Austin requires all transfer applicants to submit an expanded/paper resume. Apply Texas isn’t setup very well for transfers, but you should still fill in the resume section on the application as thoroughly as possible in addition to submitting the paper copy.

One obvious limitation of Apply Texas is you cannot describe and elaborate on your activities and accomplishments. Another limitation is that Apply Texas doesn’t allow for unconventional activities or those that don’t fit neatly into their predefined categories.

There is no “right” way to format your resume. Content matters more than style. UT recommends including the past five years worth of experience on your resume.

One drawback of ordering your resume to mirror Apply Texas (extracurricular activities, volunteering, awards, and work experience) is that these may not be in order of most importance to you. I see students put their most important activities or those most appropriate for their first-choice major on the second or third page.

What if service or work experience represents your most dedicated efforts? Make it easy for your admissions reviewer to see what matters most to you by listing it first. You want to hammer your reviewer over the head with how amazing you are. Your resume should illustrate a story and craft an argument that you are an applicant worth admitting.

Many students often split up their activities to fit these rigid categories. Music is a good example. A student will list their formal participation in orchestra and band under extracurricular activities; tutoring younger musicians under volunteering; competition results under awards and accomplishments; their job at a music store under work experience.

Instead, create your own categories to put your most first-choice-major-relevant activities first.

For mid-career professionals, veterans, or adults returning to school, you should include your relevant experience since high school. One piece of advice particularly for nontraditional applicants is not to get so caught up on whether you have enough volunteer or extracurricular activities. If you are working full time, there is no expectation that you have a similar profile to a full-time student.

I once spoke with a stressed applicant who was the father of two kids. He worried about whether he had enough leadership activities. I told him, “You’re a father of two young kids! And you have a full-time job! That’s about as much of a leader as it can get.” The same applies for veterans concerned about whether their application looks like the “typical” student. There is no typical transfer.

G. Choose your second required essay wisely

Applicants must submit one additional essay. They can submit the “special circumstances” Essay C prompt or Essay E “issue of importance.”

“Choose an issue of importance to you—it could be personal, school-related, local, political or international in scope—and write an essay in which you explain the significance of that issue to yourself, your family, your community or your generation.”

Some students stumble over this essay because they want to choose the “correct” topic that reviewers “want to see.” As I discuss in chapter 11, almost any topic is fair game. Choose something that personally influences your life or way of thinking. This topic is much more about how you write and communicate rather than your topic.

One approach is to connect your issue of importance to your desired major. Your Essay E could complement your Essay A. Another approach is to write about something entirely separate from your intended area of study.

Is there an issue or problem at your workplace? Do you volunteer or commit to an activity outside of the classroom that is important to you? I provide a few examples with commentary in this post.

Use Essay E to highlight and expand upon an important aspect of your resume. Unlike for first-time freshmen, UT requires all transfer applicants to submit a paper resume. UT recommends including the past five years of experiences. For recent high school graduates, this means you should include your information from high school.

H. Securing recommendation letters early if applicable

You can submit recommendation letters if you want to introduce an outside perspective to your employment history or habits in the classroom. Recommendation letters for transfer applicants can be effective, especially if you have worked a full-time job or served in the military.

A reference letter from your boss or commanding officer can help provide context to your roles and responsibilities. A letter can be an effective way to set you apart from applicants with similar experiences. Let these questions guide whether you should submit a recommendation letter:

  • Is there something specific you want them to discuss or emphasize?

  • Is there an accomplishment you are proud of that sounds better coming from someone else rather than you writing it in an essay?

  • Can your writer speak on how you would do in your desired major?

Should I submit recommendation letters? If so, how many?

It depends. Very few recommendation letters make a difference.

First, to “make a difference” in your admissions decision, the letter would have to elevate your score on the 1 to 6 Personal Achievement Index scale. Recommendation letters can certainly tip the scale if you are truly in between two scores. An admissions reviewer may bump a 4 to a 5 based on a stellar reference. Letters are the last items that reviewers see. By the time they reach them, they have a good idea which score they will assign.

Second, most recommendation letters are not very good. Perhaps one in fifty letters I read while reviewing applications offers a fresh perspective or new information. Almost always, recommendation letters restate what can be found elsewhere on the application, such as in the transcript or resume.

Recommendation letters should always add new information.

Students choose referrers who don’t know them well or based only on their referrer’s credentials. Too often, students procrastinate in reaching out. Their recommenders may be unaccustomed to submitting letters, or there isn’t enough collaboration between student and referrer to submit a useful recommendation.

You don’t get any bonus points for submitting a recommendation letter. It is also very rare for a letter to hurt an applicant’s chances. In 98 percent of cases, they are unlikely to make a difference. If you are finishing your application last minute and haven’t secured a letter, consider not sending one.

I. Utilizing free transfer resources

UT-Austin has a few very helpful tools for in-state students attempting to transfer. Maybe the most common concern of transfer applicants is whether their credits will transfer.

A generation ago, especially before the days of the internet, accessing credit transferability resources was more difficult than today. Texas public community colleges and four-year universities have done an excellent job of coordinating and centralizing college credits. Most Texas private universities have gotten on board.

If you are taking a course in the "core curriculum" that isn't remedial, it should transfer. You will know with certainty after you apply what credits count towards a future UT degree.

All out of state students will have their transcript audited manually by an admissions technician who will determine what credits will transfer.

If you attend a for-profit university like the Art Institute or ITT Tech, it is highly unlikely that your credits will transfer.

If you claim any AP credit by exam on your transcript, those hours should also transfer over without difficulty.

The most important tool is the "Automated Transfer Equivalency" system.

You can put in your current university, the course you are concerned about, and the tool will tell you how it transfers to UT. I used this tool frequently when I took community college classes the summer before enrolling, but also when I took courses online during the fall and spring while enrolled at UT.

I completed nearly 30 hours at community colleges after finishing high school so I could start my major coursework earlier.

Here is another useful resource that addresses common credit transfer issues.

There is a specific resource for Austin Community College students that details what credits transfer towards which UT-Austin degree.

UT offers an equivalent for any other Texas community college student.

These resources should prove useful for doing your own research about what credits you can expect to transfer.

Interested in working together? Get started today with a free consultation.

Kevin MartinTransfer, Process