BY EMILY BLOMQUIST ’18
Applying for college is an experience that most wouldn’t care to repeat. The paperwork, exams, self-doubt and uncertainty of the future — all combine to create a memorable, yet by no means desirable, experience. But for some college students this painful process is worth revisiting.
What no one tells you is that adjusting to a new institution can be as difficult as the actual transfer application process. Transferring means revisiting all of the prior insecurities of your freshman year and trying to find your place within a community that has already defined itself without you. Since the transfer experience is so unique from that of a first-year student, simply employing the same resources for these students is illogical and a waste of time.
Transferring is quickly becoming less and less of an anomaly. While the majority of Mount Holyoke’s annually admitted class consists of traditional students, and only 4.5 percent of that matriculated student body were transfer students in 2017, 37.2 percent of all students in the United States transfer according to a 2015 report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. As more students transfer it is the College’s responsibility to support these incoming students and their growth within the community they’ve been convinced to and are paying to join.
Of all of the colleges I applied to, Mount Holyoke presented the most warm and welcoming front. I was impressed by their admission letter, their quick and responsive emails and their admissions webpage, which had a video featuring students that had gone through the transfer process. I saw friendly faces who understood my current reality and assured me of a smooth transition. Soon after receiving news of my acceptance I made the long trek to Mount Holyoke, traveling via foot, bus, metro, train and a Pioneer Valley taxi fondly named the “Funky Cab.”
Through this series of serendipitous events on the way to the College’s spring accepted students day, I met one of my best friends. She, too, was a transfer student and under the incorrect impression that we were attending a transfer event. We quickly fell in love with the campus, but also realized that none of the planned activities were made with transfers in mind.
Later in the fall we were required to attend a pointless orientation that had little relevance for us. The events, most of which we skipped, were geared towards acclimating first-time students to their new college environment and building community — while this is important, it assumes that all incoming students are in fact new to college. Most of us had already been required to attend similar panels and discussions during our first year at our prior institution. Other nontraditional student groups, such as the Francis Perkins Scholars had special events curated towards them, such as a “Pub Trivia Night.” While most of my transfer cohort was under 21, we would have been tickled to have our own non-alcoholic trivia night.
It wasn’t until later in orientation that all of the transfers met during a planned dinner. There, we mingled and developed a makeshift semblance of a community. We didn’t fit in with the newly admitted first-years or the students in our class years, but here we found common ground. We were never invited to another transfer event.
Other similar institutions, such as Wellesley College, do a better job of accommodating transfer students. At Wellesley every transfer student is assigned to a collective transfer mentor group. These groups are led by a transfer mentor (who was also once a transfer student) who guides them through orientation and beyond, according to their website.
Sure, Wellesley College has a larger endowment and a higher ranking in the Best College U.S. News and World Report, but that’s no excuse to provide inferior resources for our students. The College should only admit as many students as it is able to feasibly support and support well.
In the past, transfer students have reached out to admissions, but to no avail. While it’s not the College’s job to hold students’ hands, they do need to provide the necessary framework for students to be successful. The transfer students who are here want to welcome and support new students. The College advertised an official transfer student acceptance day and yet failed to reach out to the larger transfer community.
Mount Holyoke’s strength is in its diversity. Transfers are apart of the fabric of our community and need to be supported. Be in conversation with us. Help us help you make a stronger, more vibrant Mount Holyoke.