What is Transfer Shock?
As a transfer student, you might think you know all about college-level courses. However, unless you've attended a large research university like Rutgers (and even if you have), you may suddenly find yourself feeling overwhelmed. If so, you are not alone. You are suffering from what is commonly referred to as "transfer shock," and because of it, many transfer students do not do as well academically in their first or second semesters at Rutgers as they did at their previous schools. In addition, Rutgers itself can be difficult to navigate as it is comprised of an array of schools, campuses, departments and preprofessional programs.
Here are some simple tips to beating transfer shock:
1. Attend a Students in Transition Advising and Registration Day
Several advisors will be available at STAR Days to help you select courses. You should plan to meet with an advisor once classes have started so that you can review your overall program and make plans toward the completion of your degree.
During the academic year you can always visit the Transfer Center in Lucy Stone Hall on the Livingston Campus with additional questions and for academic advising. You can also come in to one of the Advising Centers to meet with an academic dean or advisor.
2. Balance your course load
If you lost a few credits when transferring, do not try to make up for them by over-enrolling your first semester. Wait until you know what Rutgers courses are like. Your first semester, you may want to take introductory courses toward your core curriculum, or balance upper-level courses in your intended major with lower-level, introductory and core courses.
Most students take 15 credits a semester and this is what you need to do to complete your degree on time. However, if you register for 15 or more credits your first semester and begin to feel overwhelmed, you can withdraw from a course mid-semester while remaining a full-time student, as long as you retain a minimum of 12 active credits. See an advisor if you have questions about withdrawing from a course.
Beware of deadlines! Visit the Registrar’s website. Note that there is a deadline for dropping a course without a "W" (end of the first week) and a deadline for withdrawing WITH a "W" (mid-semester). The "W" does not affect your GPA or overall academic record.
3. Be Patient
Transferring doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient and allow time for credits to transfer, courses to indicate fulfilled requirements, and offices to get you squared away. Make sure to keep records of everything and check in with offices about your progress.
Allow yourself time to adjust to a new schedule, school, and lifestyle. Use a planner or your trusty smart phone! Do not burden yourself with too many other outside responsibilities, activities, or work during your first semester or two.
A word about working: Students with financial burdens should keep in mind that registering for a full time course load while working much more than 20 hours a week at a job may prove excessively counter-productive. Failing courses and repeating them is costly because you may need to re-take the course(s) - and you may end up on academic probation or on the dismissal list. Just because you were able to work and go to school successfully in the past does not mean you can do so at Rutgers. Contact the Office of Financial Aid for information about student loans.
4. Choose an appropriate major
You are not assigned a major automatically when you enter Rutgers; therefore you generally have time to explore your intended major before you declare it. If you are not doing very well in courses required for your major, you should explore some other major alternatives. Consult an advisor to find out whether you should re-think your choice of major. As a rule, students should select a major in which they can succeed academically.
For career advice, visit the Career Services website to find out what jobs real graduates have landed and with what majors. You will notice that in many cases, there is little correlation between the major and the career. Therefore, you do not need to major in business (for example) to work in a business field. In many cases, you may also pursue post-baccalaureate degree programs to prepare for specific professions.
5. Make an impression
Attend every class; leave extra time for class and exam preparation and for researching, writing and REVISING your papers before you submit them.
Faculty expect students to be independent and self-motivated, to follow the syllabus without reminders, to review handouts and course notes independently, and to complete every homework and reading assignment on time, even if the specific material is not under discussion. Rutgers professors also expect students to think critically about the material on their own: that means thinking of questions as you read or prepare for class, breaking down the material into smaller units of analysis, and grasping the concepts behind problems or formulas. Class would be a good time to put away your smart phone.
6. Manage your time
Use an academic planner. Review the syllabus for each class CAREFULLY for information about grading policies and due dates. Mark down all due dates in your planner and expect to spend approximately 2-3 hours per credit PER WEEK in studying (that means on average 20-30 hours/week or as long as it takes to complete your work and prepare for class!)
7. Ask for help
Stubbornness is not a strength, but asking for help is.
Visit the Learning Center for Academic Coaching if you are at all doubtful about your study skills or if you are feeling overwhelmed. In addition to tutoring, the Learning Center will provide Academic Coaching to help you with time management, writing, public speaking, textbook reading, test preparation and test-taking strategies. For other forms of support, contact an academic advisor in the Office of Advising and Academic Services.
8. Utilize faculty and resources
Although Rutgers faculty members are often busy with their own research in addition to teaching, they are interested in their students and willing to help. However, you must take the initiative in seeking contact with faculty. You should also follow a few simple rules:
- Respect office hours as stated on the syllabus.
- Behave respectfully both in class and out.
If and when emailing your instructor, use good email etiquette: do not write breezy, chatty, very lengthy, or poorly punctuated emails. Do not WRITE ALL IN CAPS or in funny colors. Ask for an appointment if you have a lot of questions since it is difficult to respond in writing to very detailed concerns. Finally, sign your full name to every email and remind the instructor which class you are in if it isn't obvious from the email.
Go prepared to class AND office hours
Why meet with faculty? Obviously you do not need to meet with all of your teachers, but it is wise to develop relationships with 2-3 faculty members in your area of interest, either in your major or a related field. You may need to get information about research or internship opportunities. You may also want information about graduate programs, and eventually, you may need to ask for a letter of recommendation. (On the other hand, you may simply want to clarify something a teacher has said in class, ask about an assignment, or review an exam or paper.)
In addition to using faculty as resources, you may want to utilize student centers, computer labs, learning centers, and the endless amount of information at the Rutgers University libraries. There are computer terminals in the library with access to the library collection - IRIS - and other databases and indexes. The library system appears vast at first but once you begin using it, it will become more and more familiar. Make it yours! You can go on-line for an introduction and select links to library instruction and tutorials. The libraries also provide several excellent alternatives to study space in your living area.
Students who get involved in one way or another have a richer experience, learn more about themselves and others, meet people, feel more connected to the college, and may even do better academically. Getting involved on campus is a great way to gain leadership experience and strengthen your résumé
You’re at Rutgers now! You are going to earn a degree from a world-class institution and everything is going to be okay! Do not be afraid to ask for help. We are here for you!