In November, writer and scholar Adam Kotsko tweeted, “We ask 18-year-olds to make huge decisions about their career and financial future, when a month ago they had to ask to go to the bathroom.”
Many 18-year-olds enter college just three months after graduating from high school. This sudden adjustment can seem like too much for young adults, like Kotsko described in his tweet. That may be a reason that college students choose to transfer to a different university after a short time.
According to the New York Times, one in three university students will transfer at some point in their college career. According to University of Wisconsin system academic and student affairs website, over 11,000 students transferred in the University of Wisconsin system for the beginning of the fall 2012 semester. Nearly 800 of those students have come to UW-Whitewater.
Many students switch to a new school because they decided on a degree that their original university didn’t offer. Another reason is that they generally didn’t like their original school.
Old classes may not count for much
Because students transfer after at least a semester, they already have several classes on their transcripts. Naturally, they hope that these credits will be able to transfer so they won’t have to start over in their pursuit of a degree.
Junior Taylor Alby, a math education major, found out that even within the UW system, credits didn’t always transfer as straightforward as one would expect.
Alby, 20, began her first year of college at UW-Milwaukee in its teaching program. She said their teaching program is different than the one at Whitewater. Though she took teaching classes at Milwaukee, those credits didn’t count as teaching classes at Whitewater, Alby said. All of her credits transferred, but not towards the teaching program.
“I think it’s adding time for sure,” Alby said. She will have to stay in school about three more years.
Jill Hoppe, a sophomore, had a similar experience as Alby. Hoppe, 20, left UW-Green Bay so she could pursue a degree in special education, which Green Bay didn’t offer. She said nearly all of her classes such as science, history and geneds (general education classes) didn’t transfer to Whitewater.
However, Hoppe said that this only set her back slightly. The reason she might have to stay in school longer than four years is because she is thinking about adding a second major.
“With transferring, I feel like I don’t know what I want to do for sure anymore,” Hoppe said.
She said Whitewater has more options than Green Bay did so she isn’t certain what to do, she said.
Hoppe isn’t the only student to transfer with issues concerning her major. Not all UW schools offer the same degrees. The difficulty lies in finding similar classes that allow credits to transfer.
Clara Helbing, 21, discovered that even when UW system schools offer identical degrees, credits from within those degrees don’t transfer.
Helbing spent two years at Whitewater as a communication disorders major. She decided to transfer to UW-Madison. Her sister earned her master’s degree in communication disorders from Madison several years earlier. It’s one of few schools in the UW system with that degree, according to Helbing.
Helbing said her transferring process was a “guessing game.” Most of her classes from Whitewater only counted as geneds in Madison. Even the communication disorder classes she took didn’t transfer to the Madison program.
Helbing expected more to transfer because both schools are in the UW system.
“Even though they’re both in the UW system, they have different geneds, different curriculum, different everything,” Helbing said. “I’d basically be starting over.”
Madison seems to be a UW school that has the most trouble placing credits for transfer students.
Haley Beets, 20, said a girl she knew transferred to Madison and had similar problems as Helbing. The advisors at Madison didn’t know where to place the student’s credits because they didn’t have equivalent classes. Madison eventually gave her just three credits for a “made up class that didn’t count as anything,” Beets said.
Beets is a transfer student herself. She transferred from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago after one year.
Surprisingly, she didn’t have the trouble of her credits not transferring that those who came from another UW system school did.
Beets said going to an art school created only a few problems. Initially, her art history class didn’t transfer as an art elective. She was able to appeal that and received those credits.
Most of her art classes transferred as general art studio credits, which are irrelevant to her journalism degree.
“I wouldn’t say [the transfer process] was perfect,” Beets said. She still plans on graduating with her bachelor’s degree in four years.
The UW system includes 13 two-year colleges. Many students begin at these small colleges and transfer to a four year school in order to save money.
Matt Gutzman utilized that option. He received his associate’s degree at UW-Rock County then transferred to UW-La Crosse to earn his bachelor’s in sports management.
Gutzman, 21, said the worst part of transferring was the fact that he was the last to choose classes at La Crosse. Transfer students had to wait to choose classes after the freshmen, he said. His trouble wasn’t that his credits didn’t transfer, but he couldn’t get in the classes that would allow him to get into the sports management program.
Gutzman was forced to change his major to communication with an emphasis in broadcast and digital media. According to Gutzman, this was the only reason he won’t complete his bachelor’s degree in four years.
“If I would have gotten in my intended major, I would have only been a semester behind,” he said.
Gutzman is enjoying his experience at La Crosse. He said it was easy to make friends and his new degree is treating him well.
New schools offer better college experiences.
Transfer students seem happier at their new schools. One of the draws that Whitewater had for Beets and Alby was the friends that already attended school there. Beets didn’t even tour Whitewater before she enrolled.
Alby is good friends with Beets. She completed the transfer process only a few weeks after Beets.
Alby admitted that she hated Milwaukee. She said it didn’t have one redeeming quality. She said Whitewater is “100 times better than Milwaukee.” According to Alby, the people are much friendlier at Whitewater. She said other students in her in her classes that she saw every day never talked to each other, but at Whitewater, students are very friendly towards one another.
Beets said she is having the same positive experience at Whitewater. She said the university has a very good community.
“Everyone here has been really welcoming to me. A couple of professors have taken an interest in me and have been able to help me through the process of transferring,” Beets said.
