Transfer students find a new home at College

By Elizabeth Zakaim
Social Media Editor

Being a transfer student means being adaptable, beating the competition and making big adjustments.

“This year, we had almost 400 applications and we accepted about 180 students,” said alumna Kaitlin West (’15), one of the College’s admissions counselors for freshmen and transfer recruitment.

West explained some of the factors that the College looks for in transfer student applications.

“We believe that the transcript can most accurately tell us how well they will fare in an academic setting,” West said.

Transfer students come to the College for everything it offers. (File photo)
Transfer students come to the College for everything it offers. (File photo)

According to her, the College looks for students with strong standardized test scores unless they’re applying with more than 45 credits. The school also likes to see letters of recommendation and resumes, which West said gives a little more information about who the students are, not just the grades they’ve earned.

The recruitment process for transfers is not the same as it is for freshmen, as the two groups are almost the opposite.

“Transfer events are very different from first-year events,” West said. “With first-year students, they are often very lost in the college process. They are usually unsure of what they want to do or even where to begin. Transfers usually already know what they want (in regard to their majors and minors, for example) so conversations with them are usually very direct and concise.”

Senior journalism and professional writing major Hannah Fakhrzadeh transferred to the College last year. She started her freshman year at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) in Teaneck, N.J. After one semester there, she transferred to Middlesex Community College to earn her Associate’s Degree in English and then transferred to the College for her Bachelor’s in journalism. She said that she is glad to have left FDU.

“I didn’t like the professors,” Fakhrzadeh said. “It just didn’t really suit what I was looking for. It was a small enough school, but still, I had a lot of professors that showed up late and that I felt didn’t really care.”

Fakhrzadeh said that given the chance to go back, she would have applied to the College as an incoming freshman.

“I wish I had started here from the beginning,” Fakhrzadeh said. “I made the mistake of applying to 11 schools. I think when I decided on Fairleigh, I accepted just to get the decision over with. I would have started here if I had known as much as I know now.”

This year, sophomore biology major Anshel Bright transferred from Baylor University in Texas to the College. He originally decided to go there because of the school’s good reputation and a scholarship they had offered him.

As a New Jersey native, he experienced a bit of a culture shock when moving down south. In Texas, open-carry laws for weapons are the political norm.

“Baylor is a private institution, but in other public universities in Texas, they’ve legalized open-carry laws, so students are allowed to openly carry their weapons to class,” Bright said.

Bright was quick to fill out a survey Baylor sent around to the students about how they felt about students being able to bring weapons into class.

Coming to the College exposed Bright to a different side of the political spectrum.

“TCNJ is a very liberal school in the northeast — something I was more accustomed to since I’m from here — while Baylor has very conservative ideals and motivations,” Bright said. “One way (the College) shows its position is by the people they invite to speak here. They have Bill Clinton, Laverne Cox — those are all political motivations that do highlight TCNJ’s liberal stance.”

Bright explained that even Baylor’s approach on their student’s sexual activity differed greatly. He admires the way the College is more open-minded about its students and their different perspectives.

“Texas policy is abstinence, abstinence, abstinence,” Bright said. “Here, it’s very different because you know students are going to conduct themselves in any manner they feel like, whether or not you are going to impose these laws.”

Overall, Bright is satisfied with his decision to return to his home state and is grateful for the academic advantage he has here.

“I was definitely looking for smaller classes, which (the College) had a really good reputation for,” Bright said. “That’s where TCNJ really shines because since it is a small school, they have the ability to pay closer attention to its students.”

With smaller classes, students at the College can take advantage of the available academic opportunities. Patrick Hall, a junior criminology major and transfer student, was attracted to the school’s academic eminence.

“Primarily, I think TCNJ students are far more determined, serious and academic than in other institutions of higher education,” Hall said.

Last year was his first year at the College after starting out at St. John’s University in New York City, and then a semester later, he transferred to Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC). After two semesters at RVCC, he transferred to the College. Not one to settle for anything less than a challenge, he chose the College because of its academic rigor.

“My other schools were not like this,” Hall said. “Both of them were composed of students who were far less concerned with their grades, which in turn created a much less positive environment. Ultimately, I think this school consistently pushes me to achieve my full potential, and that’s why it’s far different, and better, than my previous two.”   

