Common experience of culture shock for transfer students

“Transfer shock,” said Darren Dunlap, the transfer recruiter at Maryville College who was hired as part of an initiative to increase the number of transfer students on campus, “that’s a term that has been around since the 60s.”

According to Dunlap, this term reflects the temporary drop in GPA seen during the transition period to a new school for transfer students—a phenomenon that has become increasingly relevant to MC in recent years.

The transfer student population at MC has hovered around 50 for many years now, but that number is expected to grow with the addition of the Tennessee Promise, a law that will ensure two years of community college free for graduating high school seniors.

“I think we will definitely see more transfers and we are working harder to get them. If you look at other colleges in the state they are seeing an uptake in their transfer numbers,” Dunlap said.

According to Vandy Kemp, Vice President and Dean of Students, the increase of transfers has been on everyone’s mind.

“I think assessing what each transfer needs is something we have got to figure out how to do,” Kemp said, “both to be successful, but also to feel connected to the college.”

Dunlap wants to make advising and registration easier for transfer students.

“I would like it to be quicker. In the summer [at MC] you have to schedule those times [to register], whereas at a community college, you can register every day of the week,” Dunlap said, “so if you are a transfer student you may experience some panic. You may wonder if you are going to get your classes.”

Kemp has plans to initiate a new type of custom orientation, tailored to each transfer student’s needs and what they want to get out of Maryville College.

“Sorting out, like athletes. Athletes have a group they are connected with,” Kemp said. “I’ve got two middle-age women who didn’t do any of the orientation because of – life. One of them had a full time job that she was trying to finish up so she could start classes.”

“The transfer population is the most diverse set, and you have a broad range of ages,” Dunlap said. “You can have a 22 year-old and a 50 year-old in the same group, and they are equally diverse in terms of educational backgrounds and career backgrounds. This might be their second college, or it might be their fifth.”

With a demographic that is as diverse as this, it is easy to see why MC is constantly tinkering with its transfer program.

Despite orientation issues, transfer students on campus seem to be happy with their experience. “I can’t think of a better place to study in East Tennessee,” said Joshua Spalding, a transfer student and veteran at Maryville, “I found that when one needs support, there is always a wellspring of it, waiting for you if you only ask.”

Spalding doesn’t deny that there was some awkwardness when coming to Maryville, however: “I felt that when I transferred in, but that melted away very quickly because of the great support I was able to receive from faculty, the wonderful professors we have here, and obviously my fellow Scots.”

Spalding is not alone in wanting to be connected to the Scots community. “I had 13 people [transfer students] show up this year at the covenant ceremony for freshmen, just because they wanted to be a part of it all,” Kemp said, “so it’s figuring out for those who want to play college, what do you offer them to get them connected.”

How is a small, private institution like Maryville College supposed to accomplish this? The answer is as of yet unclear.

“Make it easier for transfer students to just kind of be grafted onto the skin of the school and its culture,” Spalding said, “It shouldn’t be like a transfer student council, it should just be that now you are a part of the body. I think it’s a cultural thing.”

Whatever the answer, one thing is for sure: that MC cares about getting more transfer students like Spalding on campus and keeping them happy.

“I am going to bring in as many good students as I can. I will bring in students until they pry the phone out of my hand,” Dunlap said, “because you know I run into students – they have a high GPA, lots of credit hours, they’re nice, they want to be here, so I try everything I can to get them here. I will bring in as many as I can until President Bogart comes down here and tells me to stop.”

This initiative might mean that MC will see more transfer students and with that a more diverse campus, meaning that traditional students might have to adjust to a changing student body; not necessarily a bad thing.

“I want to be immensely proud to be a graduate of Maryville College,” Spalding said, “be able to say that’s my alma mater, that’s where I went. Go Scots.”

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