When I decided to transfer to the University of Texas at Austin, it was unplanned, and very random. I was very happy at my previous school, The University of North Texas. I had good grades, lots of friends, and enjoyed the town. However, I decided to apply to transfer, not really thinking that I would get accepted, solely because I loved the idea of being able to live in Austin.
The first semester for me, and I can confidently say for most transfers, is a very difficult adjustment. Not only is the University of Texas a large and confusing campus to navigate, but the workload is much heavier than most universities. Transfers are faced with trying to develop and change their established study habits, figure out their way around campus and the city, and make new friends at a campus of 50,000 students. This overwhelming task leads to constant stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness. I constantly felt out of place and alone at such a large campus. In my case, it left me regretting my decision to transfer, and missing my friends and support group at UNT.
Despite all the challenges and setbacks of my first few months, my second semester has been much more positive as I have figured out how to succeed at UT. I hope that through this piece I can comfort other transfer students in knowing that they are not alone in the difficult and confusing transition. Being a transfer student is a unique experience that most people will never undergo or understand throughout their life. We are thrown into a new college and forced to figure it out, often with little to no help. On top of this, our peer group already has been attending the university and has established friends, schedules, and lifestyles. Coming in as a Transfer student is essentially redoing freshman year, except you are expected to figure it out all by yourself.
10 Tips for UT Transfer Students
- Make a calendar
Making a calendar is VITAL to your success at UT. Even if it is something that you’ve never used before, it’s something you need to try. It is one of the first pieces of advice any transfer here offers, and is a very helpful habit to adopt. Whether you prefer to use your phone, laptop, or a paper calendar is up to you! Pick one that you know you will be able to keep up with and will best help you to succeed. The course load is more difficult than most schools, and assignments can and will surprise you. When you get your syllabi at the start of the semester, immediately log all important due dates, tests, and quizzes. Don’t allow your grades to be affected by the fact that you didn’t even know an assignment was coming up. Also, plan on studying more than your past school/university. I strongly recommend to plan out your study times! Doing this will ensure effective time management and productivity. Checklists are a great way to stay on track and keep yourself organized!
2. Study Groups
This is something I had never experienced at my previous college. Try to engage in small groups, especially for some of your more difficult classes. A lot of times classes will create Facebook groups or a Group Me to allow collaboration and discussion among students. Planning meeting times to study together will not only allow for the creation of friendships but will also help in understanding and participating in the study habits required to succeed. Discussions before major exams and projects will assist you to better understand the content and expectations. I cannot stress enough the importance of working together with class mates!
3. Get to know the services offered
UT has lots of helpful services for students, things that I never knew about until talking to other transfer students at a Transfer Student meeting. While it sounds cheesy, it is important to make use of these free on campus resources, especially when it reaches the point to where your mental health and personal success is at risk. The UT Counseling and Mental Health Center offers counseling, methods of coping with stress, group discussions, and tons of other prevention and outreach programs. If you are having trouble with your coursework, the Sanger Learning Center is a great resource for academic support. They will help you with one-on-one tutoring or help you figure out what study and learning habits work best for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
4. Meet with an advisor
Make sure you aren’t wasting your time or money taking excessive or unnecessary classes. Also make sure you are on track with you “flag” requirements, this is a tricky and new concept for most transfer students, so make sure you get them all to make sure you
stay on track. Meet with your advisor, and they will be more than willing to help you establish a graduation plan to make sure you are able to graduate on time, and aren’t taking more classes than you need. They want to make sure you succeed and want to be your friends, make use of them!
5. Get involved, extracurricular activities are essential
Find something EARLY ON that interests you. Whether that be a club, sports organization, or Greek life – GET INVOLVED! Visit HornsLink for a list of all the services that UT has to offer! This sounds like the typical advice given to a freshman, but being a transfer at a school as large as UT, it is very difficult to make friends. If you can’t find something that peeks your interest, a good starting place is by attending the Texas Transfer Students meetings, go and socialize with other transfers who are in the
same position as you! Not getting involved will leave you feeling lost and lonely, which is something you want to avoid at all costs. Most people your age here will already have established friend groups that they bonded with through freshman year, making it more difficult to meet a “best friend” throughout your daily schedule, so joining an organization is imperative to meeting friends and establishing a support group. A support group will be crucial to help keep a healthy social life, including someone to study with, show you around Austin, or keep you motivated through difficult times.