Another RVCC transfer, junior psychology major Nick Veronsky, admitted that community college was a lot like high school.

“I would drive there everyday and come back home,” Veronsky said. “Here, it’s a lot different, which I really like. It’s more of a community where school and relationships with friends and professors all meld together into one.”  

Veronsky prefers to work and relax outside where he can appreciate the warm weather while it lasts.

“Instead of there being a place for work and a place for home, it really becomes one and you can pick and choose when you want to do something like go to class or just relax.”

Despite the freedom, he also feels a lot of pressure at the College that he didn’t feel at his community college.

“At RVCC, I felt like I had more time to figure things out,” Veronsky said. “The people there were also in the same boat as me, so the amount of pressure this year is different. That school was my stepping stone, but this is where I feel like I need to be and this is where I’m going to form my future. I have a major, I’m very studious, but I guess coming in as a transfer student, I feel like some people are ahead of me because they’ve had more time to connect with the school and faculty.”

Andrew Fenwick, a junior political science major who transferred from Bergen Community College, also feels like he’s missed out on what students who have been here since their freshman year experienced.

I get the initial feeling of being late to the party when I got here,” Fenwick said. “I’m only here for two years and I’m a little envious of the other students who get to be here longer.”

He also misses the relationships he built at community college.

“I had great relationship with my professors at Bergen Community College, and wanted to have the same feeling in my next school,” he said. “I didn’t want to be another number in a classroom filled with 200 other students.”

He was grateful for the education he received there, which helped him get to where he is now, at the College.

“The faculty members were so set on student success and helped us any way possible to get into our dream schools,” Fenwick said. “The administration was so willing to have students come up and talk about issues with them. It was a very open atmosphere at Bergen and everyone there was willing to help you out.”

Luckily, the small classroom sizes at the College are exactly what he needed. To help him and other transfer students with the pressure of the transition are the College’s Griffins, or mentors, who were once transfer students themselves. Griffins are usually paired with students majoring in the same school as them. They are there as mentors to help smooth over the difficult transition.

“Being a Griffin is my favorite thing about being at TCNJ,” said Allie Clapp, a senior biology major. “It has brought me the most joy, and I think it genuinely ‘saved’ me. I felt like I had no place on campus and being a Griffin makes me feel like me being a student at TCNJ has a purpose outside of being a student. I hope to help other people have a better chance at transitioning than I did.”

Clapp was able to empathize with her mentees because she knew how hard it can be to make the transition.

“When I transferred last fall, there was no Welcome Week or weekend,” Clapp said. “We moved in the same time as everyone else and were expected to basically figure it out. I made so many mistakes not knowing what to do, so it feels good being able to help new transfer students transition to TCNJ. I am able to share all the struggles and mistakes I made that made transferring so difficult.”

Her job as a Griffin involves sending out weekly emails to students and meeting at least twice a month for an hour to discuss their adjustment. Mostly, it’s Clapp’s job to form a relationship with those students willing to reach out.

“The most important part of my job is making sure the students feel comfortable at TCNJ,” Clapp said. “I think being a resource and even a friend is also a valuable part of my job. I try to be a friendly approachable person so the transfer students feel comfortable asking me questions. I try to make myself available or make time for anyone who wants to meet me.”

Going through the transfer process can be tough, according to several of the transfer students. Still, they believe it was a worthwhile transition.

“It seems daunting to transfer from a new school,” Fakhrzadeh said. “It was hard for me to adjust at first, but once I got used to the campus and the people and the professors, it was a lot easier.”

It wasn’t easy for Fakhrzadeh to adjust to the three different schools she went to, but she learned a lot about the diversity each campus presented. She realized an easy way to avoid the transfer nightmare: do your research.

“Before committing to a school, it’s important to make sure you know enough about it first, and that you’re not deciding just to decide,” Fakhrzadeh said.

Veronsky learned the same lesson as a transfer student.

“Get familiar with the school you’re going to and don’t just think you know everything about it right away,” Veronsky said. “You might know how to go to college, but not enough about the college you’re going to.”