A new school year can mean a fresh start for many college students. It offers a chance to take new classes, join new organizations or commit to new goals.
For some students, the start of the new academic year can bring about a more dramatic change: a whole new school.
More than 400 transfer students and their parents arrived in Charlottesville this week to receive their official introduction to the University of Virginia. About half are transferring to U.Va. from the Virginia Community College System, while the rest will transfer from other colleges and universities inside and outside the commonwealth.
To welcome and help them acclimate to life on Grounds, the Office of Orientation and New Student Programs offers an orientation session specifically designed for transfer students.
“People transfer here for many different reasons,” said Tabitha Enoch, director of the orientation office. “They may have been at a place where they thought they were going to feel at home, but didn’t; they may be coming from a community college; or their financial situation has changed and U.Va. is a better value option for them.”
Unlike the two-day experience for first-year orientation, the transfers’ session is a one-day event, since those attending presumably have already learned to adjust to college life. As a result, the program places more emphasis on learning about the U.Va. atmosphere, its schools and departments and the class registration process.
The orientation features addresses by Enoch; Patricia M. Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs officer; representatives of the Honor Committee; and Frank Papovich, the College of Arts & Sciences[P1] ’ dean in charge of transfer students. Afterward, students registered for courses and met with department representatives to declare their major.
They also had the opportunity to take in a student life panel, visit a resource fair, meet with Student Financial Services representatives, attend information sessions for the McIntire School of Commerce or Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, attend an off-Grounds housing fair and tour classrooms.
Transitioning to a new college can be intimidating for incoming transfer students, who face the challenge of integrating into a new community in the middle of their undergraduate careers.
“My last school had eight buildings, and on the map this school has like 500,” said third-year transfer Stephanie Shifflett of Warrenton, who transferred from a four-year college in Florida. “I’m most concerned about doing the language requirement – I haven’t taken a language since high school.”
Visiting U.Va. helps quell the anxieties of many new students, Enoch said. “Just by being here, going to different buildings to register for classes and hearing the deans talk, helps familiarize them so that when they come in the fall, it’s not all brand-new to them.”
In addition to the summer program, the orientation office offers activities at the start of the school year for transfer students to get to know one another. During Transfer Welcome Week, new transfer students can participate in Project SERVE, a one-day community service event; take a bus tour of Grounds; attend a Transfer Student Garden Party; and participate in social events planned by Transfer Student Peer Advisors, former U.Va. transfer students who help mediate the transition to Grounds.
“I wanted to experience religious diversity, and U.Va. has really good opportunities to get involved with that,” said Christine Dennis, a third-year transfer from Tidewater Community College who plans to major in religious studies.
“Academically, I’m looking forward to being challenged in my classes. I know it’s going to be hard to get acclimated coming from a community college, but I met with my department adviser today, and he said the teachers in the religious studies department were awesome and willing to answer any questions and concerns.”
U.Va. offered admission to 927 of 2,380 total transfer applicants for the 2013-14 academic year, with an overall offer rate of 38.9 percent. Of those, nearly 600 will attend U.Va. this fall.
Among the in-state admissions offers, about half have enrolled as part of the state’s guaranteed admission program, in which U.Va. participates. Through system-wide agreements, students who graduate from one of Virginia’s 23 community colleges, having completed required pre-requisite coursework with a minimum grade-point average, may attend more than 20 of the commonwealth’s colleges and universities.
“U.Va is committed to enrolling students from the Virginia Community College System,” said Doug Hartog, senior admission’s dean. “We are proud to say that students from the VCCS system make up 49 percent of the incoming transfer class.”
The College of Arts & Sciences will enroll 76.2 percent of the transfer students. The remainder will attend one of the University’s six undergraduate schools, including the School of Architecture, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the McIntire School of Commerce, the Curry School of Education, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Nursing.
— by Lauren Jones