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at the University of Central Florida, it's easy to get lost in the crowd. As a transfer student, it's even easier to feel like you're out of the loop or just not part of the UCF community. I transferred to UCF in 2010 after attending a local community college and was excited to get the chance to have a “real college experience.” I attended the transfer student orientation, as is required, but afterward I felt like something was missing. At the orientation they talked about choosing a major and how to get good grades and where to get a student ID card—but that was it. There was only one campus tour offered and it was so early in the morning that it quickly became an unattractive option. Also, the transfer student website they provided during the orientation didn't articulate the campus culture well. It didn't mention how to get involved on campus, or how to find events on campus. The limited information I did find on these topics was buried deep in the website at the end of an online PowerPoint. I went into the orientation thinking that I'd be given resources that would introduce me to what I was sure would be a colorful and broad campus lifestyle. Instead, I felt clueless and like I was on my own—the black sheep of UCF students. Now I'm in my third and final year at UCF and I still have, more or less, the same sentiment. I was finally able to branch out slightly and get involved in a club related to my major, but I still have the sinking feeling that I missed out on so much more. In my entire three
years on this campus, I've attended only one football game, have never stayed on campus for any event or activity related reason, and still feel totally lost when it comes to mapping out my courses. At my community college I felt much more in control because of the information I had, but here I feel like I'm just letting things run their course. From speaking to other students who've transferred to UCF in the middle of their college careers, I've found that this feeling is mostly shared by these peers. We go to school, study, and return home. Non-transfer students, who enter UCF as freshmen, seem to have the upper-hand. Because they're on the UCF campus for 4 years (instead of the 2 year duration common for transfer students) they have much more time to get accustomed to the UCF campus. Not only that, but their orientations are much more in-depth. They arrive on campus in the early morning, take a campus tour, meet with current UCF students, get information about the campus, and don't end up leaving until around 10 p.m. This scenario is vastly different compared to the short, transfer orientation which is presented over lunch. This is especially disappointing because transfer students need to get all of the information they can as quickly as they can. Because they're only on campus for a few short years, they don't have as much time to figure out what they want to get involved in, what's offered, and how to get involved in it. Many transfer students want to get involved, but the expansive campus is intimidating. I think that if UCF did a better job of acculturating new transfers, these students would be getting more involved with the campus. Additionally, UCF would be able to benefit from this involvement as well. Helping transfer students get more involved and feel as though they identify with UCF would generate more school spirit in an untapped audience, more word of mouth advertising for the campus, and
more students getting involved in research studies or programs that could be beneficial to the campus. Furthermore, knowing how to navigate the courses and which academic resources are available to them could help more transfer students graduate faster, allowing more room for incoming freshmen and a less congested campus. Being aware of these resources could also help transfer students identify which scholarships are available to them so that they can graduate faster and with less debt. Getting them these scholarships can also help the school to bolster its credibility as a relatively young educational institution. Overall, I think creating a better initiation process for new transfers would be beneficial to both the students and the university as a whole. I don't doubt that the information these transfer students are looking for is being supplied somewhere, but I do feel that it is inaccessible. Most of it is really difficult to find because it's not all located in one, streamlined, easy to understand space. UCF is a large campus, so it often takes a lot of “hunting” before students can find the information they're looking for. This is especially problematic for transfer students. Not only do they have to hunt for information, they also don't know where to begin hunting. If I were to address this civic engagement issue, this would be the first, and main, problem I would solve. I would streamline the initiation process by creating a new online resource for UCF transfer students. This online resource would cut out the hunting process and serve as a “one stop shop” for all campus-related activities for transfer students. The website would include a history of UCF, a list of student clubs and organizations and how to get involved in them, an events calendar, information about sports and sporting events, an academic assistance page, a financial assistance/scholarship information page, and a page that lists all of the resources UCF makes available to its students (such as counseling and dietician services). Most importantly, I would make this information easy to navigate and access
by giving each topic its own page on the website. The pages would be accessible through easily identifiable tabs. The site would also have an instant messaging feature built in where transfer students can speak with knowledgable, involved students about any questions they may have on getting involved or making the transition as a new student. It would also include a discussion board where students can share their transfer experiences and meet other transfer students as a way to network and make new friends. Finally, it would provide an easy to use campus map with labeled pictures of each building, along with the features each building offers. For instance, some buildings have great study spots, others offer free scan trons or have tutoring services. I believe this multimodal approach would help students feel more connected to their campus, would foster student involvement, and would bolster school spirit. I think this technique will tackle the problem that UCF is having at acculturating transfer students to campus. Of course, another one of the problems is getting enough attention surrounding the site for students to find and use this resource to its fullest potential. Ideally, UCF could include information about the site in packets sent to new transfer students. The current transfer student website could also put the link on the homepage of its website. Also, social media is commonly used among transfer students and would be a good way to spread the message. I think Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr would all be good social media outlets to use in order to reach these new transfers. By “Liking” or “Following” these outlets, students would be getting constant information about upcoming events and ways to get involved, with links back to the site with more information as appropriate. I’m confident that by spreading the message in this way and providing all of this information in one, centralized location, UCF will be able to solve this problem and make its transfer students feel more welcomed and more involved. I do also feel that UCF should also
have a better orientation for its transfer students, but an improved website would be beneficial for the time being. If UCF does decide to examine and improve its transfer orientation, the website could be used during the transition and would still be a useful tool afterwards.
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