CHAPMAN IMPLEMENTS NEW STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH TRANSFER STUDENTS.
Freshmen students stand on Wilson Field watching fireworks explode before them after they complete their orientation week at Chapman University. Transfer students also facing a new school, walk past an empty sky as they blindly try to figure out how to plan their schedules, and feel like part of the community.
Chapman recognizes that and wants to do more to help them.
Roberto Coronel, director of Academic Advising, has been working on a communication campaign in collaboration with admissions to help transfer students feel more involved and aware of the support the university provides.
“One of the things that we’ve been working on is exploring the idea of maybe having a transfer student ambassador,” Coronel said. “[Then] there is someone available to talk to other transfer students.”
Whether coming from a community college or another university, Chapman transfer students face a bundle of issues adjusting to a new university. The transfer students make up 19 percent of the student body, according to CampusReel. Four hundred transfer students who enrolled in the fall of 2019 and 200 in spring 2020 will be the testers to Coronel’s new ideas.
“We’re trying to make sure that they have all the information that they need along the way. It would be really helpful just to remind them,” Coronel said. “I feel like a lot of the students, although, when they are offered services they don’t use them.”
But some transfer complaints go beyond just trying to adjust to a new campus.
Alexis Blumenthal transferred her second semester of freshman year. The now-senior graphic design major was adjusting to a new major after attending Syracuse University for industrial design.
“GE’s were really annoying. I had to take math again and take placement tests for languages and get them finished, as well as figuring out my major on top of wanting to go abroad,” Blumenthal said. “It was a lot for me.”
Like many transfer students at Chapman, Nik Kuklinski, a senior documentary major, had to work fast to adjust to Chapman and make the most of his experience, even if it wasn’t exactly what he expected.
“I really wanted to be in the film production program and do narrative stuff. But they gave me my second choice which was documentary so I’m kind of trying to cheat and take as many narrative classes I can and take advantage of being here,” Kuklinski said.
Kuklinski didn’t enjoy his experience with advising. Having an advisor who lacked an understanding of Kuklinski’s interests, he resulted in taking matters into his own hands. By having to create his own plan due to not getting accepted into his preferred major, Kuklinski will be spending four years in total at Chapman.
Chapman recognizes advising has been a problem.
“I implemented mandatory advising because I was noticing that some transfer students were just kind of out there trying to figure it out on their own,” Coronel said. “And so by forcing them, we know that at least they get the basic information including: ‘Here’s the contact to your program advisor.’ But not all of them do. I do agree that’s one of the challenges, understanding our structure and connecting.”
Students from community colleges are in much need of extra help from their program and academic advisors.
“My program advisor, she kind of brushed me aside because I transferred in and she had people who were a priority. So I kind of had to like fend for myself in that aspect,” said Oscar Valadez, a senior double majoring in accounting and finance.
Valadez attended Riverside City College before coming to Chapman. He was prepared to begin his college career at the university, although it struck him when he realized the repercussions that come with it.
“I had gotten an interview offer and asked her for information on how to go about it and she never responded,” he said. “Then I asked again to meet with her to discuss my schedule and she never responded, so I went through three emails before I finally just went in person. I’ve had to figure things out myself.”
When transferring to Chapman, there is a mandatory advising meeting that each student must attend. This meeting helps these students discuss what they need to complete and schedule their first two semesters as well as informing them of other help, such as their program advisor.
Maya Mahoney, a junior business major who transferred from Colorado State University, was not aware of the program advising, resulting in her relying on her academic advisor.
“I would go see my (academic) advisor at least once or twice a month because I just wanted to make sure,” Mahoney said. “I think there’s another person you could talk to, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone to them.”
Students who are unaware of the resources they have, often lack an advisor who is able to connect to and guide them through the transition.
“If you’re able to build those relationships with both here and there, I think you are much better off, and your chances of having a better experience are going to be increased,” Coronel said. “It really comes down to making those connections.”
However, not all advising experiences are negative.
Blumenthal spent a lot of time with her academic advisor when she first transferred. Although after figuring out what classes she must take to graduate, she needed more help on how to succeed in her major.
“My advisor Erik was tough but he helped me get classes I needed; my professors made me really comfortable and I could ask them for help because I was new to graphics and needed the advice,” Blumenthal said.
Whether it is academic or social, transfer students often are not prepared for the repercussions that come with entering the university later than others.
Brooke Senit, a senior communication studies major, felt that the social aspect of college was the hardest part as a transfer student.
“It was honestly very difficult,” Senit said. “It took a while for me to really adjust and meet the right people. Eventually, everything got better and I’m so happy that I made the decision to come to Chapman.”
No matter what the hardship is, transfer students, walk the same stage as first-years, with pride and gratitude toward the university and the many lessons and memories made.
“We want to see what we can do to better support the population. Now we collaborate with admissions. I think that that’s going to lead to better service and a better experience for the (transfer) students,” Coronel said.
Perhaps one day, Chapman University’s transfer students will look at the sky lit up with fireworks. Feeling accepted and prepared for their time ahead.