by Tyler English | published Oct. 14th, 2018
The RIT student body is a diverse community, with different subsets of students who have all found a home here. One such subset is transfer students — whether that be a student who completed an associate degree, attended a previous university for another program or an adult student who is returning to school or continuing their education.
Transfer students can be found across all programs and colleges. The biggest difference between a transfer student and a first year student's experience is actually quite simple. A majority of the first year students are experiencing new freedoms and responsibilities for the first time. Transfer students, while new to RIT, are not new to the college world. They know how college works and most of the time have already grasped the freedom that comes from attending college. Whether that be a job or a solid friend group, transfer students have a different view on what it means to come here.
The students who come into RIT as transfers bring a wide variety of experiences. Whether that be living in the local Rochester area and attending a community college before fully finding one's calling, to transferring to a completely new country and adjusting to an entirely new culture. With such diversity in the transfer community, their stories of how they each found their home here are just as diverse.
From MCC to RIT
Monica Steelman, a second year Graphic Design major, attended Monroe Community College (MCC) for her first two years of undergraduate studies. She is the president of the Hand Lettering Club and an orientation leader.
“RIT is the place you go for graphic design in Rochester,” Steelman said about realizing where she truly wanted to take her career after MCC.
For her first year at RIT, Steelman chose to attend the new student orientation along with other first year students.
“Having done college already, I was already aware of how to manage my classes and my newly found freedom of college,” said Steelman.
By first attending MCC, Steelman suggested that she was more prepared to commit to a program at such a large and diverse university.
“RIT is a big commitment and knowing that I was certain I wanted to pursue graphic design, I knew I needed to transfer here to finish my degree,” Steelman said. “By going to MCC and then transferring to RIT, I knew I was truly following the career that I wanted. And I was more willing to commit to my program."
Her transfer experience went just as well as one could expect transferring schools — a little rocky. However, if she could change her decision, she wouldn't. According to Steelman, finding her place here makes everything she had to go through to get here worth it.
Rakshanda Jha, a fourth year Bioinformatics major, is also a transfer student. Similar to Steelman, Jha transferred from MCC to RIT.
“I was there for a year and then I switched to RIT,” Jha said. As an international student, Jha did not feel prepared to attend a large university when she first got here.
“I came here with my father, who also finished his fourth master’s from RIT,” said Jha. Instead of wasting time before committing to a university, Jha took credits at MCC with a focus in health science. During her time there Jha quickly discovered she wanted to pursue bioinformatics.
“When I was looking at the bioinformatics program at RIT, I fell in love with the fact that it was so high in computing and biotech. It was perfect for me,” said Jha, drawn to RIT because both her curiosity for computing and her love for biology were being expressed in the program.
Not only was Jha drawn to the bioinformatics major, but she was also drawn to the diversity of the RIT student population. With a wide variety of cultures and countries represented on one campus, RIT provides a welcoming community for international students.
“When I walked onto campus the first time, I saw a lot of bricks. This made me think of home,” said Jha. “In India, we don’t have houses that are made of wood, we have houses that are made of cement or bricks.”
Having moved around a lot as a child, Jha experienced many different homes but a majority of the homes she grew up in were made of bricks. Even though the program was her first priority, the atmosphere made Jha feel that she belonged here and had a home at RIT.
Making the Choice
According to Steelman and Jha, deciding to transfer to a new school and commit the next three to four years of their lives to a new community was a big decision. They both took the time and effort to make sure that RIT was the right place for them. By taking tours of the campus and looking into what their respective programs had to offer, both Steelman and Jha knew they wanted to become RIT Tigers.
RIT has numerous different courses and demands a lot from its students. For these two transfer students, it was a big commitment to attend a difficult university. However, after visiting campus and seeing what RIT could do for her, Jha made the choice to become a Tiger.
Factors such as diversity and specificity are what drew Steelman and Jha to RIT. Whether it be the feeling of being at home or knowing that your career will be taken to the next level, RIT can draw in prospective students, not only by showing students what RIT can offer them but by showing them that they can thrive here and make the most out of their college careers.
Struggles of being a Transfer
Before transferring, Steelman and Jha had to confront several questions about academics. Which credits would transfer in? What classes would they have to retake? What would their credits count for in the RIT catalog? These were just some of the pressing questions that Steelman and Jha wanted answered before making their final decision. Through speaking with the administration, they were able to see which credits were accepted into RIT and where they applied. This process is what gives transfer students their year status.
Steelman spoke on the issue of credits.
“Coming into RIT, I needed to know where my credits were going and what classes would be covered,” she said. Staying on track with her degree was crucial to Steelman. Not wanting to fall behind or have to play catch-up with core classes, Steelman was adamant about her credits, ensuring that everything she took at MCC and her credits from high school followed her to RIT.
Steelman also spoke about needing to know the ins and outs of being an RIT student. Things such as where to print for free, what buildings are open after 11 p.m., and how to schedule an appointment with your advisor, are things that Steelman wishes she had someone to guide her through.
“The biggest struggle for us transfer students is to answer one question; what year are you,” said Jha. She then explained how at RIT, students are judged on their year level rather than their level of credits.
“It changes how people look at you,” Jha said. “If someone hears you say that you are a transfer, you are looked at as if you are different sometimes.” As a transfer, you can have the same number of credits, if not more, than your peers. However, due to transferring, saying what year you are can be tricky.
This being her third year at RIT, Jha has the credit equivalent of a fourth year in her program and is on track with fourth year bioinformatic majors. However, due to being a transfer student, she has to stay an extra semester after her classmates to finish her credits.
“I don’t get to say I am a part of the 2019 graduating class since I am due to graduate in the coming fall semester,” said Jha.
Another struggle that Jha explained is the things that transfer students miss out on. “The graduate gala that graduating students get to attend sends out an invitation — I didn’t get one,” she said. Even though Jha is a member of the graduating class, she cannot attend the gala due to her having to finish credits for an extra semester. If Jha wants to attend the gala, she will have to wait until spring 2020 and have to return a semester after graduating.
Overcoming the Struggle
Both Steelman and Jha suggested that the addition of a Transfer Student Senator to Student Government could give the transfer student community a voice.
“A transfer student who has gone through the transition to RIT and is willing to help others with the questions that they had when they first became a Tiger,” said Steelman.
Jha was in agreement.
“We have a senator for everything, women’s senator, college senators for expressing the concerns and being the voice of those people,” she said. “It is such a small thing. It is one position. It is for such a large population who have been struggling through numerous problems that are still being ignored and a lot of people don’t know about.”
Jha also suggested a year plan for transfer students — one that would show transfer students how many years they will be spending at RIT. She suggested that there could also be a way for students to clearly see what credits will transfer in, and what courses they will cover.
This time map could heavily affect whether or not a student decides to transfer.
Transfer students are another community here at RIT that are proud to call it home. Leaving their respective universities to come here has been a big decision for Jha and Steelman, but they love RIT just as much as any other student.
Whether it be the bricks that remind students of home or the promise of exciting courses in your specialty, RIT prides itself on being open to students of all perspectives and backgrounds. Whether you attend a university and plan to transfer to another institution like Steelman, or are still finding your passion and true career path like Jha, RIT is willing to guide students in the right direction.