Transfer students face unique challenges

Adjusting to college life is a trying process and can at times seem overwhelming and lonely. Experiencing that as an upperclassman is even more challenging—just ask the 601 new transfer students around campus this semester.

Transfer students make up a large percentage of the study body at UNA. Of the 601 new transfers, 467 came from in-state institutions, 120 from out-of-state, and 14 from out-of-country, said Molly Vaughn, coordinator of analytical services.

Every transfer student has the option of going through transfer SOAR, an orientation intentionally separated from freshman students. The idea of this is to help them, as upperclassmen, escape a freshman mentality, said Kim Mauldin, director of the office of admissions.

This can be a challenge, said UNA junior Seth Harbison.

Harbison transferred to UNA after earning an associate’s degree at Snead State Community College. He was attracted to the audio production program at UNA and is happy that he made the switch. He said, however, that it is hard not to feel like a freshman while adjusting to an unfamiliar place.

“I have to remind myself that I’m still a junior and already halfway through with college,” he said.

The top five feeder schools are community colleges: Northwest-Shoals, Calhoun, Northeast Mississippi, Hawamba and Bevel State. Some students, albeit a small percentage, travel oceans rather than just counties in order to arrive.

Kihyun Kim, an exchange student from Soongsil University in South Korea, came to UNA on a one-year student exchange program. In addition to the adjustments of traditional transfer students, Kim has the challenge of a language barrier to overcome. Despite being taught English since elementary school, conversational English is still a challenge, he said.

For that reason, Kim chose UNA because only five other Koreans are enrolled.

“If I go to the American universities which have many Koreans, I don’t think I can learn English well and don’t have many chances to meet and talk with foreigners,” he said.

UNA’s academic programs and location are attractive to transfer students, Mauldin said.

“Transfer students tend to be more focused and come here knowing what they want to major in, and I think the strength of our academic program carries a lot of weight,” Mauldin said. “Students also like the face-to-face contact that they get here that you can’t get online.”

All transfer students coming from a two-year public community college have access to STARS, an online program which guides them through course selection.

While STARS may answer some academic questions, Mauldin said transfer students have social and academic needs as well. Many social groups are formed freshman year, and becoming a part of those can be a challenge to some.

Some students remedy this by getting involved in clubs and organizations.

Britney Newby, a senior education major, transferred to UNA fall 2010 after two years at UAH. She said she felt UAH was not giving her the college experience she wanted, so she came to UNA knowing almost no one.

Even after going through SOAR, she said she was not given direction on how to get involved.

“I would have liked to have known about the organizations,” Newby said. “I didn’t know how to find them or what they were.

“It took a while to get settled in, but it was worth it.”