Transferring out of WUSTL to peer institutions (Rice, Notre Dame, Cornell)


I am a student who is looking to potentially transfer out of WashU. I completed my first year there recently and wanted to know what my chances were of transferring into some schools of similar academic caliber to WashU.

WUSTL has just been an awful fit for me and I regret choosing it without ever going to visit. Academically I have been very disappointed with the consistency of instruction in Math and Physics, some professors are ok, but other ones have been horrendous and I found myself self-teaching most of the material. They oversimplify things to the point that the instruction isn’t effective and they don’t let us be ‘thinkers’ in this field. Also, advising has been very misguiding. I don’t think after a year there that this is a place where I can succeed.

Outside of the classroom, the student morale is so low and the social scene is non-existent unless you partake in greek life (which isn’t my cup of tea. There is no school spirit and I hate St. Louis so much and frankly really depressed to be there. On top of that, I don’t like the ‘WashU Bubble’ as some may call it. and I want to be in a more welcoming, socioeconomic diverse community. The student body is homogenous in a bad way.

Also, a few more minor things, but I feel like they are relevant. Part of the reason why I chose WUSTL was that I would be able to continue to play my sport for their D3 sport as a walk-on, but I had a really bad knee injury the summer going into this year and had to medically retire. Additionally, the food arrangement is really frustrating. The actual food is ok, but the a la carte configuration is much less convenient and quite less efficient than having a traditional buffet-style dining hall.

Here are my stats:
Current College: WUSTL CAS Math Major
College GPA 3.97
Math Major
High School GPA: 3.7-3.8 at a private school in MA
Test Scores: 36 C ACT, 10/12 Essay. 800 Math SAT II, 740 Physics SAT II
Pretty Decent ECs.

I would be looking to transfer into a school for my junior year. Currently, I am thinking of applying to Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Cornell and Rice. I was waitlisted at Rice and Vanderbilt coming out of HS, and rejected by Cornell.

Are there any other schools that I have have a chance at if I were to apply? I really liked Brown, Columbia, UChicago, and Northwestern coming out of HS, but I never got the chance to apply to them. Would I have any shot transferring into those places?

I’ve also thought about looking at some of the LACs closer to my home, like Amherst, Williams, and Wesleyan. Do places like that every accept transfers?

Just one point: if you’re concerned about homogeneity, I would look at the stats of some of the schools you have listed. I’m not sure you’re going to get more socioeconomic diversity at some of them.
You list very good reasons for transferring - best of luck to you!

Traditionally, Wesleyan accepts more transfers because it is a somewhat bigger school with more moving pieces than the other two. But, if this year is any indication, there may be more uncertainty, last-minute decision making and spots opening up at all three in the future.

Check each school’s common data set, many schools publish transfer acceptance numbers in Section D.

You stats will put you in the mix anywhere. Not sure if transferring is on the table for this fall, but if you have a couple of recs from WUSTL profs, you might contact the transfer AO at the schools on your list and ask what the status is for the fall. And stay in touch with them over the next couple of months, and school year, as appropriate.

Good luck.

The problem you might face is that you will not be able to transfer in for this Fall. I’m not sure if those college accept Spring transfers. Call their admissions offices and ask. You will need good LOR from profs, so hopefully you’ve formed good relationships with some of them.

You don’t specify if you are a sophomore or freshman. You might be looking at taking a gap year if you are determined to transfer and you are already a sophomore. Is that going to work for you? Anyway, your grades etc. are good, and I think if you get good LOR, you have a decent chance.

@Lindagaf Apologies, I should have specified. I would likely be applying as a Junior (fall 2021) transfer and would still probably stick this year out at WUSTL since I know I’m really late to the process. I wasn’t really aware of what the transfer timeline was until it was too late. I’ve researched that Notre Dame and Cornell accept spring transfers so I’m going to try and apply for those places. But from what I can gather, the acceptance rates/space for spring transfers is much less than the fall, so I might be better served to just apply for the fall of 2021.

Follow up question: for the transfer essay I’d have to write, do you guys recommend that I include the thing about athletics and the food? Or should I focus on the more pressing issues?

Your transfer essay needs to be about WHY that college is right for you, as in how is Notre Dame going to provide you with what you need to complete your educational goals. The food and sports and social scene at WUSTL aren’t relevant to why Cornell or any other school.

@Lindagaf ok, I see. But shouldn’t I address why I want to transfer out of WUSTL in my transfer essay?

I agree with lindagaf. Do not write about why wustl isn’t a good fit…you have to have a solid why us? essay for transferring to a new school, preferably an academic reason. Certainly during the pandemic, living closer to home could be a good reason as well. But you should not mention leaving WUSTL for the social scene, or food, or lack of school spirit.

Certainly apply for spring transfers where it is an option, but it can’t hurt to ask if there is any opportunity for this fall…some schools may unexpectedly have openings once they communicate their fall plans. It’s likely the selective schools have enough transfer apps in the queue, but again, doesn’t hurt to ask.

