Transfer 101: How to Prepare for the First Semester at a University

Hilary Gan, Varsity Tutors' Contributor

July 12, 2016

Transfer 101: How to Prepare for the First Semester at a University
Planning a transfer from community college takes preparation!
Transferring from community college to a four-year institution can be a bit bumpy. The first semester is paramount in building the support networks you’ll need to succeed, but once you have them, the university experience should be fun and rewarding.

Take advantage of free resources

Academic support works slightly differently at four-year schools, but it is there and you should take advantage of it. Most schools offer transfer student orientations, which will provide you with information about academic advising, free tutoring services, scholarship and internship opportunities, mentoring programs, and other free resources. Make sure to sign up for or visit at least one of the resources they suggest in the first week. Orientation is also a good opportunity to meet other transfer students — if you can, try forming a study group before the semester even starts so you can head into your first semester able to recognize some friendly faces.

Research your classes

Even if you’ve already chosen a major, try to choose two or three general classes or courses that easily apply to multiple majors for your first semester. That way you can complete some of the graduation requirements and still remain flexible, just in case you find your chosen major isn’t what you want after all.
If possible, consider sacrificing a perfect schedule for better professors, and ask around about professors or use when choosing classes. Invested and enthusiastic teachers can make a huge difference in your success. Finally, you may want to also consider class size when making decisions — coming from community college, the larger lectures might seem impersonal and intimidating.

Be proactive about your education

It’s a good idea to make contact with your academic advisor before starting school, as well as your professors. Let professors know you’ll be in their class during the coming semester and ask if they’ve already chosen the course texts so you can get a head start, and then at least skim through them to give yourself an idea of the material and difficulty.
Professors at a four-year institution often have other duties besides teaching, and aren’t as available as your community college professors may have been. Plan to go to professors’ office hours and get to know any teaching assistants in the class. Stay in touch and ask questions — if the professor knows your name before finals, you’re more likely to get help if you need it.

Get involved in campus life

Whether you decided to live on-campus or continue commuting, most four-year institutions have their own feel and culture and behave like a small town. Get involved and build up your social support network by joining clubs or intramural sports teams, going to lectures or events, and just spending time on campus, even before you start class. Studying in the library, hanging out at the student union at lunchtime, and meeting up with class study groups in the evenings will help you invest in the place and the culture, which can get you through any rough patches of demotivation or difficult courses. While getting acclimated to a new school, culture, and structure can feel overwhelming, you can take easy steps to build a support network that will keep you on track toward your goals. Take advantage of the resources offered by the college, be proactive about getting to know professors and other students, and get involved in the culture and campus life, and you’ll have a great experience.

Hilary Gan is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

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