Transferring colleges is not ‘one size fits all’

One of the main reasons why Kiah Gourley, junior in animal science, from Oregon State University, and Elizabeth Stasiewicz, junior in Business Marketing, from Johnson County Community College, came to Kansas State is because of the many opportunities had to offer academically and socially. (Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

Settling into a new place is always a nerve-wracking experience. The stress is amplified when you have to learn a new set of rules, new ways of doing things and adjust to a new community culture. Such is the life of a transfer student.

“The biggest fear I had was being able to make friends,” Kiah Gourley, junior in animal sciences and industry, said. “I didn’t know anyone transferring from Oregon, so I knew the easiest way to meet people was to get involved.”

Gourley attended Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon, and said she believed she would go on to Oregon State University. Instead, after reevaluating her options, Gourley began looking for schools that would offer her a better opportunity to learn more about her main interest of swine education.

Gourley eventually found K-State’s agriculture program and although she came for the education, she stayed for the atmosphere and people.

“I think the moment when I realized I wanted to attend K-State was when I visited,” Gourley said. “Everyone went above and beyond to make that experience great. The campus was beautiful and the people I met with throughout the day made it feel like they really wanted me here. I knew that if I came here, I would have a lot of support.”

The Transfer Ambassadors Program was one of the many organizations that helped Gourley put herself out there and create her own K-State network. TAP helps both future and current transfer students with the process of transferring schools. TAP also helps them transition to life here. Not only do advisers assist these students, but so do other transfer students who have gone through the same experience.

Bill Disberger, TAP adviser and transfer admissions representative, said that hearing advice from a student in a similar situation means so much more than from just an admissions representative.

“Half the battle of a transfer student is just realizing you are welcome here,” Disberger said. “We want to get you involved and we want you to take involvement at K-State just like everyone else does. It’s so easy for transfer students to get lost in the mix just because you’re worrying about everything else and the technicalities of school, let alone actually letting it absorb in become a part of it.”

Elizabeth Stasiewicz, junior in business marketing, said she shared these same worries when she transferred from Johnson County Community College her sophomore year. Stasiewicz attended JCCC because she was offered a scholarship to play softball, but knew all along that she’d want to eventually go to K-State.

“I knew I wanted to go to a four-year college in Kansas, and knew Kansas State was the perfect fit for me,” Stasiewicz said. “(But) one thing I was worried about the most would be not knowing that many people. You usually meet a lot of people your freshman year in the dorms (and in) greek life. I came in blindsided, only knowing a couple people that went to school here.”

To meet people, Stasiewicz heavily debated joining greek life, however she was worried about the consequences of joining late. She actually dropped out of rush due to her nerves, but through chance and the help of some of her friends, she was able to informally rush and get a bid to Pi Beta Phi.

“I would strongly recommend going greek,” Stasiewicz said. “It has helped me meet so many people and be involved in several different opportunities. Joining late wasn’t a big deal at all, which I know is a struggle for some torn between the decision to rush or not when transferring.”

Disberger recommends that students seek out advisers, as they have information about academics, internships, part-time jobs, clubs and activities. These things help set students apart from others. Disberger also said to get involved in an academic group to be around your peers, and then another group just for fun, whether that is greek life, sky diving, fishing, etc. Gourley realized this and made a point to attend meetings and join other organizations as well.

“The students in (TAP) are going through the same transition and it’s a great network to use,” Gourley said. “It has helped me come out of my shell and learn to help other transfer students do the same. I am (also) a College of Agriculture Ambassador, I am involved with the Ag Advocacy group Food For Thought and I was a member of the 2014 Livestock Judging Team and the 2014 Animal Science Academic Quadrathlon Team.”

That being said, Disberger acknowledged that the transfer process was not one-size-fits-all.

“The thing about transfer students is that they all don’t fit in a box,” Disberger said. “It’s not like you can nicely put all the pieces together and say ‘this is what a transfer student looks like, this is the prescribed way to help them and this is going to be your result.’ You really have to ask a lot of questions and start figuring out (what needs to be done).”

Stasiewicz agreed that seeking out help when you had questions was the key in order to be successful and help in making the transition easier.

“(Don’t) be afraid to ask questions and reach out,” Stasiewicz said. “Everyone on campus is for the most part super friendly and willing to help. Join a club or go greek. There are plenty of ways to find your niche, and you’ll end up making a lot of friends along the way.”