College students transfer schools for a variety of reasons, sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity. As many as one-third of students change schools at least one time before degree completion. Whatever the catalyst for the decision, transfer student social integration into their new environment can be one of the challenges they face.
One of the top priorities for most college freshmen is to make friends. The social network they build during their first year is important for their adjustment. Students who transfer their sophomore year or beyond have to rebuild this network. Upperclassmen at the new campus may be less interested in expanding their relational circle, which makes transfer student social integration more difficult. Making this transition easier is a dual responsibility between student and college administrators.
Set reasonable expectations
When transfer students arrive on their new campus, it’s important that they have reasonable expectations about re-building their social life. According to Janice McCabe, author of “Connecting in College: How Friendship Networks Matter for Academic and Social Success,” transfer students need to be a little more patient and put themselves out there a bit more. Knowing this in advance of arriving on campus will help with transfer student social integration and prevent them from becoming discouraged too fast while building new relationships.
Connect with other transfers
Many schools offer orientation sessions and events specifically for transfer students. Statistics say that transfer students make up a significant percentage of the college population, accounting from anywhere between 15-40% of all newly enrolled undergraduates and generally averaging around 38% of the population. Schools would do well by these students to connect them to one another through dedicated opportunities for them to meet and facilitate transfer student social integration.
Colleges and universities across the country are beginning to recognize the high value of transfer students on their campuses. As such, some are dedicating resources to this population to assist them with the transition, including social integration. The University of Denver, for example, dedicated an entire dorm to transfer students and created a position for a transfer student representative. The University of Central Florida, also developed a highly lauded program for transfer students social integration and success during their transition.
Interaction with faculty outside of the classroom is another factor that can positively influence transfer student social integration. These meaningful connections make a transfer student feel more integrated into their college campus and successful in their academics as well as boosting their social wellbeing. Feeling cared for is a top reported need of college students in general and leads to a higher level of engagement in all aspects of student life.
In the joint venture of improving transfer student social integration, both students and university personnel play a part. For students, setting reasonable expectations and seeking out other transfer students and faculty can help improve their social adjustment. Universities can assist by providing opportunities for transfer students to connect, dedicating resources to this population, and encouraging strong faculty interactions outside the classroom with these students.