Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author
My quick answer is, it's easier than the process of applying as a senior in high school. That's because hopefully, you've already taken all of the standardized tests required - the ACT or SAT - and you don't have the added pressure of going to high school full time, writing a bazillion persuasive essays to a bazillion schools, and studying for those pesky exams - all at once.
Happily, the college transfer process is far more streamlined. You'll have to write ONE very persuasive essay about why you want to transfer out of your current school, and more importantly, why you want to attend the new one. Think of this essay as the "love letter" to your future college. In all likelihood you'll also have to compose a convincing essay about why you want to study in a particular major at the new college. The more detail you can go into, the better. You should do your research and mention particular classes they offer and hope to take, as well as be able to articulate why study in that major - at that school - is right for you. For example, if you hope to go to the communications school within the college, you should talk about their philosophy. Is it focused on the study of human communication - or more on broadcasting and journalism? Why does that interest you? Why is this the right program for you? Remember, you're no longer a high school senior. With just that one year, you're now seen as a far more mature individual: a college student. There will be a greater expectation that you know what you want.
Also in the advice column: stay away from making negative statements about your current school, or experiences. College admissions folks have seen it all. No one will on the committee will be surprised to hear you want to leave. Happens all the time. And they will intuit it's because there are things you don't like about your current school. But don't go there. Focus on fit. It's fine to say the current school - as it turns out - does not meet your needs. Now that you're older, wiser, etc, this new one does. Students very often decide to transfer to a new school because they did not have the GPA needed to get into the one they really coveted. If this is you - you've got straight A's now, or a much higher GPA - that will go a long way towards explaining the desire to transfer and study among more suitable peers.
To really boost your likelihood of winning admission this time around, try to get in some face time, or phone time with the individuals at the new school. Arrange to meet with a professor or department head. Ask if there are current students you can speak to as well. All of this is ammunition for the essay about why you want to transfer there.
Finally, you will need to arrange for your test scores, high school transcript, current grades and recommendations to be sent. The requirements on what is needed will vary depending on the school; make sure you check and also file on time.