Behind the transfer

Changes made to transfer student orientation ease the transition to Muhlenberg

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2018 Orientation Leaders preparing for the orientation weekend. \\ Photo Courtesy of Muhlenberg College

On Friday, Aug. 24, 29 new transfer students arrived on campus to begin their transition to the Muhlenberg community. With last year’s transfer move-in day occuring on a Saturday, the decision to have the students settle on campus a day early on Friday was one of the many alterations made to the transfer student orientation program.

“The goal was to model [transfer orientation] after the freshmen orientation, with an understanding that these students have been on a college campus before,” explained Eric Thompson, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions.

Thompson credits Jan Schumacher, Associate Dean of Students & Director of Student Engagement, for leading the shift of orientation “to be more intentional and more inclusive with the incoming transfer students.”

“One of the important differences is [transfer students] are not new students; instead, they are new to Muhlenberg College,” explained Schumacher. “They don’t necessarily need all the programming geared to help with the transition from high school to college, but they do need to understand this campus and what is unique about Muhlenberg.”

Besides an earlier move-in day, another difference between last year’s transfer orientation compared to this year was the addition of orientation groups, which was similar to the structure of freshmen orientation. With that being said, it is important to note that there are differences between transfer students and first-year students, or freshmen.

Distinguishing between freshmen and transfer students was a key factor in appropriately separating their respective orientations. Schumacher had a vital role in enhancing transfer student orientation, and generally working to identify these distinctions between freshmen and transfers.

“Our initial discussions had been to determine how to expand the orientation so it was meaningful for transfer students and not completely repetitive of what they may have experienced at a previous school,” said Schumacher.  “We worked with Orientation Leaders to lead the transfer student groups”

In addition to just Orientation Leaders, there was also a collaboration between past transfer students, Admissions counselors, Student Engagement and Residential Services.

“It has been a while since my own orientation experience so this is modeled based on hearing feedback from some transfer students in my former role as Director of Residential Services about their transition,” said Schumacher.

In terms of receiving up-to-date feedback from this year’s orientation, a survey was sent out to all of the transfer students who participated in orientation. With Orientation Leaders playing a vital role in the planning of orientation, they will also continue to give feedback on how they thought it turned out this year.

A committee will also continue to review and reflect on this year’s orientation program, and the hope is that it will continue to improve as the years progress.

“While the overall weekend went well, I think success is evident in the students engaging with each other and their OLs both through education and social programming,” said Schumacher, reflecting on her own thoughts about the orientation weekend. “Students come into the transition process in different places of comfort but if they leave the weekend feeling like they know the campus, what is expected of them, have made a friend or two and look forward to starting classes, that is success too.”

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