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ISSUE 121 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2008

Transfer students cultivate community

By Jamie Klein
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 14, 2008

Each autumn, there are a number of unfamiliar faces at St. Olaf, as eager first years begin their college years and other students return from their experiences abroad. However, there are always newcomers who fit into neither of those categories: transfer students. Transfer students are those who make the transition from another college to the St. Olaf community, usually as sophomores or juniors. They arrive on campus early (along with the First Years) but have their own orientation process arranged by "Transfer Counselors" (TC's) -- current St. Olaf students who have gone through the transfer process themselves. This orientation process involves activities in Northfield and get-to-know-you games, but Doug Newland '08, who was a TC this fall, said, "While the true freshmen are running around doing ridiculous bonding activities, the transfers are steered away from that hectic scene." "Transfer students have done college before," Alexa Tennyson '08, a TC, said. Instead, orientation revolves around getting to know St. Olaf and making the transition to a new place easier. There are many difficulties inherent in becoming a transfer student. "It's really hard to leave everything behind you -- you're taking a chance that's not guaranteed," said Dianna Cheney-Peters '10, who transferred from Georgetown this fall. With the work of getting to know new professors, the problems that occur in transferring credits and the awkwardness of making friends in a place where everybody seems to know each other, why would anybody want to transfer? Those reasons depend on the transfer's former school. Some students were too far away from home, some of them didn't feel academically challenged and some of them felt like just a number in the classrooms instead of a student. Many cite the absence of opportunities for personalized education (and St. Olaf's abundance of it) as top motives for transferring. "I wanted a smaller, more personal education than a big university," said Emily O'Brien '10, a transfer student from New York University. Similarly, Cheney-Peters wanted "teachers who really cared about student interaction." Assistant director of admissions Angelique Dietz echoed this theme, saying that transfer students often write in their applications about a longing for "community" and "teachers who know me." "When I read their files, it becomes so very clear that we have found a way of creating and maintaining a community without sacrificing academic rigor, and that it is hard to find a college that does that as well as St. Olaf College," Dietz said. Not only is this sense of community a common reason for transferring to St. Olaf, it also helps to make the transfer process easier. "The sense of community the school prides itself on is amazing & It's hard not to find friends or people willing to help," Newland said. It's easy for transfer students to take advantage of this active community -- involvement in a student organization, a varsity or intramural sport or even just someone to sit by in the Caf can all help ease the adjustment to a new school. However, this is not just a one-way relationship -- transfer students bring much to the St. Olaf table. Having attended another institution, they tend to have a strong vision of what they like and don't like in a college. They appreciate aspects of St. Olaf that other students might take for granted, and have an outsider's perspective of its weak points and how they can be improved. Dietz pointed out that, "Transfer students & confirm for us that a successful undergraduate education is about much more than sitting in a classroom." Transfer students have traveled a long and complicated road to their place on this campus and are an integral part of its much-revered community.

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