Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Being a transfer student is not always easy

If starting fresh at a new school is no easy task, then transferring after everyone else has already adjusted can be even harder.

“I feel like I am a freshman all over again,” Jasmine Mayes, a junior majoring in civil engineering, said. Mayes transferred from Mississippi State after her sophomore year and is now a first-year student at Alabama.

At a school with over 30,000 students enrolled, it can be easy for transfer students to get lost or grouped with the incoming freshmen. But, according to student affairs, the University is making an effort to make the transition to a new school as easy as possible.

University records show that in 2011, 1,030 students transferred to the University from within the state, 417 students transferred from out-of-state and 16 transferred from unknown institutions, equaling a grand total of 1,463 transfer students at the University last year.

“We are always exploring and expanding the opportunities through our office and First Year Experience programs to best accommodate the needs and interests of our students,” Jennifer DeFrance, assistant director for First Year Experience and Parent Programs, said.

The University offers several different ways for transfer students to get involved socially and academically, including FYE and Ignite UA.

However, many of these programs group transfer students with incoming freshmen and Mayes is not the only transfer student who feels this is unfair.

Lauren Zezulka, a senior majoring in criminal justice, transferred to Alabama after her freshman year at Northwest Florida State College.

“I came into Alabama having my brother and good community, but at the same time, I felt like I was starting freshman year all over again,” she said.

Erin Fitzsimmons, a junior majoring in human development and family studies, said she believed Alabama could improve its transfer student programs and is looking forward to being a part of that improvement as vice president of Tau Sigma.

The organization, founded in 2008, is UA’s transfer honors society and serves as the main hub of information specific to transfer students.

“The organization is in the planning stages for projects and events that will be most beneficial to other transfer students, which could include educational and social activities,” DeFrance said. “We had a lot of interest last semester in Tau Sigma and are looking to this group of students to begin engaging with our programs again this semester.”

Fitzsimmons said she and Brock Shelton, Tau Sigma president, hope to help transfer students adjust to a new campus without grouping them with the incoming freshman class.

“I am really excited about this year,” Fitzsimmons said. “Brock and I talked about making Sigma Tau more than just an honor society for your resume and really help transfer students get plugged in to University life. I don’t want transfer students to feel like freshmen. They’re not new to college.”

As a transfer student herself, Fitzsimmons said she felt like she was grouped with freshmen at FYE events when she transferred from the University of Missouri.

“I loved Ignite UA [an FYE program for transfer students and freshmen], but I really had to reach out myself,” Fitzsimmons said. “Brock and I want Tau Sigma to provide resources for transfer students that they would have to otherwise seek out themselves.”

Although some students believe the University could improve their transfer student relations, students who have transferred from Alabama to other schools have had different experiences.

The University could not provide statistics on students who transfer out of the University and was unable to track down how the University follows up on students who transfer, according to UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen.

Makenzie Berry, a junior majoring in biochemistry, transferred to Texas A&M after her freshman year at the University.

“The driving force behind transferring was to be closer to my family,” Berry said. “I have a younger brother, and I found that I was missing out on a lot of family stuff.”

Berry said A&M offers Transfer Camp, or T-Camp, which is a three-day camp to help transfer students adjust to their new surroundings. T-Camp is a student-run organization designed to be a resource for incoming transfer students.

“Because I transferred before my sophomore year, I missed out on the dorm experience and on learning a lot of the traditions at A&M,” she said. “That was tough, but people have been really good about making me feel welcome and included.”

Berry said T-Camp helped her become acquainted with the traditions and rituals that come with being an Aggie.

Tau Sigma is aiming to be not only an introduction to life as a UA student in the way T-Camp is for incoming Texas A&M students, but also a resource to use throughout the student’s time at the University.

“I think Alabama has a long way to go in making transfer students feel as welcome as freshmen,” Fitzsimmons said. “But I believe that Tau Sigma was a good place to start.”

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