Transfer tales: Troubles and triumphs

By Jackie Pena

AUSTIN — Sophomore psychology student Ayleen Flores dropped out of two universities for two very different reasons.

“I dropped out of Brown because of personal family matters,” Flores said. “I hated UT, so I left.”

Flores is the outlier in the pool of transfer students at the University of Texas at Austin. Although transfer students only make up six percent of the undergraduate population, they have a graduation rate of 61 percent, which is only four percent less than UT’s average graduation rate.

“UT has its own vibe,” Flores said. “The school in terms of academics is great, but it was the atmosphere that I didn’t click with. The classes are too crowded, and everything is too fast paced.”

The demographics of transfer students who are accepted every year mimic the diversity of first-year students. Approximately 50 percent of students admitted are white, followed by Hispanics and Asians.

Diversity is one of the top priorities when considering a student for admission said Adriana Garza-Romance, a UT admission counselor.

The Office of Admissions has created several programs and classes specifically for transfer students, including the Transfer-Year Experience Program, Transfer Student Signature Courses, and Texas Transfer Students.

“Everyone seemed to have Longhorn pride as soon as they stepped foot on the campus,” Flores said. “I never felt that spark. I didn’t reach out to anyone either, which probably didn’t help me out.”

Flores said that she was not aware of any resources designed for transfer students. She said the deciding factor in her withdrawing from school was due to a lack of familiarity: she could not make UT feel like home. Other students had better luck.

“I haven’t used any of the resources they told us about,” sophomore Ana Duran said. “But I joined a transfer student page on Facebook, and that’s how I met people. My roommates are also transfer students.”

Out of the 39,000 undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin in 2015, only 2,516 were first-time transfer students according to Office of Institutional Reporting, Research and Information Systems’ University Graduation Rates report.

“No one knows I’m a transfer student unless I bring it up,” Duran said. “No one excludes you from anything because you’re a transfer. If you want to isolate yourself, that something only you can choose to do.”

During orientation, students learn about resources that are accessible to them. However, these resources are optional for students. The thought of using these resources made her feel like she was using a crutch Flores said.

“I went from an extremely small school to a school that was the size of my hometown,” Flores said. “Not only did I feel alone in terms of population, I felt alone in experience. Everyone here seemed to find friends that they could relate to, I couldn’t.”

Flores also explained using the resources provided probably would not have made a difference in her case, but they could be useful for someone else.

“Leaving UT was probably inevitable for me,” Flores said. “Going to UT was a last-minute decision that I thought would be good for me, but I was wrong. I don’t regret leaving, and I don’t think anyone could have stopped me from leaving. But these resources can be convenient for someone who needs a little bit of guidance.”

Bryanni Hassan was accepted into UT’s Coordinated Admission Program (CAP). After a year of attending the University of Texas at San Antonio, Hassan was automatically accepted into UT. CAP gives students the opportunity to attend UT, even if they did not get accepted directly into the university on their first try.

“I knew that UT would be harder academically than UTSA,” Hassan said. “But it’s my dream school, so I knew the CAP would be my best option.”

Hassan described UT as a welcoming environment. She said she was overwhelmed with the amount of choices she had in terms of extracurricular activities.

“That line from orientation stuck with me,” Hassan said. “’If there isn’t already a club here for you, you can make your own, you just need three people, twenty bucks and a few forms.’”

Hassan said there are not many known stigmas about transfer students because they are usually able to fit in well. Transfers students, Hassan said, are probably some of the most hardworking individuals on this campus, and their battle to get to UT was just a little bit longer than most.

“I want people to know that UT transfer students are great,” Flores said. “They got into a school that is recognized globally. Even if you don’t stick it out here, at least you can say that you tried. And for at least a bit, you represented burnt orange.”

Jacqueline Pena is a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin. You can follow her via Twitter @JacquelineAPena.