Today, Executive Board members of Penn’s Transfer Student Organization (TSO), Kim Gordon (C’14, E’14), Eric Shapiro (W’15), Adisa Williams (C’15), Nikolai Zapertov (C’14), discuss their transition to a new campus and look back on their experiences thus far.
How might you use the summer to prepare for this transition?
Eric S.: Find out if there is a transfer organization, get to know the support system in place, and address credit transfer. Talking to professors and student groups that made an impact on you [at your previous school] is also really important. Close any loose ties you have, so you can be mentally prepared to start fresh and make new connections.
Kim: I’m not the kind of person to use social media—that’s just not my style—[so] the best thing I could do for myself was to prepare my syllabi and get ready for my academics. During transfer orientation it was important to me to get to know as many transfer students as I could to start building a community for myself.
Nikolai: I reached out to friends who attended Penn and asked them tons of questions. I kept in contact with my Penn advisors, spent time online looking at pictures, and [coming from the west coast] even watched Gossip Girl to learn about the east coast in general.
Adisa: I used the summer to really seek closure as I moved to a new chapter in life. I talked to a lot of friends, tied loose ends, got their blessing and all of that really helped me. Beginning to build a social network at my new school was also a priority for me. I tried to get on campus as early as possible as a Move-in Coordinator. Through assisting with move-in, I began to form bonds with quite a few returning students. I was also able to familiarize myself with the campus layout so I would be ready for classes.
What, if any, was the institutional structure in place to help with your transition?
Eric S.: TSO definitely—TSO set a lot of groundwork [by creating a mentorship program, setting up a club fair, and more] and I’m really appreciative. [Learn about TSO online here.]
Adisa: Penn’s academic structure really caters to individual interests and adds another level of versatility. I appreciate the different academic options–you can dual major, minor, or submatriculate.
Kim: I started in the College of Arts and Sciences and added on an engineering degree. The encouraging take- away from this is that even though I was a sophomore and I felt behind in some ways, I still had so much support to explore [academic] options… It’s so true that they say no one holds your hand but they do if you go to them [advisors, professors] first.
Given your experience, what have you found to be the ultimate pros and cons?
Eric S.: I think [transferring] has added to my college career and experience. No matter what institution you go to there’s an adjustment period and it’s a different adjustment experience than when you were a freshman. Getting involved mitigates that—get involved in what you like to do, new things, and with the transfer community. Talk to other transfer students because you can connect over this different experience.
Kim: I would say the biggest challenge coming in seemed like other transfers, including me, were fighting the stigma of being a transfer and trying to be part of Penn right away. I think part of my experience is embracing my transfer status and that has shaped my Penn experience. In the beginning I thought I wouldn’t want to talk about it but now I’m always talking about it. Of course, I’m one of the founders of TSO–I love being a transfer.
Adisa: I am a very social person and my biggest challenge was not having a network on campus as soon as I got here. This was also a pro in a different way because it forces you to get out there. Join as many organizations as you can. You also have to be more assertive with your friendships. Take advantage of those little moments—you might talk to someone in the line for food, at the printer, or even drop your pencil strategically during class.
Nikolai: I think a main challenge is that you doubt yourself a lot and you aren’t sure that someone is there to listen. At Penn, students can reach out to CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services). After sharing your experience with others, you start to feel much better. The main pro is definitely that I learned a lot about myself. You learn how much stronger you are, what you can handle, and what you really want in life. The transfer experience puts a lot of things in perspective and lets you ruminate on where you are and who you are.
I want to extend a sincere thank you to this week’s Page 217 guest contributors, Eric S., Kim, Adisa, and Nikolai. For more information on the work that TSO is doing, please see the TSO website. I also encourage you to explore school-specific admissions websites for further information about the transfer application process. If you are submitting a transfer application for entry in fall 2013, be aware that application deadlines are approaching, including Penn’s transfer application deadline on March 15, 2013.