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  • Transfer orientation may be shorter or more condensed than freshman orientation, so prioritize your to-do list.
  • Learning about campus resources can be a good use of time.
  • Make sure to complete or finalize any financial aid paperwork.

When most people hear about a college or university "orientation," they likely assume it refers to a freshman orientation. However, there's another kind of orientation that is just as important for a certain group of students: transfer orientation.

The 2021 Tracking Transfer Report from the National Student Clearinghouse Center showed that out of 653,330 students who started their studies at a community college in 2014, 30.8 percent transferred between schools for their undergraduate studies. These types of students will likely have an opportunity to attend a transfer orientation.

The difference between freshman and transfer orientations

Transfer orientation can feel, well, disorienting. You already know college basics, like how to sign up for classes and what professor office hours are like. But you don’t know this specific school, may not know many people, and have to re-learn routines.

Transfer orientation depends on school. Some schools may have a more condensed transfer orientation of 1–2 days as opposed to a longer period offered for freshman orientation. You also may attend some events with first-year students, and then break off into transfer groups.

But it can also be important to have a plan of what you need to get done, before you even step foot on campus. Connecting with advisers, getting any questions answered by the financial aid office, and looking for work-study jobs or part-time jobs may all be on your priority list. And remember: While transfer orientation may only be a few days, you have the whole semester to get acclimated. Making friends, finding extracurricular activities, and feeling at home will take time. So don’t worry if you don’t finish everything on your to-do list right away.

Speak with your adviser

Every institution is different, and the credits you completed before may not translate exactly the same way. Make a list of your questions and schedule time to sit down with your adviser and talk through your previous transcript. You may discuss which classes you should register for, both this semester as well as any ones you need for degree requirements. Depending on the classes you want to take, you may also need to take placement exams.

These conversations may occur between you and your adviser, your dean, or other faculty members or staff. But usually, an adviser or dean can point you in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or get anything clarified. You also may be able to meet other faculty members: Take advantage of any office hours or info sessions that are offered.

Familiarize yourself with the new resources available to you

Since many transfer students are moving from a two-year institution to a four-year institution, the new school will likely have more resources for students.

Because of this, part of your job during the transfer orientation is to find out what some of these things are and which department runs them. This may include academic services, such as tutoring support, or personal services, like a student counseling center. There also may be extracurricular activities you want to check out and special interest groups to explore. Orientation may also be a time for tryouts and sign-ups for club sports, theater productions, or music groups, too. These resources are usually covered during transfer orientation.

Pay attention to emails that come through your student email address and follow your school’s social media accounts and/or announcement boards. Typically, there will be a dedicated transfer orientation webpage that may be helpful. Your transfer orientation leader may also have advice for making the most out of services on campus, too.

Check on the status of your financial aid

Most financial aid will not transfer with you, including federal aid. If you're a transfer student who had financial aid at your previous institution, you’ll need to reapply. If you haven’t already done this, notify your previous institution that you transferred. If you don’t tell them, they might withhold your transcript, which could make it challenging to enroll for the courses you need.

Keep in touch with the financial aid office at both schools and keep track of any deadlines. It can be helpful to stop by the financial aid office and make sure everything taken care of.

Figure out your budget

With a new school also comes a new budget. Transfer orientation can be a good time to assess any new costs you may incur. For example, if you’re transferring to a school in a city, you may find socializing happening at coffee shops and restaurants rather than on campus. You may be dependent on a car, or you may be taking public transportation—all of which can add costs to your bottom line.

If you will need a job to help pay for expenses, you can start the job-finding process during orientation. If work-study is part of your financial aid package, you may already have explored options on or off-campus. But even if you don’t have work-study, you may still be able to take advantage of on or off-campus jobs, which can help pay for expenses. But before you commit to a job, you may want to see how the semester shapes up in terms of workload.

Have fun

Orientation is designed so you can become familiar with the campus and the resources available to you. Attending info sessions can help make the first day, week, and month of classes easier. Introducing yourself to deans, faculty, and financial aid officers and getting any last-minute questions answered can also be helpful during this time. It’s also a good time to meet other transfers and new students, too. The positive news for transfer students is you are ahead of the game in terms of knowing what college life is actually like, so you may not feel as overwhelmed as a freshman would.


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