Hoppe didn’t plan on coming to Whitewater. She initially planned on transferring to Oshkosh. She decided that its large size made it the wrong choice for her.
“I did not want to come to Whitewater,” Hoppe said. She had many good friends in Green Bay, and felt excluded at first at Whitewater.
Hoppe said Whitewater did grow on her after a while. She joined the women’s rugby club team and made friends very fast, she said.
Gutzman had the same experience about his new school. He said La Crosse is “opening doors” and showing many opportunities. He said he loves the city and the school.
Transferring may not work out at all
Unfortunately transferring to a new school doesn’t always happen as smoothly. In some cases, it won’t end up happening at all.
Helbing never finished her degree. She said she decided not to go to Madison because they threw “so many road blocks” in her way that she couldn’t figure out what to do. Helbing said it made the transfer situation even more stressful.
She had another problem with her GPA. Helbing had to get a 3.8 GPA in several communication disorder classes at Madison to technically be allowed in the program. She wouldn’t have a major or GPA at Madison until that happened.
Helbing also noted that they were the three most difficult classes she would have to take for the communication disorder degree.
The communication disorder degree can either be a part of the college of education or the college of science. Those overseeing her transfer placed her in the education route. Helbing wasn’t technically in the communication disorder program, so she wasn’t accepted into the college of education. Because she wasn’t accepted, she was not assigned an advisor to help her choose classes.
Helbing said she talked to someone from the college of education who didn’t know much about communication disorders. According to Helbing, the college of education doesn’t often deal with that degree. They work mostly with people in special education or future teachers, said Helbing.
“They wouldn’t even help me pick classes out. You had to play the guessing game of what you needed,” she said. “There was no one in my major or college to tell me what I actually needed.”
Helbing said they tried to put in her classes she didn’t need. She said she wouldn’t have needed all of those extra classes if she had stayed at Whitewater.
“It doesn’t make much sense,” she said.
Helbing thinks that her problems stem from Madison’s large size. She said she felt like she had to do everything on her own.
She got a job at a Starbucks shortly after the transfer fell through to pay off her school debt.
So why transfer? How do you choose?
Helbing said she transferred because of the amount of stress from school work and the debt from tuition.
“I wasn’t 100% positive that that was the route I wanted to go with, and [I would be] in school for six years. So I decided to take a little break to kind of think about it before spending more money,” She said.
Helbing didn’t know where she wanted to go to school at first. She decided to try it after a family member talked about his experience at Whitewater.
She also knew that she wanted to pursue a profession where she could help children. She said her autistic cousin inspired her.
She chose Madison because of family as well. She said many family members are alumni who recommended it.
Helbing also chose Madison for its proximity to her hometown of Baraboo. She said she could save money by living at home and commuting.
Many students choose a university because it is near their home. Whitewater is a classic example of a “suitcase school.” Many on campus students go home on the weekends. According to the UW system’s academic and student affairs website, the counties with the largest sources of students are an hour or less from campus. The three counties with the largest student population at Whitewater are Waukesha, Milwaukee and Rock.
Hoppe is from Milwaukee. She said one of the reasons she chose Green Bay was because it was close enough to Milwaukee that she could go home if she needed to.
One of Hoppe’s favorite things about Whitewater is how close it is to home. Hoppe said she can go home just for the afternoon to have lunch with her grandmother and do laundry.
Alby and Beets chose Whitewater so they could commute from their hometown of Burlington.
Alby said when she was picking colleges, the commute to Whitewater used to scare her. She didn’t want to drive on the back roads in winter, she said. Alby said it isn’t a problem now.
Beets lived in dorms when she attended SAIC. She said she didn’t want to deal with meeting a new roommate and living in the dorms. She also felt it was better to commute to save money. SAIC costs nearly $50,000 per semester. She transferred because she couldn’t afford it.
“Being an artist isn’t something that’s going to supplement my career,” Beets said.
Beets and Hoppe also like how small Whitewater is.
Problems you wouldn’t have thought about: finding somewhere to live
Hoppe had an interesting problem with housing. She was supposed to live in the Fricker dorm initially. Because of roommates switching on their own, Whitewater housing moved her to make things easy. They told Hoppe that they moved her because she was a freshman, according to Hoppe. She told them she was a transfer and they moved her to the Starin suites.
They also told her she didn’t need a meal plan until partway through the semester.
Gutzman also had difficulties with housing. His first year at La Crosse was his third year in college. Normally, a third year student is an upper classman. La Crosse has a suite dorm similar to Starin suites at Whitewater for upperclassmen. Gutzman was not allowed into those dorms because he was a transfer student and not a junior.
Gutzman said that he was considered less than a freshman at La Crosse. He was one of the last people to find out where they were living. He also had no say in his dorm.
Despite any difficulties, it seems that most transfer students have a “normal” college life. The most shocking thing about transferring between UW system schools is that some credits don’t mean anything at different schools. They seem like they aren’t in the same system. Helbing said it didn’t make much sense. It’s curious as to why all UW schools are in the same system if they act so independently.
Factors that influence the transfer process include major, GPA, and your previous school. It seems like Whitewater makes things easy for transfer students. Madison seems to be difficult for transfer students. Overall, it seems like there is no typical experience for transfers. Students coming into, leaving, and moving between UW system schools will take a shot in the dark when transferring.
Add comment December 17th, 2013