Do you know someone who transferred schools while in college? Chances are you do. In the United States, nearly 40 percent of all college students have transferred from one university to another. At the College of Charleston, transfer students comprise roughly 20 percent of the undergraduate student body during any given year.
That’s right: one out of every five students you’ll see on campus has transferred to the College from somewhere else.
Take John Winkle, for instance. A junior studying management and marketing, Winkle earned his associate’s degree at Trident Technical College while managing over 70 employees for a pool maintenance company.
“I loved the experience working for that company,” he says, “but I also wanted to get my bachelor’s degree. Going back to school is a tough decision, and becoming a full-time student again comes with its own challenges.”
Winkle says he’s grateful for the many resources that the College has in place for students in his position. One in particular is the Transfer Resource Center, which is just completing its first year of operation.
Lisa Chestney, director of the center, leads a team of eight professionals who specialize in advising and working with transfer students on a range of topics.
“Our goal is to help current and prospective transfer students make the most of their time at the College,” Chestney explains. “That requires a full spectrum of skills because we work with a very diverse population. Some transfers come from two-year institutions, and some from four-year colleges. Some have been out of college for a while and some not. There’s really no typical transfer student – they’re all different. Ultimately, it’s our job to assist and empower them.”
And this week, the College is celebrating National Transfer Student Week (Oct. 21-25, 2019) with a series of events. Chestney emphasizes that all transfer students are welcome to attend. The festivities begin Monday, Oct. 21, on Cougar Mall with a button-making session from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For details on the other events, visit the Transfer Resource Center online.
Historically, Chestney says, there’s been a stigma associated with being a transfer student. She says that she and her colleagues actively combat that by telling these students to be proud of their transfer student identity.
“Transfer students come in with amazingly diverse experiences and backgrounds,” she says. “These people are seasoned college students and that experience is valuable.”
And the Transfer Resource Center assists transfer students at every juncture.
“Even before they’ve enrolled,” says Chestney, “we work with them to make sure they have a clear understanding of such things as degree requirements. We don’t want anyone to be surprised regarding the amount of time required for them to complete their degree.”
One of the most successful offerings from the Transfer Resource Center is the Transfer Mentor Program, which pairs former transfer students who’ve excelled at the College with new transfer students.
Michaela Henderson, a junior political science major who transferred to the College from Coastal Carolina University last year is one such mentor. She says this program serves an important purpose.
“We talk about transfer students as having a hidden identity,” Henderson explains. “Almost nobody knew I was a transfer student when I first started here. It doesn’t really come out right away, but it’s important for transfer students to know that there are a lot of us enrolled at the College. So, the Transfer Mentor Program helps with that.”
Henderson says she now works with eight students as mentees, meeting with each of them one-on-one at least twice a semester. She helps them get to know campus and answers questions, or steers them in the right direction to get those answers.
“As a transfer student, you’re usually not in the residence halls and you don’t do a First Year Experience course, so you don’t have those ways to connect with other students. Our mentoring program is just one of the ways that transfer students can connect with each other,” she says. “That’s why I really encourage all transfer students to get familiar with the Transfer Resource Center because there’s so much available there to support them.”
Featured image: Michaela Henderson transferred to the College of Charleston last year. She now serves as a mentor to other transfer students. (Photos by Heather Moran)