Settling into college as a first-year student is difficult. There are new classes, friends, a daily schedule that is much more customizable, and hundreds of activities that students can choose from. Especially for students who are living or traveling away from home for the first time, these changes can feel overwhelming.
However, joining a new university as a second- or third-year student, or a transfer student, is at least equally jarring. Not only do transfer students have to adjust to the system and culture of their new school, but they do so without the peers who are also experiencing the changes of college, as it was in first year.
However, NJIT reports that over 1,000 transfer students are enrolled each year, making it important to increase awareness of the opportunities available to them. Started by the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students, National Transfer Student Week is celebrated by many institutions, including NJIT, in the third week of October in order to bring greater attention to transfer students’ experiences and the resources available to ease the transition.
There are many reasons that a student might make the decision to transfer schools; these can be environmental, financial, or academic. Malika Sako, a third-year mathematical sciences major, commented, “I decided that I wanted to transition from studying accounting to studying actuarial science and NJIT had that option. I know that all the courses I need to prepare me for life after graduating in my chosen field of study are offered at NJIT.”
Sako transferred from a small liberal arts school in Illinois, where she had to individualize her accounting major as it was not offered by her college. At NJIT, she stated, “I no longer have to stress about spending my summer and winter breaks taking classes at other colleges.”
Although the decision to transfer may be the best option, especially in the long run, it comes with its fair share of challenges. Omkaar Mahadevan, a second-year data science major, transferred for his second semester of college. Unlike regular admissions, he said, “The SAT wasn’t considered, and transfer students don’t get scholarships as easily as their non-transfer counterparts.”
This was disappointing to Mahadevan, as he had been offered a $10,000 scholarship and honors at Rutgers-New Brunswick, another New Jersey public university, just a few months before his transfer decision.
Sako mentioned that a challenge she occasionally faced was meeting new people. “Sometimes there are events that I’d really like to go to, but they’re a little too late at night for me to feel comfortable driving home.” She added, however, “I’ve found joining clubs to be helpful, and I’m sure that with time, I’ll get used to participating in student life.”
When asked whether any of NJIT’s programs for transfer students were helpful, Sako responded, “I really found the transfer student orientation to be helpful, as well as the student-run tours. Those events really helped me get used to the layout of NJIT, so that on the first day of school I wasn’t as lost as I might have been if I had no idea what the campus looked like.”
Mahadevan, who transferred after the fall semester, suggested, “NJIT should host a mandatory transfer orientation session both for the spring and fall semester. This orientation should preferably be in person, and it should force students to talk to one another and complete other ice-breaker activities.” This was how he met people during his first semester of college. “This is a good process for us to talk to one another and get to know exactly what to know as a transfer,” he continued.
So how should a student decide if — or when — to transfer? Sako advised, “Make a list of the reasons why you’re considering transferring and review it. I guess it’s kind of like a cost-benefit analysis. Are you willing to give up a certain amount of things that you currently have for the potential of getting something better?”
Mahadevan recommended connecting with other transfer students at NJIT or whichever school a student is thinking about transferring to. “I’d say go to more events, create a LinkedIn account and if you want to, connect with others in NJIT. Look to see if any of them transferred and maybe ask them how it was.” They both suggested attending transfer events on campus to get a better understanding of the campus and get to know other transfer students.
Both Sako and Mahadevan are having positive experiences at NJIT so far. Mahadevan enjoyed NJIT’s resources, stating that “being at a smaller school has its benefits as less people fight for its resources and the resource quality is pretty good,” and Sako also liked that NJIT is “not too big so it’s easy to navigate and I don’t feel like I’m just one person among many people.” Overall, transferring is a hard decision to make, but doing thorough research about whether the school truly fits your goals can help you choose correctly.