In 2021, more than 1,700 transfer students enrolled at the University of Michigan, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.While the transfer process varies by student and the institution they are transferring from, over the past year transfer students all had to adapt to a virtual campus community.
As the University returns to a mostly in-person semester, transfer students shared with The Michigan Daily their experiences and the organizations that best supported them on campus during the pandemic as well as during their first semester on campus.
Several students transferred to the University to attend their dream school, as they were not admitted to the University out of high school. Kinesiology senior Lior Kolton transferred to the University from Michigan State University after his sophomore year. Kolton said he did not originally intend to transfer but that the switch was worth it once he found his community.
“Once I did really well in my classes (at MSU), I thought why not try it out and see what happens,” Kolton said. ”I think the biggest adjustment was trying to find my community on campus and find student orgs to get involved in. I’m in a pre-law fraternity that’s amazing, so trying to find that took a semester, and it was a little stressful, but I was very lucky to have already had a big school experience so I kind of knew what to expect.”
LSA senior Charlotte Gamperle transferred to the University as a junior from Northeastern University in Boston because she said she wanted a more conventional college experience, as Northeastern utilizes a student co-op program in which students alternate between working and taking classes each semester.
“I just felt like what I was lacking (at Northeastern) was community and the traditional college experience,” Gamperle said. “It kind of detracted from my overall college experience because I felt like I was a younger professional rather than a college student, and I realized that I am in no hurry to rush into the professional world if I’m going to be in it for the rest of my life.”
When applying to college out of high school, Gamperle said the University was not on her radar. After researching the best schools for student life, she said she discovered the University almost immediately and was drawn to the culture of school spirit.
Entering campus in the fall of 2020, Gamperle said she knew the adjustment would not be easy, as she was seeking an inclusive campus community during the peak of the pandemic. She said being part of the Global Scholars Program and joining student organizations helped, and she also tried to reach out to as many students as possible.
“Even though it was uncomfortable a lot of the time, I would basically reach out to people one on one and ask to meet up socially distanced, and I did that until it got cold,” Gamperle said. “I think it was worth it in the long run because I have a good set of people now.”
Gamperle said Transfer Connections, a student organization that facilitates peer and faculty mentoring, helped her find her place on campus.
According to the Office of New Student Programs, through Transfer Connections each transfer student serving as a mentee, is matched with a former transfer student mentor and faculty mentor to assist them in finding on-campus opportunities after transferring.
“They’ve been really helpful tailoring my Michigan experience to me, and just being there for me,” Gamperle said. “This year I actually came back as a mentor myself. I have a group of 18 mentees that have come in this year, and my job is to meet with them as often as I can and plan social events.”
Other on-campus resources for transfer students include M-Connect and SuccessConnects. M-Connect assists students looking to transfer from community colleges, and SuccessConnects pairs transfer students with an individual mentor to help them find communities on campus.
Kolton, who transferred right before the pandemic began, said the University’s orientation program was extremely helpful.
“The orientation they ran was fantastic, and I met a cool friend of mine,” Kolton said. “He’s actually in class with me but transferred over as well. I thought that was a really good way to help me adjust.”
In an email to The Daily, Michael Hartman, assistant director of LSA Student Recruitment for Transfer Initiatives and Partnerships, said assisting transfer students during the pandemic has been more difficult than normal.
“Some of our transfers will have spent more of their semester learning remotely than they have had on campus by the time they graduate,” Hartman wrote.
Gamperle said the virtual events planned by the University during the completely remote semester when she transferred were not beneficial.
“Because so much of the concern when you’re transferring is all about finding a community, I think that was really difficult to do in the virtual format,” Gamperle said. “I didn’t really gain anything from the University in terms of finding community here or finding my place. It was more self-directed of me seeking people out and seeking out my own resources like Transfer Connections.”
Hartman said resources such as the LSA Transfer Student Center, the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, optiMize as well as Transfer Connections are helpful for transfer students to become more embedded in the University community and engage with other transfer students..
“Going to office hours to connect with faculty can make all the difference in improving the transfer experience,” Hartman said.
Like most freshmen, Gamperle said she experienced the nervousness that accompanies arriving on campus for the first time and emphasized the importance of putting yourself out there.
“I know it can be really hard and uncomfortable, but I think it’s definitely worth it to try and to meet as many people as possible,” Gamperle said. “Reach out to professors, just try to make as many connections as you can, because Michigan does have so many resources that are waiting to be taken advantage of.”
Daily Staff Reporter Kaitlyn Luckoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.