When I was 18, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I did not have a career plan, let alone a college plan. So like millions of other people, I decided to enroll at my local community college in New Jersey and take the time to explore my options. Once I received my associates degree, I already decided on a major, and I decided to transfer to Kent State. The fashion program ranking and affordability made it the best option for me.
I thought I could make up for the experiences I missed out on at my commuter college when I transferred to a state university in the fall of 2019. I planned to join student organizations, go to parties, maybe even rush a sorority. But becoming socially involved as an upperclassmen transfer student proved to be easier said than done. I lived in an apartment, isolated from other students, so I could not meet students the way first year students in dorms can. When I was the only junior in my entry-level classes, I could not seem to connect with the freshmen that were suddenly my peers. Despite being an extrovert, I found myself struggling to make friends. I felt alone, 400 miles away from home, doubting the decision I made to transfer.
After meeting other transfer students, I realized I was not alone in my experience. Transferring, especially as an upperclassman, felt like being thrown to the wolves. For many students, it can be a jarring experience that negatively impacts their grades, social life and mental health. Junior psychology student Samantha Sarley says she had trouble finding “her people” when she transferred to Kent State from Miami University, especially given the pandemic.
“[When] coronavirus hit, I couldn’t meet people,” Sarley says. “It was very tough.”
Since Kent State is a large university with tens of thousands of students, there are events on campus every day. Even events made specifically to help transfer students meet and socialize cannot bridge the gap between new students and the massive student population. Multiple students we spoke with attribute this to the fact that incoming transfer students do not yet have a friend group to attend classes with. The awkwardness of participating in campus activities alone is difficult to overcome, even for the most extroverted students.
One of the most common ways to socialize as a transfer student is by meeting other students in classes. While this is nearly impossible in the age of remote learning, it is one of the easiest and most organic ways to make friends. Senior Kagnessie Marie Victoire Oulai says although she met most of her friends through group projects, it was still difficult being an upperclassman new to Kent State.
“Making friends wasn’t easy,” Oulai says. “Everybody already knows everybody.”
Transferring to a new school might be a bumpy process, but there are resources available to help make the transition smoother. This begins with the mandatory Transfer Kent State orientation, a program created to help students adjust, supplemented by the TKS Kickstart modules on BlackBoard Learn. TKS Ambassadors, who are transfer students themselves, work throughout this process to help students. The Tau Sigma honor society is specifically designed for transfer students, with monthly meetings and other social events. But the most important thing is that transfer students use the resources available, according to Barbara Miller-Harris, assistant director of Student Success Programs.
“When we’re introducing students to the resources we have here, they have to take advantage of those resources,” Miller-Harris says.
The transfer experience is not the same for everyone. It is important for students to give feedback when asked and to take advantage of the opportunities available to them through Kent State. The communication between students and staff can help bridge the gap for transfer students and better the experience for future Kent State students.