UC Davis OTSR: Celebrating National Transfer Student Week

Hello all transfer Aggies! Happy National Transfer Student Week! This year’s theme is “These Transfer Shoes: Step into my Journey”. As several transfer student stories are highlighted, it’s also important to discuss the commonalities that many transfer students share.

Although we all come from different experiences, cultures, and academic backgrounds, many transfer students actually have a lot more in common than you’d think. The National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NTSW) identified five common experiences that most transfer students share. The first common experience that NTSW identified was that many transfer students are very high-achieving. Despite the common misconception that transfer students are “under-performing”, or not as smart, many transfer students are actually “exceptionally high achieving”. Usually, transfer students perform at the same level as, if not higher than, other students that enter universities as a freshman. However, transfer students can suffer from transfer shock as described later. The second shared experience is that there are also several pathways that transfer students can take. Transferring to university after two years at a community college may be the most common path, but as access increases, more and more students find they can move between institutions and craft a collegiate experience that best suits them.

Thirdly, a very familiar experience that almost all transfer students face is staying on track and transferring their credits to a university. Vague and confusing articulation policies create difficult barriers for transfer students when attempting to transfer credits for completed classes. Universal curriculum and articulation policies will help address this issue. The fourth commonality among transfers is that, despite what people think, there is no “one reason” for transferring. It could be for “personal, social, financial, or academic reasons”, and each reason that results in the decision to transfer is unique and personal. The fifth, and final, common experience is that transfer students handle many responsibilities! It’s very common for transfer students to be first generation or low income, making it harder to solely focus on school. To make things easier for the students, many schools offer various programs and services to help make things less stressful. (Specific UC Davis transfer student resources are outlined at the end of this article).

Despite all of the issues that transfer students face, many transfer students have positive experiences and go on to do well at their universities and in the rest of their lives. In a 2016 study, conducted by the University of California, Davis, it was found that “88% of transfer students graduated within four years of starting their degree, while only 66% of freshman admitted students graduated within four years of starting their degree.” By starting off at a community college, many transfer students enter their university feeling more prepared for upper-division classes and with a deeper understanding of what they want to do with their education.

Unfortunately, transfer shock is a very common phenomenon in which transfer students face several changes, both socially and academically, that may impact their educational performance. And this “shock” is by no means uncommon. Actually, it’s very typical for transfer students’ grades to drop as they deal with the pressures of attending a new college. Although there are not any proven or well-researched studies that provide tricks for combatting transfer shock, here are a few common tips for a better transition experience into university life. Firstly, make sure to only take the number of credits that you know you can handle. Never feel like you need to take a full course load of classes on your first go-around. Second, make sure that you’re taking breaks to sustain your mental and emotional health. It’s okay to go out on the weekend, watch your favorite show after school, and take a break from studying. Did you know actually taking breaks in between studying is more effective than studying in blocks without breaks? Even a five minute distraction can rejuvenate you, helping you focus more on studying. Thirdly, although it may feel intimidating, remember that just like at community college, you can go to office hours and ask questions when you need help. Professors and TA’s are there as a resource to help you, so make sure to take advantage of it. Fourthly, try not to fall too behind. Pushing an assignment or two back is easy to want to do, but this is a bad habit to fall into when finals come around. Make sure to do any extra credit assignments as well, since you never know how much those extra points can come in handy. And finally, use proven study and retention techniques to help better prepare for tests. Don’t cram for an exam, instead chunk your studying over long periods of time. These tips aren’t perfect, but they’re a starting point to helping combat transfer shock.

Transferring from college to university life is hard, and although you may feel alone, many transfer students share the same worries as you. If you ever feel overwhelmed or need any support, you can reach out to us, in the Office of Transfer Student Representative (OTSR), or the amazing Transfer Student/ Reentry Office. Also, if you have any questions or suggestions, make sure to reach out to the current Transfer Student Representative, Tariq Azim (tazim@ucdavis.edu), who works within the OTSR. Remember that you are not alone in your transfer journey, and there are several resources available to help you throughout your UC Davis experience. Go Ags!