One of the best days for transfer students is when they find out where they will be going to finish the last two years of their degree. Normally, these decisions are released late in the summer, but it’s definitely a breath of relief when a transfer student finally has confirmation that they’ll be moving on to another university. Unfortunately, more issues tend to rise during the transition period into the new institution.
I transferred into the University of Washington in fall 2016. UW’s acceptance arrived in the last week of June, a month or two after I received a handful of rejection letters and the panic began to engulf any hope that I had for the future. Luckily, things worked out and I quickly wrapped up my classes at BC and began to prepare for the UW.
Acclimating to UW was a struggle for me. Frankly, I was surprised with the amount of shock I was experiencing in my first quarter. UW’s campus is obviously huge, but it feels even bigger when I tried to navigate to my first class. I pulled out Google Maps just so I can find directions. Class sizes are also gigantic. My biochemistry class had around 500 students and on my first day, I had to choose between sitting on the dusty steps or on a squeaky table, I chose the table. This information is well-known by almost every student, whether they go to UW or not but it’s something that one truly understands until they actually experience it.
Adjusting to the physical characteristics of UW’s campus took about a week. The most challenging experience was trying to acclimate to the academic difficult at UW. For some audacious reason, I decided to enroll in two high-level STEM courses, biochemistry and immunology, as well as an economics course, because I was deciding if a double major was a good idea. In complete honesty, I dropped out of immunology and got a “W” for withdrawal tattooed on my very first UW transcript, failed economics and just barely passed biochemistry, thanks to the incredible grading curve. Coupled with other issues happening outside academics, my first quarter at UW was also my worst.
Numbers and grades should not mean much, but it still hurts when one fails. At this point in my life, I was highly confused with what I should do. I decided to speak with my major adviser to create a plan B. My biochemistry adviser gave some logical advice and helped create a new academic plan for the 2016-2017 school year that would keep me on track for graduation. Although my senior year at UW will be quite difficult trying to complete my science electives, she assured me it was feasible.
My transfer adviser also shared some motivating wisdom. My first quarter at UW as a transfer student is common and other transfer students encounter the same issues. After experiencing this low point in my academic career, I’ve found some useful advice for anyone beginning their first year at a new institution.
The first thing anyone should do is register for a light load of classes for their first quarter or semester. Keep in mind to sign up for classes that help complete graduation credits. These courses don’t necessarily have to be in line with one’s major, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to include a major-related class.
Find some kind of support. Coming from BC, I had somewhat of a lone-wolf mentality when it came to schoolwork, and at BC, it worked. At a larger university with crazy grading curves and a class average of 60 percent, this mindset is not conducive to success. Take some time to find clubs around campus that might be interesting. Talk to classmates and create a relationship. Create a network of people that can act as academic support. Going through university is not an individual burden and it requires ample support from people who understand the situation. Don’t be afraid to reach out to advisers and professors when one experiences failure. The hefty tuition covers it and it would be a waste to ignore these opportunities.
Lastly, if one does fail like me, the best thing to do is plan with an adviser and start the new quarter with better knowledge. Although past failures may have scarred one’s outlook at life, it shouldn’t completely impede one’s progress. By being accepted into a university and into a major, the admissions team must have seen some kind of potential in their applicants. It’s important for all transfer students to understand that they can succeed in a fast-paced, arduous academic environment.