Never did I expect my transition from a community college to a four year university to be so challenging. I thrived in community college because I was involved in student government and other clubs, made dozens of new friends, had a great social life, and enjoyed every semester. I was very sad to leave but I knew that I needed to in order to continue my education. I figured it wouldn’t be easy transferring, but I did so well at community college that if anyone could transfer well, I could.
So I moved into the residence hall at my new school, hoping that I’d find people as eager as me to make some new friends. However, I was disappointed to discover that most people had their group of friends established by junior year; they were so comfortable in their niches they weren’t really exploring for new friendships. Everyone was nice and friendly of course but no one wanted to “be friends.”
So I turned to something I know well: clubs and student activities. Well long story short, I came to realize my long list of club involvement and student leadership from community college wasn’t highly valued at my new school. The student organizations wanted the sophomores and juniors who had attended the four year university since they were freshman because they had a familiar reputation; these student had earned loyalty among their peers. I felt like the outsider. No matter how much I tried to reach out and seize opportunity I wasn’t ever seriously considered for leadership roles. So my first semester as a transfer student was lonely and I thought I had made the wrong choice in transferring.
Fortunately, after a few months I slowly gained acquaintances and by my second semester I joined the Student Assembly as a representative. One of my prouder accomplishments was that I helped a few other students start the Transfer Student Organization on our campus. Like me, other transfer students were having similar issues trying to meet new people and get involved on campus. Once the club formed and I started regularly hanging out with a few people, I started to feel better about making the most out of what I had, though it was never the same sense of belonging I felt at my community college. I was so happy the Transfer Club was serving a purpose for other transfer students, too; we had a few successful events and started a mentor program for incoming transfer students. My hope was that the Transfer Club would help other student’s transition to our new school and not struggle as much as I did.
My community college will forever have my heart, and I suspect others feel the same about their community colleges. But by the end of my transfer experience, I found a solid group of friends, and I’d like to thank my former housemates for helping me end college on a high note.
My advice to other community college graduates planning to transfer is this:
1) It will be scary for some of you at first but in the end you have to make the best of it. Look for ways to connect with other transfer students and find out if your school has a transfer student club; if not maybe start one of your own!
2) You can also try to connect with club advisors by email before you transfer to introduce yourself and your past experience so that maybe they can help guide you in who to talk to and where to go.
3) Look on Facebook to see if your school has any class groups or transfer student groups you can join to start chatting with other transfers.
4) Attend orientation to help you learn what resources your new campus has and possibly connect with students before classes start.
My advice to Student Affairs professionals is this:
1) Those working at 4-year colleges need to learn to acknowledge our previous experience. For instance, many clubs have rules that you have to have been a club member for a year before you can run for an officer position. But many transfer students entering as a junior have just as much leadership experience, if not more, to bring to the table from their prior college, but because that experience was from another school it’s often discounted.
2) If your 4-year institution doesn’t have a Transfer Club or mentor program already, consider starting one to help retain transfer students. SUNY Oswego and SUNY Fredonia are good examples.
3) Those working at community colleges should remember to acknowledge that transferring can be difficult and encourage students to contact student involvement resources at their new schools before they transfer.
4) Community college staff could also potentially assist in arranging opportunities for transfer students to get involved, similar to Transfer Agreements on the academic side, but these would be for ensuring student leaders can continue their involvement and skill development at their new school without losing ground because of their transfer status.
5) Lastly, community colleges could organize panel presentations with alumni to share their successful transfer experiences with soon to be transferring graduates.
This post is part of our #comm_college series, which aims to explore experiences developing community college policies and processes that impact the recruitment, retention, and completion of community college students. What human interest stories do you have of community college student resilience, persistence, and success? What about a stories of transition, challenge, or transformation? A variety of SA pros working in student affairs at a community college will share their insights. For more information, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Marsha Herman-Betzen on A Story of a Life in SA