Last fall, 7,546 new undergraduates enrolled at the University. Apart from an incoming freshmen class of 6,505 students, 1,041 of these new enrollees were transfer students, according to data provided by the University’s Office of Public Affairs.
These transfer students represent roughly 14 percent of incoming undergraduates.
LSA junior Reid Klootwyk, LSA Student Government vice president for upcoming academic year, transferred to the University last fall from Muskegon Community College. He said the contrast between entering college as a freshmen and entering a new university as an experienced college student adds additional challenges.
“We’ve been through some small tidbit of college, but we’re also so fresh to the University and so new to things,” he said. “We’re a little bit like the upperclassmen in that we have (taken college-level classes) and think we know how to succeed, but, at the same time, it’s all so new and it’s not easy to transition.”
LSA senior Marissa Miars, chair of the Central Student Government Commission on Transfer Student Resources, said the college experience can also be difficult for transfer students because administrative policies do not entirely know how to address their unique needs. She transferred from Grand Valley State University in 2013.
Miars said it can be frustrating for transfer students — who are not entering college for the first time — to be treated like freshmen who are coming to the University from high school. However, she notes the University cannot treat transfer students like returning sophomores or juniors either.
“There’s also the danger of going the complete opposite way and being like: ‘Transfer students have already been to college, they already know everything and they don’t need our help,’” she said. “That attitude can also be problematic: We are new to this University, and there are things we don’t understand and challenges to overcome.”
Klootwyk and Miars said transfer students face additional challenges when choosing the right classes, joining campus organizations, securing housing and making new friends.
According to data provided by Public Affairs, the University received 3,691 transfer applications in total during Spring, Summer and Fall 2014 — of those, 1,408 were offered admission and 1,041 enrolled.
This would place the 2014 acceptance rate for transfer applications at about 38 percent, slightly higher than the 32 percent acceptance rate for freshmen applications for the academic year 2014, calculated using data from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions’ “Admitted Student Profile.”
About 53 percent of the enrolling transfer students were out-of-state students.
Less than 35 percent of the applications came from students at two-year schools, while fewer than 65 percent came from students at four-year schools and the remaining few came from students whose current enrollment was unknown, according to the data set.
One hundred sixty students applied to transfer to the University from Washtenaw Community College, and of those, 51 percent were offered admission.
This year, the CSG Commission on Transfer Student Resources conducted a survey of 334 current transfer students at the University.
The survey found that 75 percent of respondents said they utilize some form of financial assistance. Fifty percent of participants self-reported their socioeconomic status as upper-middle or upper class, 18 percent said they are lower-middle class and 15 percent identified as working class.
Additionally, 51 percent of current student participants transferred from a domestic four-year institution, 40 percent from a domestic two-year community college and the remaining 9 percent from international colleges and universities.
From community college to the University
Klootwyk said while many students would love to attend a university immediately after graduating from high school, for some students, that is not a realistic option for various reasons.
“You want to be able to tell everybody: ‘I’m going to MSU’ or ‘I’m going to U of M,’” Klootwyk said. “And so even after a successful high school career, I went to Muskegon Community College. And that wasn’t the most glorious choice, but it was the cheaper option, and I am paying for it.”
He said though he was unable to come straight to the University after high school, living at home with his family to attend community college for two years saved money.
Miars said because Grand Valley — a state university — is set up similarly to the University, she feels she had less difficulty adjusting when she transferred than her friends and peers who attended community college before the University.
“There are just additional challenges coming from a community college,” she said. “Obviously it’s just a different academic setting than a four-year institution, and so there’s additional challenges adjusting to that.”
Advising and mentoring
Klootwyk said the University has some resources to help transfer students assimilate, and both he and Miars have dedicated their time at the University to both improving those that currently exist as well as developing more.
“There are some resources that are really strong and are possibly under-utilized, he said. “And then there are resources that simply don’t exist that possibly ought to.”
One of these existing resources is Transfer Orientation for admitted students.
Klootwyk said orientation can be an enormous tool for transfer students and can help them get a feel for campus life, learn about student organizations and explore possible housing options.
