By: Taylor Lewis
As the University of Mississippi’s admissions process is well underway, incoming transfer students and UM faculty prepare for the second transfer student orientation session at the end of April.
According to Devin Maffei, a graduate assistant for Orientation, transfer student orientation requires a different approach because of the wide array of students they serve.
“We range from 20-year-olds transferring from community colleges to students that have taken years off and are now deciding to come back.”
The most recent data available, from academic year 2014-15, states that 1,941 students transferred to UM from community colleges and other institutions. Despite this number being lower than the university system average, Ole Miss is still known as being “transfer friendly”.
The transfer student experience at Ole Miss and orientation is a little different than the typical first year experience in several ways, which is why the orientation program has expanded the transfer sessions to include transfer-specific concerns.
Justin Mills, a senior transfer student from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, went through transfer orientation and has participated in several transfer programs.
“I felt I was prepared due to having many friends already in attendance at Ole Miss and many friends transferring with me, so the social aspect was okay. However, I still needed to find my niche at Ole Miss because a university offers different things than a community college,” Mills said.
Dewey Knight, associate director for student success and first year experience, understands the differences that Mills described.
“Their (transfer students) goals are much more immediate. They only have two years, typically, to complete their degree program here at Ole Miss,” said Dewey Knight, associate director for student success and first year experience.
“It’s harder for them to get involved. It’s harder for them to become a part of the community,” Knight added.
Jasmyne Tally, an incoming transfer student from Itawamba Community College, is looking forward to Orientation and meeting other transfer students, but she still has some fears about transitioning onto campus.
“Sure, some of my fears are not being able to find my classes and getting lost. Also, not making many friends and failing classes because I don’t know the intensity of them at the moment,” Tally said.
With such a wide range of transfer students all sharing similar concerns; the Center for Student Success and First Year Experience has developed numerous services and opportunities for transfer students.
“We have a separate Orientation experience for transfer students that are only for transfer students. We have two student organizations that are exclusively for transfers: Phi Theta Kappa Alumni, which is for alumni of the community college honor society, and then we have the Transfer Leadership organization, which is open to all transfer students. We also have a one-on-one mentoring program where a first year transfer is partnered with a second year transfer student. Lastly, we have two courses just for transfer students in order to acclimate them to campus,” Knight said.
“The best way I found to become acclimated to campus and student life is by putting myself out there and finding my niche,” said Mills. “I quickly learned that the best to get involved and make friends was to do things that put me out of my comfort zone and challenged myself.”
Knight credits these many programs and services as the reasoning behind “Ole Miss receiving the designation as a Phi Theta Kappa Honor Roll university, which is essentially those institutions that are most transfer-friendly in the United States.”
Last year, Ole Miss and LSU were the only universities in the South Eastern Conference to be awarded this distinction. For this year, Ole Miss and Alabama were the only SEC universities selected.
Tally said that Ole Miss’ reputation of being “transfer-friendly” was one of the reasons why she chose to transfer here as opposed to another in-state school.
Knight’s ultimate goal is to “establish a transfer center in which academic advising folks, tutoring folks, and all of the academic support type things could be housed in a single location where transfer could go.”
“In the meantime, my unit, the first year experience unit, is kind of acting like a transfer student center,” Knight said.
Knight does have one piece of advice for incoming transfer students, like Tally.
“Get involved. Ask for help because we have lots of resources and it’s terrible when we lose a transfer student because they didn’t know where to get help.”
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