In this Q&A, SCSU Director of New Students and Sophomore Programs Sal Rizza, and transfer student Matt Polek, sophomore journalism major, answered 10 questions about what it’s like is to transfer to a new school and the process that comes along with it.
1. Why do students transfer? Why did you?
Sal Rizza: That could be a very long answer. We’ll start from the very positive all the way to the more challenging reasons students transfer. Very positive is they have completed their associate degree at community college, and they are moving on and looking to continue their education in a four-year program to earn a bachelor’s degree of some sort. Then there’s a lot of other reasons: a student has started at a community college and since they were unable to start for whatever reason at a four-year, it may have not necessarily been a choice they wanted to make to go to community college, but then they’re ready to move on or they are able to move on.
Matt Polek: My first year I went to the University of Tampa, so that was kind of far away from home. I thought I would enjoy it, but I got down there and I realized I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had anticipated.
2. How do you help students’ transition? How was your transition?
SR: Once a student has applied, been accepted, confirmed their enrollment by paying their deposit, then there are a number of ways in which the onboarding or transition process takes place. The advising office, all of the professional advisers will meet with a transfer student to do the initial advising process and go through the degree evaluation and the credits. That in my opinion, I don’t want to say the most critical, but often what feels the most important and most critical, because if you’re trying to transfer 60 credits you want to make sure you’re getting as many credits as you possibly can.
MP: It’s been weird. I took last semester off after I did a full year at Tampa. The biggest transition really has been living on a college campus to commuting now. But it definitely feels good to come back home.
3. What is the biggest challenge for transfer students?
SR: I think it’s acclimating to a new environment and there’s challenges that vary depending on who the student is. So, a student who has been at another institution for one semester and transferred here, their challenges are different from someone who is an adult learner who maybe has family responsibilities or full-time work responsibilities.
MP: Starting over not knowing anyone all over again. It’s basically starting college 2.0. Obviously, I was fortunate enough to come here, so I have a couple friends from my hometown that go here. At least there were a few familiar faces around campus. Other than that it’s basically starting college over again, so that can be nerve-racking and stressful.
4. What is the easiest part about transferring?
SR: For the most part, especially if they were successful at their previous institution, the idea of college, the idea of doing work, the idea of being a student doesn’t change. I think every institution varies so it is hard to say what is easier and what is harder.
MP: Being back home for me personally, just because of where I transferred from. I have more support here than I did in Tampa, family and friend-wise, so just having the extra support has been really helpful.
5. What are the best parts about transferring to Southern?
SR: I’ve been here for 27 years now, including my time as a student. The things that have never changed are the core of who are students are. We’ve always been a university of access, committed to social justice. Now we talk about it differently than we did 20 years ago, but we’ve always been that. So, I think our student body reflects that.
MP: I feel like I fit in better here. I feel like I didn’t really fit in at Tampa and I was very shy and timid. I feel like I’ve grown as a person in the past six to eight months. I feel like I’m much more outgoing now. It’s been easier since I got involved at Southern, and it’s easier to get involved here than [at Tampa], so that’s been nice and easy for me.
6. What is the biggest difference between Southern and other schools?
SR: I think that what separates us are our students and some of the ways in which I think we’ve really, for almost 10 years now, become really student centered. We’re going to keep moving that direction. That’s what makes us different. A student coming from a large school is going to see things different.
MP: Beside the weather, and walking outside on a college campus in sweats and a hoodie instead of shorts and a T-shirt, I’d say the biggest difference is the culture of the kids. Tampa was a party school, so everyone was there really to party first and then do school second, whereas at Southern, people are more into their work and more dedicated about what they’re doing. It creates a better environment for who I am as a person.
7. What advice would you give to transfer students?
SR: Make this the best experience you possibly can because you don’t get this time again. I don’t care if you are 19 years old or if you’re 39 years old, it doesn’t matter. Every moment that you’re on a college campus getting your degree, it’s hard to get those moments back.
MP: Don’t be afraid to get involved. That’s the big thing, especially if you go somewhere you don’t know anyone. Get involved, don’t be afraid to take chances, try something new. It doesn’t hurt to try something and people in college are not as judgmental as everyone likes to think they are.
8. What are some misconceptions about transfer students?
SR: I think it would be a misconception that I don’t think something that a student at Southern would say but feel that they are not authentically a Southern student. We ask the question all the time, “when is a transfer student no longer a transfer student?” It’s a hard question to answer. Everyone has a different thought, but I feel like it’s as soon as they make the decision that they’re going to Southern, then they’re a Southern student.