“However, there’s a downside in that for transfer students, orientation is much shorter (than freshman orientation) — it’s a one-day, five-hour process,” he said. “At a university this size, how much can you tell someone in one afternoon?”
Another such resource is Transfer Connections, a peer-mentoring program run by the Office of New Student Programs for LSA students.
Transfer Connections offers new students a chance to join together in small groups led by former transfer students to ease their transition to the University.
Additionally, Miars said the Commission on Transfer Student Resources holds “coffee hours,” during which former transfer students are available to advise new students and share their own experience and knowledge.
Though transfer students meet with an academic adviser at orientation, Klootwyk said one session couldn’t provide any new student with all the information they need to know.
Michael Hartman, coordinator of Transfer Student Programs at Newnan Academic Advising Center, noted that Newnan tries to explain at orientation the purpose of a college adviser, in the hope that new students will seek guidance from their advisers during their time at the University.
“For transfer students, depending on where they’re transferring from, we emphasize that (advising) might be different from what they’re used to in terms of our goal is not just to be there to help make sure they meet their degree requirements, but to make sure that they get everything out of their degree that they want,” Hartman said.
Miars said the proportion of transfer students who are of lower socioeconomic is greater than for the student body at large, citing the fact that many choose to transfer to the University after attending another institution to save money. Consequently, she said, many transfer students feel pressure to graduate in four years despite having spent fewer years at the University than most students.
“That pressure manifests itself in: ‘I need all my credits to transfer so I can be at the same place I was when I went to my former institution,’” she said.
She also noted that, often the University accepts fewer credits than transfer students had hoped, or accepts classes for departmental credit and not as the equivalent of a specific class. As a result, both Klootwyk and Miars said it is common for transfer students to petition for University credit.
Miars said students have had success with this procedure, but that for a while she did not know it was an option, and she said she is sure that other transfer students are unaware of it as well.
Hartman said students see a presentation at orientation that explains the process of transferring credits and what it means to receive departmental credit. He said Newnan understands that students receive a lot of information during orientation and that they may not remember some details from the presentation. However, he said they hope students will ask for clarification from their advisors in the event that they forget what they need to know.
Miars said the University will make students aware of the resources available to them, but will not babysit students by reminding them about transfer student policies and about making appointments with advisers.
Klootwyk said as LSA-SG vice president, he has been working to update University policy to provide admitted transfer applicants the opportunity to defer enrollment, an option available for freshmen applicants that want to take a gap year.
He said he would have liked to have had that opportunity and that a gap year would have enriched his education and given him the chance to learn more about himself before coming to the University.
Miars said the Commission on Transfer Student Resources works with the administration to improve policies that already exist, as well as create new programs catered to the specific needs of transfer students.
She said finding housing has always been a difficult process for transfer students.
“We’re the last ones that get to apply for on-campus housing and typically transfer students end up getting placed in Northwood on North Campus,” Miars said.
The commission has been working to try and secure more housing on Central Campus for transfer students to help facilitate an easier transition for sophomores and juniors who may already feel removed from social groups that their peers have already formed.
“(We are trying to) make sure they’re not further isolated by being put on North Campus,” Miars said.
Miars said Housing has reserved spaces for transfers on Central Campus for next year.
She said the commission is also in the process of developing a Transfer Student Resource Center on campus that would be used as a study and hang out space for transfer students where they could meet other transfers and receive advice.
Newnan has offered the commission space in their basement for the center, which is still in its early planning stages, and Miars said it has been a very helpful resource for the commission as well as for transfer students in general.
“The (immediate) hope is to create a center where we can offer ongoing programming and drop in advising specifically for transfer students,” he said.
Miars also said the commission is in the process of producing a website that pools all transfer resources in one place and would ultimately be run by the University.
She said consolidating resources will be helpful because it can be difficult to find University resources online through many different websites.
Miars said she has noticed the administration paying a lot more attention to transfer student concerns in the last few years. She said University officials have been working to create programs that target concerns specifically impacting transfer students.
“Five years ago, the University of Michigan had a bad reputation when it came to transfer students; It wasn’t seen as the most transfer-friendly institution,” Miars said. “Now they’re trying to change that and making the effort.”