On a campus as small as Messiah’s, it is reasonable to expect to know most of the students in your classes, especially once you get to the upper level, major-related classes. However, you may have noticed some new faces in your classes this year. Chances are these new faces are students that transferred to Messiah this fall.
It may seem odd to leave a school after you have already enrolled and attended there, however, a 2015 study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that 37% of college students transfer at least once within six years.
Students transfer for a variety of reasons—some want to further an associate’s degree from a community college, others wish to find a community of people to be a part of and some find the academics at their previous school lacking.
Sophomore music education major Lauren Cruzan transferred to Messiah this fall from Eastern University for this reason: “Eastern made a lot of cuts to their fine and performing arts departments. I felt like the music department was being faded out and that Eastern did not value the arts,” Cruzan says.
“The music department at Messiah is three times the size of Eastern’s,” Cruzan continues. “The facilities are much nicer, and music majors feel more valued here.” Cruzan also notes that she feels more challenged academically and thus more prepared to enter the music education field when she graduates.
Sophomore early childhood education major Sam Feenstra has been through a few transitions that led her to enroll at Messiah this fall. After attending Cedarville University for her first semester of college, she says, “It didn’t feel like home. I didn’t connect with other students or professors, and I felt like there wasn’t anything to do.” Feenstra then attended a community college in Bethlehem, PA for a year but knew she eventually wanted to go back to a four-year school.
Feenstra came to Messiah in search of community and has found just that: “”Everyone seems more welcoming than at my other schools. The professors are really nice, and I’ve gotten to know other students really quickly. I like that I live on a floor with other transfers because we’ve been through similar situations,” Feenstra says.
The transfer process can be difficult because there is generally some uncertainty as to how credits will transfer from one school to another. According to the Associated Press, a 2014 report by federal education officials reveals that 28% of students lost credits when they transferred, which adds more time and money to their college career.
Transfer of credits was a concern for junior early childhood education major Allison Reed, a transfer student from Juniata College, as she made her decision to attend Messiah: “The possibility that my credits wouldn’t transfer was scary—I really want to graduate on time,” says Reed. “The head of the education department at Messiah told me that I would be able to, so I decided to come.”
As with any new experience, transferring to Messiah and integrating into the culture that exists here comes with its own challenges. For Reed, “The biggest challenge has been integrating into the education department since this is most students’ third year here. I was nervous about the transfer student bias.”
For sophomore computer and information science major Dan Sztobryn, who transferred this fall from Harrisburg Area Community College, the biggest challenge has been adjusting to traditional campus life. “Living on campus is a different experience because I commuted to my old school,” Sztobryn says. “Managing my time can be difficult because I’m taking more classes and involved in social activities on campus.”
Although aspects of Messiah will be different for transfer students, it doesn’t mean they’re brand new to the college scene. (This writer transferred to Messiah after attending two different schools in New York City.) Each transfer student has their own unique story and, more often than not, they would be happy to share it with you.
In the meantime, it’s important that students cultivate a welcoming environment for all transfer students and continue to make Messiah known for its community.