by Katie Loughlin
“I felt a little invisible. UCF has so many students, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd,” said Jazmine Salas, a graduate of the University of Central Florida who transferred from Valencia College.
Out of the 50,000-plus students who attend UCF, you are of the roughly ten percent who transferred from another college. You have two years of college under your belt, yet there you are feeling like a freshman again. You went from knowing the professors, where classrooms were and how to find study partners to knowing little to nothing. With that, all the old anxieties and worries float back to the surface.
You struggle with how to sign up for your classes, access your Knights email, use Webcourses, buy a parking permit, and navigate around campus, among other things. Despite having an orientation intended for questions transfer students may have, you may feel like orientation has not caught you up to speed with other students. You may feel like you are behind before the game even begins. Trying to catch up to fellow classmates who have only been at UCF can add unnecessary tension to an already nerve-wracking transition. Not knowing the resources available to students can put you at an unfair disadvantage.
“I [felt] like I missed out on key knowledge that would have benefited me sooner,” said Angelica Cranmer, a psychology major who transferred from Valencia College.
You may have experienced this or know someone who has: you had to drop a course or take fewer courses the semester after a bad grade in order to maintain your grade point average. This widely observed condition, known as “transfer shock,” describes the drop in GPA following transfer to a new college. This can be caused by the coursework being more difficult than what students are used to, the difficulty juggling work and school, or a lack of understanding of what professors want. A first bad grade or a drop in GPA can be stressful. Transfer shock can cause a fear of failing and result in leaving college without a degree. In order to prevent negative outcomes, students might switch majors, take fewer classes, etc.
“I had a very rocky start. I chose a major I had so much experience with that I became very frustrated with the programs limited resources and pace…I began with a nine credit course schedule before deciding to switch my major to humanities,” said Jean Valentin, a transfer student from Valencia College.
Cranmer said about her first semester at UCF, “I had to spend a lot more time and energy outside the classroom to maintain my GPA.” She enrolled in fewer courses the next semester due to the amount of time and energy her classes took. “[My] first day was…overwhelming. [UCF has] a bigger campus with bigger classrooms,” Cranmer said.
She is not alone in her experience. “I was very anxious and extremely overwhelmed. For the first few weeks, I didn’t explore campus,” Salas said.
Valentin said, “The first day at UCF was the most intimidating.”
The level of alienation a student experiences when unfamiliar with some of the norms, values, and expectations within a school community is called “transitional trauma.” Students who have a difficulty making new friends tend to suffer from transitional trauma more than others. It can last a week, a semester, your first year or your entire time at a new college.
“[I felt] like I was younger than everyone else. I felt extremely naïve and immature. I came to UCF in 2011, and even though I felt like a child, my professors treated me like an adult. I was able to come and go as I pleased and have debates with my classmates. There were opportunities to study, research, and create…UCF allowed me to write and talk about topics I always thought were forbidden in a college setting,” remarked Salas.
It’s important to immerse yourself in the college’s social scene to counteract transitional trauma, so try forming a study group, attending UCF events (our tuition already pays for them), carpooling to a football game, sitting next to someone you don’t know in class, or joining a club or Facebook group related to UCF, such as your class/major or Transfer Knights. Transfer Knights is a student organization designed to help incoming transfer students integrate successfully into the UCF community. They sponsor many academic events throughout the year, like workshops and information sessions, but they also have non-academic events like tailgating at football games, dinner-and-a-movie nights and group meet-ups. The added benefit of getting to know your fellow Knights is a sense of feeling connected, which is reported to alleviate symptoms of depression and lower stress levels.
Every student should know their advisor’s contact information. It is helpful to make an appointment every semester to check in on your degree progress and make sure you are on the track to graduating. Enroll early before classes fill up by checking when you begin enrollment on myUCF. Set academic goals for yourself but balance them with fun activities so you don’t become overwhelmed. The help desk located in the atrium of the Student Union fields any questions a student could ask, but it never hurts to ask a classmate how to do something or where something is—remember, they were once in your shoes.
Salas said, “If you feel like a small fish in a big pond, just keep swimming! You aren’t alone!”
If you ever need someone to talk to, please contact the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). It’s is a free, confidential counseling service provided on campus for currently enrolled students. For after-hours help, call the CAPS Crisis Hotline at 407-823-2811. Their website is: http://caps.sdes.ucf.edu/