You can say “While WUSTL has been a good experience, it has become clear that it’s not a fit for me due to the overly competitive environment…” or whatever. It’s okay to mention “I have had good experiences at WUSTL, however, in hindsight, I might have fit in better in at a college with more school sprit…” or similar. But the essay needs to focus on why you need to be at the school you’re are applying to.

Especially as you are strong student, find compelling reasons for “why this school?” Your grades at a rigorous college will get your app a strong look.

I believe that Vanderbilt is quite diverse and each year there is a very active Vandy transfer thread here on College Confidential. You may want to check it out and ask your question there. Good luck!

Edit: what you may not be enjoying at WashU could be the large lecture halls. Compare sizes of classes at your target schools. Perhaps you should transfer to a LAC where classes should be smaller and you should have more access to professors during office hours. Consider Middlebury College along with the other NESCAC schools you listed. Reach out to them as they have February admissions, though not sure about for transfers and the timing of same.

@Mwfan1921 thanks for the feedback. I was always under the impression that you had to tell colleges you were thinking of transferring into why you want to leave your current institution without completely knocking it down. What I’ve found online for some colleges is that they seem to be asking this. For example, UChicago seems to ask 3 essays: Why UC, Why Transfer, and the personal prompt. How would a ‘Why Chicago essay’ and a ‘Why transfer’ essay differs in that case?

I have indeed reached out regarding possible transfers for the fall of 2020, and unfortunately nowhere seems to be accepting applications anymore. Vanderbilt technically has a rolling admissions policy, but talking to their AO they seem to have filled their entire transfer class at this point.

@Sam-I-Am I’ll look into Middlebury as a transfer possibility. I think very highly of them but do not know much about the specifics of what they offer. It would be great to have another possibility for a mid-year switch.

In the case of why transfer essay in addition to why us, I would say something along the lines of what lindagaf suggested in #9. Just try to keep it positive, and that you are focused on finding a better fit for you.

Academic reasons should be primary as compared to non-academic reasons, and they should get more play in the essay. Examples include seeking a major that the current school doesn’t have, or you desire a more collaborative environment/smaller classes/greater prof accessibility/specific research with X prof/specific classes, etc. Then you can mention the non-academic things…more school spirit, etc.

Good luck, sounds like you are on top of things!

1 Like

You are allowed to tailor your ‘why leave’ essay to suit the particular things you like about each school. You are a math person- look at the math track at WUSTL v your prospective schools- are there divergences that are meaningful to you? Don’t gin up flimsy differences, but there may be aspects of math as a major that you get now, that you might not have as a HS student. Similarly, check out the diversity- of all kinds!! - at your prospective schools and for those where that is a particular strength and value, it is fair to say that you underestimated the importance of that to you.

Food and social activities are not good reasons for transfer. Academic reasons, on the other hand, are compelling. However your descriptions of the academic shortcomings would highly depend upon professor style. You’re bound to find much of the same academic teaching styles at virtually every college.

Some valid academic reasons for transfer: change in major that is not offered at current college, maxed out current curriculum, combined bachelors/masters program, etc. The selectivity at these colleges for transfer is even higher than for freshman applicants.

Do you need financial aid? That will be a big factor as well? They generally don’t give as great financial aid packages for transfers.

Northwestern University awards need based financial aid to transfers if funds are available.

Northwestern & Vanderbilt are transfer friendly.

Cornell may be a bit deceiving due to GTOs (guaranteed transfer options) and maybe due to articulation agreements with other schools–but not certain about the latter.

Carleton College since you are a math major.

@sgopal2 my major (math) is offered at my current school, but I don’t think that the WUSTL’s department is the place most conducive to my success as a mathematician.

I wouldn’t be applying for financial aid @Publisher. Do you think that this gives me an advantage as a transfer applicant? Through further sleuthing, I’ve found that Brown open says that they are need-aware in their transfer admissions process, so perhaps that might give me a leg up there.

I agree with the above posts that recommend that you thoroughly research the math departments in the universities where you apply to transfer. Let’s face it, if you hate St. Louis, who’s to say you wouldn’t hate Houston? If WashU is too homogeneous, maybe Notre Dame will be too Catholic or too midwestern? If the morale is low at WashU, maybe the morale is even lower at grey/isolated/grade-deflated Cornell? You may be trading one less than positive environment for an even worse situation. At least if the math department lets you be the ‘thinkers’ in the field, as you suggest, you’ll have improved your situation if you transfer.

Yes, I understand. Not liking the style of teaching is certainly a good reason for transfer. However the admissions people think differently. They have so many applicants, they want to admit transfers who have a really solid reason.

There are bad teachers everywhere, and so its not a guarantee that you will be satisfied if they admit you as a transfer. It almost paints you as unhappy and ungrateful at WashU. You certainly don’t want to disparage or paint WashU in a bad light. I would seriously consider framing your argument in a different light. Instead of focusing on teaching style, perhaps the upper level math courses are not what you want? Perhaps you want to do a bachelors thesis, or have an option to graduate with honors classes. Or even the ability to take electives in another (related) department. These types of arguments would be far better IMHO.