6. Figure out your transportation
Transportation in this city can be difficult and confusing. Figure out how you plan on getting to and from campus BEFORE classes start to avoid any additional stress. If you live in West Campus, you are probably within walking distance to most of your classes, and can make use of the West Campus bus system to get to the further ones. If you are living farther away, you can choose between driving to campus or making use of the bus system. Parking permits in garages across campus are offered, but can get expensive. If this works for you, all the information about where and how to purchase one can be found at UT’s Parking and Transportation Service website. If you don’t have a permit, pay attention to all parking meters and posted signs. I learned this the hard way, and got towed twice in my first semester. Don’t let this happen to you! UT also offers a shuttle and bus system that run throughout the city of Austin, and is known for being the largest university shuttle system in the country. Another bonus is that this is free just for being a student! You can find a list of the shuttles offered along with descriptions, routes, and pickup times at UT Shuttle Transportation Services.
7. Find a study spot
You will spend long hours studying which will often involve late nights with lots of coffee and study snacks. Find an environment that allows you to be productive and study best. There are tons of options on campus, including the PCL (library) and the FAC (usually louder). Choose a noise level and setting that works for you. If you prefer a coffee shop location, there is a Starbucks right off campus, Café Medici on the drag, and Mozart’s on Lake Austin. Make sure to pick a place that is convenient and comfortable for you.
8. Do your readings
Do your readings, and do them on time! Whether or not this was important at your previous institution, it matters here. Put in the effort to do the readings and it will be reflected through your grade. Make sure to read them thoroughly and take notes. Many professors will have pop quizzes or expect you to engage in discussion about the readings that were assigned. Do them before class to be prepared and to help you understand the lectures. Don’t push them off until the last minute, because trying to get them all done the day before an exam isn’t practical and is very stressful.
9. Explore the city!
Austin has so much to offer ranging from live music, nature, museums, art, and food. Studying and focusing on school is very important, but be sure to take study breaks and give yourself time to enjoy life and this city. Austin is the live music capital of the world, so look at the local concert schedules and see some amazing performances! If you’re looking for an escape into nature, take a hike up Mount Bonnell, swim and relax at Hamilton Pool, or play with dogs at Zilker Park. Walk around South Congress and shop it’s cool and quirky shops or excite your inner foodie by trying new restaurants! Some places I highly recommend would be Torchy’s Tacos (Austin favorite, you MUST try the queso!), Home Slice Pizza (wait until you see the size of it), or Austin’s favorite Amy’s Ice cream! Take advantage of all the amazing things that Austin has to offer!
10. Be prepared for the adjustment semester
Most transfer students expect the social life transition to be difficult, but are caught off guard when they begin failing tests and classes for the first time in their lives. This was something very difficult for me, and made me feel like I wasn’t smart enough to attend this school. However, DO NOT let this bring you down. UT chose YOU and accepted you into this university, and knew you were smart enough to succeed in their academic environment. The first semester is the hardest, coming from someone who failed their first round of midterms (I had never gotten below a B in my entire life!). At first I felt alone, discouraged and quite honestly, dumb. But after discussing with other transfers, we were all experiencing the same thing. Even if your grades and GPA drop, you will be able to come back from it. It takes a semester to figure out the study habits that you will need in order to be successful.
My long form digital piece would be a perfect fit for a platform like the Odyssey. The Odyssey is a website that allows students to contribute from colleges across the United States, and include personal pieces that are often relatable to other students and are frequently shared through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. On the home page, it recognizes itself as a platform that “exposes people to broad, honest perspectives on topics [students] care about.” Topics on this platform vary from the best places to visit near a particular campus, advice columns, and funny stories. In addition to this, the Odyssey offers a feature to search for authors and articles by college or school, allowing readers to find and read relatable articles written by students at the same school. This would be a perfect platform because the primary audience is college students, and allows the users to narrow down articles to a specific university. This piece would work successfully for the audience of the Odyssey because transfer students from other schools, along with students transferring into the University of Texas, can read about my personal experience and use it to help them throughout their transfer process. My piece would thrive through the ability to be shared through social media, allowing transfer students to share my advice with one another throughout their difficult transition.