By Chunchu Kim
As October approaches its end, it is safe to say that new incoming students have had enough time to adjust to life at Stony Brook University. But, a large demographic of these new incoming students, transfer students or students that did not start out as freshmen, have struggled to get settled more than others.
Stony Brook transfer students are of a different breed — they come in large numbers. Yet many students here do not recognize just how many of them walk through the campus each day. The obliviousness of the transfer student population may seem like it can help them integrate easily as “regular” students, but that is not always the case.
Mike Castro, a studio art major, transfer student and commuter, suggests that this overall nonchalance is due to the vastness of the campus.
“The campus is really large; people just walk by you and seem like they only have time for themselves,” Castro said. “So I can’t really walk up to anyone and try to start a conversation like, ‘Hi, my name is…'”
Castro is not alone. Stony Brook accepts some of the largest numbers of incoming transfer students in the SUNY system. According to Regina Marshall, Interim Director at the Office of Student Orientation, Stony Brook accepts around 1,250 students for the fall semester and around 650 students for the spring semester.
When asked about the total population of transfer students, Marshall says that it varies each semester.
“Some may decide to leave after doing one semester, some may stay, so it’s hard to pinpoint a specific number,” Marshall said.
Castro, who transferred after two years at Suffolk Community College, says that the hardest part of being a transfer student is starting all over again, especially when making new friends and building connections.
The university has somewhat tried to reduce this psychological vastness by implementing transfer seminar courses, but Castro thinks that they rarely help.
“In there [the course], you’re just stuck with more transfer students,” Castro said. “And it tells you to get involved all the time, but it doesn’t really tell you how.”
Joining clubs seems to be the only feasible answer to the overly repeated slogan that is, “to get involved.” But, transfer students like Castro, who also commute, find it difficult to attend club meetings that occur mostly at night. Some students without cars find it almost impossible to fit such times into their schedules, due to the infrequent train intervals of the Long Island Railroad.
Socially integrating into campus life is not the only problem. When asked whether he was a sophomore, a junior or a senior, Castro replied that he is caught in limbo, that he is, “somewhere between a sophomore and a junior.”
Rolling over credits, choosing a major and planning graduation all pose serious challenges for transfer students that did not have a head start at Stony Brook as freshmen. In addition, big lecture halls, inaccessible professors and new academic demands all seem unfamiliar to those who transferred from smaller schools.
Luckily, Stony Brook does provide dedicated academic help for transfer students. One available resource is the Academic and Transfer Advising Services in the Melville Library, which tries to accommodate concerns and alleviate the headaches involved with the process.
Corey Fortcher, an academic adviser, says that transfer students come into the office for all kinds of reasons, from specific questions about transfer credits, majors and questions that have to be answered individually.
Sam Viera, another transfer student from Suffolk, says that he prefers the clear sense of direction he gained at Stony Brook.
“In my previous school, you didn’t have to choose a major at all,” Viera said. “In here, though, everybody picks a major almost right away and they know what they are going to do from the start, which is good.”
Viera, who plans to major in health science, also commented on the positive aspects of a large campus.
“If you want to do something, you can do it,” Viera said. “Clubs are the main thing; you can join almost every type of club here. In my previous school, you couldn’t do that.”
The situation surrounding transfer students, however, does not simply come down to weighing the pros and cons. The more important question narrows down to whether the university is doing enough to accommodate incoming transfer students.
Castro says that Stony Brook needs to try harder. Despite the large population, there is no organization dedicated to helping transfer students socialize and integrate into the campus. In contrast, organizations like the Commuter Student Association serve and aid the commuter population, another large pocket of “non-traditional” college students at Stony Brook.
In a way, the transfer student population seems to be subordinated by the freshmen and commuter population in terms of the amount of attention they get from the university.
This may not matter much for some. For others, it may mean struggling to adjust for a long time and when they are finally successful, graduation will be right around the corner.