What is it like to be a transfer student at NJIT?
The question is raised as NJIT celebrates National Transfer Student Week for the first time.
The event, observed nationally from Oct. 21—Oct. 25, aims to celebrate transfer students and the administrative professionals who support them on their journey through higher education.
Jasmine Howard, Transfer Coordinator at the Advising Success Center, heard about the week-long celebration from another colleague, but it was only after attending the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students conference this past February that she returned to NJIT, determined to try it out.
“[After] going there and hearing them talk about it, I was like, okay, I want NJIT to try it. You just have to start somewhere,” Howard said, speaking of the event’s launch at NJIT. “If we just start it, try it, then we can build upon it, so it’s something I was really passionate about.”
But how do transfer students feel about it?
Corey O’Brien, a fifth-year mechanical engineering transfer from Brookdale Community College, said, “I don’t think it really addresses academic success, or difficulty, in any meaningful way—at least based on the event titles.”
Stephen Kurilla, a fifth-year chemistry major who transferred from Ocean County College in Fall 2017, agrees. “It’s nice, but what I needed two years ago was information, not a celebration.”
This week does not make up for the reality of being a transfer student at NJIT, he says. “You have all the negatives of being new, with all the negatives of being an upperclassman.”
“[It’s] nice and all, but it’s also a too little too late situation,” O’Brien agrees. “I felt kind of on my own from the start, and in ways I didn’t feel at Brookdale.”
Howard is aware of this disconnect and the need to do better. “I feel like there’s been such a focus on getting transfer students registered for their first semester… [but] it’s not just getting registered for that first semester, but how are we supporting students through the transfer shock experience, through adjusting to what NJIT is like.… Transfer students are also first year students so there should be more support.”
According to Howard, as of Fall 2019, there are “over 3,100 transfer students currently enrolled.” NJIT’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness reported an enrollment of 8,532 undergraduate students in Fall 2018. That means transfer students currently account for approximately 36% of the undergraduate population.
One-third is a significant fraction of the population, but Kurilla says it doesn’t matter: “You’re basically just another number to the administration.”
When asked if he feels appreciated as a transfer student, O’Brien says, “I really do not. It definitely feels like I wasn’t welcomed in the same way [as freshmen]. I didn’t have this big orientation. I didn’t have these group activities. It’s kinda like, alright, you’re on your own.”
But this celebration is a step in the right direction. Kurilla says, “I guess this week shows that NJIT at least knows they forgot about transfers.”