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Feldman ’15: Transfer tribulations

Opinions Columnist
Sunday, April 12, 2015

When the University sent decision letters to applicants to the class of 2019 last week, not every future Brown student received a response. The future members of the transfer classes of 2018 and 2018.5 won’t find out about their application until the middle of May. The process that transfer students experience is completely distinct from that of traditional freshmen and in many ways more challenging. But there are several fundamental changes that could be made to the process to improve students’ transitions to Brown. 

As a transfer student, even I know hardly any of the transfers. I can barely point out the 70 or so transfers who came in my semester, let alone the ones who came in the previous and following semesters. It’s not exactly as though we sport T-shirts distinguishing ourselves. Even if there were such shirts, I highly doubt many transfers would be willing to wear them. To this day I’m still finding out that classmates are transfers based on random conversations about meeting concentration requirements.

In the transfer world, there isn’t exactly a sense of camaraderie. Strengthening this community could go a long way to easing the transfer process.

One of the easiest ways to go about this would be creating specific floors designated for transfer students. There is no way to relive a freshman dorm experience, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a transfer dorm experience. For many freshmen, college is their first extended time away from home, so a freshman dorm functions as a new family.

Transfers, on the other hand, enter a school where a lot of people have already established social circles. Offering transfer students a similar medium to form relationships would help them become comfortable with the school before they began to branch out. Some transfer students might prefer to immediately shed the label of having transferred and want to be randomly assigned housing apart from other transfers. But as someone who was initially assigned housing in Graduate Center with four upperclassmen who didn’t even know each others’ names, I readily benefitted from living in a dorm with students returning from abroad as well as transfers.

In order to ease the transition, more effective advising is also necessary. When transfers arrive on campus, they are assigned concentration advisers and told to schedule a meeting with them while also coordinating meetings with requisite pre-professional counselors. But if the advisers themselves aren’t very receptive, these meetings could be delayed well into shopping period, which is in itself a relatively foreign entity to most transfer students. It took me until the second week of shopping period to get a hold of my adviser, at which point I was advised to pick up CHEM 0360: “Organic Chemistry” after having missed the first three classes. For those who haven’t taken orgo, it’s not exactly a class one wants to start late.

Advising transfer students is equally or even more important than advising first-years. By incorrectly selecting courses, students could be set back further from graduation. Because not all credits from previous universities always transfer over to Brown, graduating college in four years isn’t exactly a guarantee. Fewer credits to start out — combined with less time to complete concentration requirements that might not have been available at a previous university — makes effective advising all the more critical. 

My experience with my initial adviser is in no way indicative of the overall advising system at Brown. I do, however, think it would be extremely beneficial to have certain concentration advisers dedicated specifically to transfer students. Of course these advisers could take on students who began their educations at Brown as well, but it is essential that advisers are specifically trained in how to handle transfer situations and are extremely motivated to help these students in any way possible.

One of the more substantial flaws in the transfer process is that Brown admits transfer students through need-aware admission, rather than through the need-blind admission that applies to domestic, first-year applicants. This makes admitting transfer students not only about the benefits they can give to the academic community, but also about the monetary compensation they can provide.

An easy corollary to draw is the lack of diversity present in the transfer classes due to these obvious socioeconomic biases. Rather than investing in students’ diverse experiences and backgrounds to better the community, the University may very well be investing in the endowment. The process devalues transfer students’ overall achievements that earned them admission. A lot of transfer students come to Brown and continue their many impressive achievements; there shouldn’t be any question that they were admitted based upon their own qualifications and under the same guidelines as every other first-year.   

Transferring schools is an extremely difficult process — having to balance rigorous courses, extracurricular involvement and a brand new environment is by no means an easy task. Nonetheless, the process can be extremely rewarding. Transfer students don’t come here because they just didn’t like their former university; many of them actually enjoyed them and maintain lasting sports rivalries with transfer students from schools in their former conferences. There are countless reasons that students transfer to Brown, including academic programs, geography and class size.

While there are flaws in the transfer process, I would overcome them again to attend Brown. That said, the University needs to do more to ameliorate these obstacles for future transfer applicants and students.

Andrew Feldman ’15 can tell you all about how we was able to successfully mix the colors brown and (Syracuse) orange and can be reached at

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  1. Donill Tadariv says:

    You are patting yourself on the back. Brown University is not at all difficult. That should be obvious. The university president is not intellectual. She is not even smart.

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