To my incoming transfers, I understand your feelings and anxieties – immersion into a new school can be disorienting, to say the least.
Fortunately, some programs are attempting to help.
The Transfer Center and Residential Life are separate entities on campus but collaborate on events geared towards bringing new transfers together. And while they may serve different purposes, they both serve as a lifeline for incoming transfers on a massive campus of about 45,000.
If only they could provide for the diversity that is the transfer student community.
Although these groups do what they can to help, transfer students remain woefully unsupported by the university. As it stands, UCLA needs to further accommodate transfer students from all different academic timelines through more extensive outreach. Doing so will help streamline a fruitful transfer experience at UCLA, especially given that incoming transfer students come from extreme variances in a diversity of backgrounds.
And outreach is more necessary than ever. The rates of transfer students only seem to be growing, with 5,575 transfer students admitted last fall. And with more students being admitted, changing demographics continue to redefine how we typically view who students are in the first place.
Universities understand this, but there remains a chasm between the UC’s ideas for transfer students and their outcomes.
Heather Adams, the Transfer Student Program Director, said in an email statement that their events were very successful and tend to reach many transfers – both commuter students and those that live on campus.
But that’s not how some transfers feel.
Unfortunately, advertising for these events on the Hill seem to fall on deaf ears. And as the school year goes on, Natalie Vargas, a transfer and former resident assistant, said attendance numbers dwindle even further.
For transfer commuters, attending these events and getting involved on the Hill is even more arduous. And with transfer students often living off-campus or commuting, the concept of Hill events might seem counterintuitive to creating a stronger community.
Samantha Kaplan, a fourth-year chemistry material science student and commuter, said it is difficult to attend because of the distance between her classes in South campus and the Hill, as well as the inconvenient timing of events.
“I don’t want to trek up the Hill and spend an hour or two and then have to come back down to get to my bus stop, it’s a bit tiring,” Kaplan said.
Because the transfer community is so diverse, with about 83% of fall 2018 transfers being in-state students that are more likely to be commuters, the Transfer Center and ResLife needs to account for the ease of accessibility to those commuter students that don’t live on the Hill. If they don’t bridge the gap among transfer experiences, these students will continue to be underserved and neglected, leaving a whole community at UCLA in disconnect.
Vargas said she noted how transfers are much more ambitious about joining clubs and becoming immersed in strong communities.
“You feel like your time here is limited so you don’t want to waste your time doing things that aren’t advantageous to you or feel like you aren’t going to benefit off those things,” Vargas said.
Outreach and advertising by the Transfer Center and ResLife for transfer specific events can help alleviate the pressure to find their place or maximize their opportunities in those two years.
But even with efforts, some of these advertising methods simply aren’t resonating with students – even those who live in the close-knit community of the Hill.
“[Flyers] are what I see the most, but if it was another person who was talking to me about it, then it would definitely be more impactful,” said Thomas Her, a fourth-year chemistry/materials science student. “Building that personal connection would make me more likely to go.”
In Her’s situation, methods of advertising like flyers and social media posts come off as impersonal and detached – making them easier to ignore or miss.
Whether it be through more advertising or outreach, more effort from UCLA is necessary to support its students. For students on the Hill, more personal approaches are a necessity – in-person conversational efforts might do the trick. For those living off-campus or commuting, the university should work to cater to their needs – whether that be stronger off-campus outreach or an increase in apartment-based events. And for nontraditional students – whether they have full-time jobs, families or other commitments – UCLA would do well to further accommodate their unique schedules.
Kaplan suggested planning a social event focused on bringing commuters and on-campus transfers together would prove beneficial.
“Perhaps something larger and more expansive that includes a lot of fun activities and food,” Kaplan said. “If you’re going to make us stay on campus, perhaps including a meal as well.”
Little changes that are more accessible to other members of the transfer community could make a big difference in the participation of a greater variety of students.
Granted, ResLife and the Transfer Center are hoping to change for the better. People like Vargas are strategically considering what will appeal to transfers – a three-part system of fliers, social media and personal invitations to events is one example. And with ResLife implementing newsletters and end-of-year surveys, it seems like a genuine effort to adjust for previous shortcomings.
But despite these improvements, UCLA still has a long way to go. Admitting to their problems with outreach is the first step, but in order to bring the transfer community together, the university needs to fortify its own relationship with historically neglected transfer students. To resolve the gaps between a diverse transfer community, UCLA needs to tailor the transfer experience beyond a one-size-fits-all.
Transfers only have two short years at UCLA.
They shouldn’t have to spend it waiting around for a sense of community.