3 Things I Wish I Knew as a Transfer Student

When I first transferred into La Salle University from Manor College, I was so eager to jump right into all the things I had previously been a part of. I wanted to do it all! This included joining student government, volunteer groups, a sorority, the tutoring center, and student research in the biology department. I basically thought I could continue all the activities that helped me thrive at my previous two year college.

However, I didn’t expect to hit so many roadblocks on the way. I found myself, along with other Manor College transfer students, diving in too deep and getting carried away by the growing number of responsibilities I had taken on. By the end of my first semester I was wiped out and ended up dropping all my extracurriculars for the spring semester. I should’ve realized that transferring in as a junior to a four year university was going to be a completely different experience. Now that I’m in the spring semester of my senior year, I find myself wishing I had known what I know now. Here’s three important things to keep in mind as you transfer to your new school:

1. It’s important to get involved on your campus, but take the first semester slowly.

My first mistake when I transferred was getting carried away by the idea of being an integrated member of the campus. You have to remember that other students have been there for two years already, so if they seem to have it all together it’s because they’ve had more time. I ended up joining four different organization my first semester while holding down a job. I felt like I needed to make up for lost time, and tried to go to every organization event and volunteered for everything while also trying to navigate my higher level biology classes. As finals approached, it became too much. I became unreliable and and disorganized in my school work and campus life. This meant I had to drop everything to focus on my school work for the next semester. Now I realize that if I had only chosen one or two organizations to join as a way of meeting new people and getting familiar with the campus, it would’ve been enough. Since I did well with managing so many activities at my previous campus, I thought this would be the same at my new school.

You have to remember that a new campus means you’ll need more time to assimilate. Your academics come first, so take the first couple weeks to get settled and look over your coursework for the semester. Only then should you fill in your spare time with school organizations. This also goes the other way around. Make sure you do SOMETHING! Its proven that students who are more involved on campus also do better in their academic scores.  As you get used to your new campus life you can take on more things each semester. It’s not a race, it’s a marathon so you need to take it slow!

2.  It’s not too late to join a fraternity, sorority, or do student research!

Once I dropped all my extracurricular activities, I thought that would be the end of it for me. I figured that as a transfer student it was too late to participate in any of the big opportunities that come with attending a four-year university. Most people start pledging to join fraternities/sororities their freshman or sophomore year. There is typically a semester long process where you learn about the fraternity/sorority before you’re officially a member. I found out about a co-ed service fraternity I wanted to join in my last semester. At this point it was too late because I didn’t know about this organization until a couple months before graduation. However, if joining a fraternity/sorority is something that interests you, don’t count yourself out just because you’d start your junior year. Pledging in your first or second semester at your new university will still leave you with the rest of your junior year and your entire senior year to be an active member. It’s simply something to consider when you start at your new school. If this is something you want to be a part of, then start early.  

This also goes for doing student research through your major’s department. I’m a biology major, which means I could research with any of the professors with a laboratory in the science department. Students typically start preparing to do research their freshman or sophomore year. The hardest part is finding a professor that will accept you into their lab, since it is competitive. This can be more difficult for transfer students because you haven’t had as much time to get to know the professors and work with them in an academic setting.

The best way to do this is to look up the different research labs and who they’re run by, then directly contact these professors and explain to them that you’re a transfer student interested in research. Try to register for courses that are offered by the professors you’re most interested in working with. This way they can see your work ethic and get to know you. I spent my junior year getting to know a neurobiology professor and taking his courses. I expressed my interest in his lab work and he accepted me for his team my senior year. As a transfer student you may not get to do research as long as some other students, but it’s still a great learning experience and not far out of your reach with some planning.

3. Meet often with your transfer counselor and academic advisor.

This is typically overlooked, but meet frequently with your transfer counselor and assigned advisor throughout the school year. The transfer counselor will help direct you in your first semester. They can also help you evaluate your course schedule to make sure you’re on track to graduate. This can be a tedious task because you have to make sure the credits that transfer match up with what you have left to take.

For example, I was surprised that I would have two semesters where I would be taking 6 courses, instead of the usual 5. This is because my school not only had a minimum credit requirement, but also a minimum number of courses you had to take. Although I had more than enough credits, I didn’t have enough courses.  My academic advisor helped me pick what courses I could take specific to my major. Since he was also a professor, he knew the ins and outs of the biology curriculum. He was also a great resource for questions about doing student research. I met with my counselor and advisor once every semester. They provided me with guidance, resources, and insight on how I could work my future goals into my class schedule. I want to attend Physician Assistant (PA) school, which would require a masters program. My academic advisor helped me pick out courses that would benefit me for this goal. He also gave me resources for internships and people I could talk to about the program.

As a transfer student we must use all the resources our campus has to offer. Don’t count yourself out just because you’re starting later at a university. You’re goals will just require a little bit more planning, but they are perfectly doable. Simply take things at your own pace and it will make your transfer experience a lot more enjoyable! 

– Isla M.