Overheard in Committee — This One’s for All Those Transfers Out There

Admit It!  Transfers it’s your turn to learn what’s overheard in your committee deliberations.  These past few days we’ve been wading through all of your files and making decisions on our spring transfer applicants in anticipation of releasing decisions next week.  So without further ado…

Overheard in transfer committee: “He’s really turned it around since high school.”

Recently, a prospective transfer asked me to discuss the importance that a high school transcript plays in transfer application review and I thought this often-heard phrase in transfer committee provided the perfect vehicle for me to address this question.  The question doesn’t have a fast and easy answer however, because it really depends on how long ago high school was for the individual student and how much college course work they’ve completed.

What’s likely most important for transfer applicants to know is that we admit transfers with a wide range of high school records.  Some were extremely accomplished in high school with outstanding curricula, stellar grades and what we refer to as “bangin” SAT scores.  Others have mediocre records (less challenging courses, middling grades, etc.) and still others have atrocious records littered with failing grades and non-academic courses.  We know that a high school transcript does not define who you are as a student, and that not all students hit their academic stride in high school.

The more college course work a transfer applicant has, the less important the high school record is.  This just makes sense right?  If someone applies to transfer during their first or second semester of college, the high school transcript is the most recent and only real academic information we have on which to make a decision (if you’re applying during your first semester of college we’ll have no college transcript to evaluate aside from your mid-semester grades and, if you’re applying in your second semester of college we’ll have only one semester’s worth of college course work to assess).  For those students, we will look closely at your high school courses, grades and standardized tests (which are required only for those transfer applicants who have completed fewer than two full-time semesters of college).  Oftentimes we will ask ourselves as a committee if that student would have been competitive for freshman admission based on their high school record since their college record will be sparse or non-existent.

However many students apply to transfer during their second year of college.  The more and more college credit we have to evaluate, the less your high school record plays a role.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s always reviewed and it is always considered in the decision we make but it will hold more sway with some applicants (usually those who are closer to their high school experience either in terms of age or in terms of academic progression) than it will for others.  The comment alluded to at the beginning of the blog was made in reference to a young man who graduated in the bottom half of his high school class with no advanced coursework.  However, in college he had really excelled.  He’d challenged himself by taking 15-16 credits each semester, he’d selected challenging college-level courses (biology, physics, calculus, psychology, English lit, economics, intro history courses and advanced foreign language) and he’d performed outstandingly well maintaining a 3.8 GPA over three semesters.

The student also used his personal statement to detail his lack of motivation in high school and what events had led to his new-found academic focus and drive.  His statement was thorough, thoughtful and mature.  It, along with his college transcript, gave the committee the confidence to admit him because we trusted he would continue to perform as he had in college and not as he had in high school once at W&M.

So don’t fear.  High school doesn’t always have to define you as a student.  It’s absolutely part of your record but it’s not something from which students cannot be redeemed.  For this student he found redemption by kicking academic butt and taking names in college and showing us what he was truly capable of.  You do the same, and you too might be able to put high school behind you.

Good luck transfers.  We’ll be in touch soon.

Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ‘09
Senior Assistant Dean of Admission

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