The University of Southern Mississippi welcomed more than 1,500 transfer students in fall 2014, according to the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges, and even more recruits as the spring semester kicks off.
“Roughly half of the student body at Southern Miss is made up of transfer students,” Assistant Director of Admissions for Recruitment Susan Scott said. “Our faculty and staff are very familiar with meeting the unique needs of transfer students and helping them acclimate to life as a Southern Miss student.”
A large portion — 85 percent — of these students came from two-year community colleges, generally within the state. But others, like senior Allysa Cole in 2012, transfer in from four-year universities from around the country.
Cole, a broadcast journalism major from Detroit, took a shot in the dark after falling out of love with a much-too-industrialized version of college at Michigan State University that hosts nearly 40,000 undergraduate students and made her “feel like an ID number rather than a student,” and finally landed in much more hospitable Southern Miss.
“I’m feeling the love,” Cole said about encountering the Southern hospitality that Southern Miss takes pride in, and how smaller classrooms meant more individual attention from professors who actually care about each student.
Transferring takes a move geographically, which implies a cultural change, considering the wide variety of local customs and traits that the U.S. presents, and adjusting to those can be a challenge like a discovery. “The friendly and welcoming atmosphere of our campus is a big bonus,” Scott said.
For Cole, it had to do with opening up in class and expressing herself, when she had been used to sitting among her hundreds of peers and silently take notes.
“I had to practice using my voice,” Cole said. But outside of the classroom, the cultural adjustment came by rather sitting back and paying attention to how people talked and interacted. “I had to stay open minded,” Cole said.
Student groups organizations are a valuable tool for newcomers, and the USM campus has plenty of those to offer.
Another important part of a smooth transfer, besides making sure all the credits transfer and the financial situation is figured out, is to have a goal in mind when entering this new chapter of a college career.
“The real problem I see with many students in community college is that they wander, they take a course here, there, they go part-time and they don’t really focus on any goal,” said Stephen Handel, executive director of the College Board’s community college initiatives. “I think it’s most critical, even at the beginning and even if it’s tentative, that they focus on a goal at the very beginning.”
Finally, Cole emphasized the importance of approaching a transfer with confidence, which goes hand-in-hand with having a plan and is one of Southern Miss’ primary goals for its students as an institution of higher-learning.
“With the career-driven academic programs that Southern Miss offers, transfer students can enter Southern Miss confident that they will receive the education and experiences that will make them attractive to future employers,” Scott said.