Dear Prospective Transfer Student: Know That You Are Valued and Supported

January 26, 2023
Senior Associate Dean Alex Bustin '08

For prospective transfer students considering Princeton, know that you are not only valued here, but supported financially, academically and personally by systems that were created specifically for you. You can experience a residential liberal arts college as robustly as any other student without compromising your goals and individual needs. Princeton’s incoming transfer students have a supportive cohort within the tight-knit transfer and veteran student body as well as across the greater community. And when it comes to your strengths and achievements – not only academically, but also otherwise, such as in your military service, professional work, etc. – know that these are valued and appreciated in our process not in spite of their difference compared to the average traditional student, but because of them.  The life experience and perspectives you bring from those achievements — and maybe from the learning experiences and tenacity you have shown in overcoming some negative experiences — give us a unique perspective about your ability to thrive and contribute to an environment where academic rigor and exploration are encouraged, and close community relationships are forged.

When presenting your body of work since your high school years — which can be from a range of time and experiences across the transfer student spectrum — we ask for the full range of academic records and non-academic experiences so we can best understand your trajectory, and how you have become the strong and motivated student you are now, and how you’re prepared for the kind of experience offered at Princeton. Academically, your level of preparation will mostly be evaluated on the strongest, most recent academic record in place of maybe suboptimal prior experiences. If there are reasons to explain why past experiences — academic or otherwise — did not meet your current high levels of achievement, it’s helpful to address those extenuating circumstances, regardless of whether they were within or outside of your control. This can be in the form or a resume charting out the road map, or a short paragraph in relevant optional sections of the application.

Whatever the case may be, and whether you traveled the straight and narrow path to this juncture, or a wider, more meandering one, know that you can absolutely be a worthy and highly competitive candidate for Princeton or any similar elite college that values transfer and non-traditional students, no matter how highly selective. Do not be discouraged by statistics of admission rates or academic metrics that are largely comprised of the majority of our applicants in much more linear pathways who do not bring the range of life experiences and perspectives that you might. Instead, show us your strengths as they exist today, as well as the road you traveled that contributed to who you are and why this is the right moment where your goals in higher education and beyond intersect with what a college like Princeton can offer you, and what you can offer to the community in return. Find your greatest advocates in your current community — whether that’s at your college, at your job, in your military cohort, or elsewhere — to support you in this process, and importantly, reach out to us directly, as well as our counterparts in the offices of other colleges you’ll be applying. This process is complex enough for any student, and we’re happy to assist and support however we can on our end as you continue this journey, and prepare for the next steps ahead.