Dear Beloved Transfers,
Jen, the woman in the Admissions office behind organizing almost every tour, overnight visit, or visit program, fondly refers to me as the Transfer Queen. I've earned that title (which has caught on with a number of students and staff as well) through being involved with pretty much every aspect of the transfer process here. Because this is the very first post about the transfer process, I'll do my best to detail the process as well as I can.
The Hardest Part
The first step, and by far the most difficult for many transfer students, is admitting to themselves that there is a problem. This problem might be the social or academic life at their current school. It might be a bad fit of a specific program, a change in priorities, or, like me, the realization that settling is supremely unsatisfactory when you've found your soul mate [college]. Honestly, this is the part that sucks the most, along with telling those you care about at your original school that you're leaving.
The Application Process
Like any other applicant to Oberlin, you apply through the Common Application website. Transfers fill out the transfer student application, which isn't really much different from the first-year application. (For those that have applied to Oberlin in the previous few years: yes, Admissions has your application materials from then, but yes, we do still want you to complete the entire application and re-submit your high school transcript. We want as full of a picture of you as we can get.) You may be worrying about what we're looking for in transfer applicants. Well, we like students that really want to be here, at Oberlin College. We want you to be sure that you'll fit here, and we want to know why Oberlin works better for you than your old school. You don't have to hate your old school; we understand that some places just aren't the right fit, for whatever reason. I personally understand that when you're at a place where you don't fit, you may not be inspired enough to excel academically. We'd like to see that you are capable of doing the work here, so if your grades from your other school aren't stellar, convince us with your essay.
As far as deadlines go, the application deadline is later for transfer applicants than for freshman applicants. The date freshman decision letters should arrive is April 1st, whereas the transfer letters might go out anywhere between March 25th and May 1st.
You got in! You're coming to OBERLIN!! What now?
Well, early in the summer you'll receive The Big Book Of Forms. This is capitalized because the name of this book is The Big Book of Forms. It says so on the cover. This exciting item of literature, a gift from your friendly Dean of Studies Office, will include lots of important pieces of paper we'd like you to fill out and return. Included in that is a housing form. You have all the usual housing options available to you except First Year Experience dorms. However, you're in luck because instead of being treated like someone who's never been to college before, you have the opportunity to live on the Transfer Hall and be treated like you have! You'll also have an RA who transferred in previously, live with other transfers (which gives an incredible chance to build "Wow, I was unhappy there, but now I'm HERE" solidarity), and have all the new-student bonding of a freshman dorm without its being assumed that you know next to nothing about living in a dorm. If you'd rather live somewhere else on campus, like in a program house or a co-op, that's completely okay, too. But make sure you get that form filled out!
When orientation time comes, you notice that everyone's being called a first-year. That's a flexible term that in some instances means anyone here at Oberlin for the first time and sometimes means just freshpersons. Never to fear! All the transfer students will be assigned the same Academic Ambassador who will help you navigate orientation and your first semester, especially when it comes to registering for classes as a transfer.
Registering for classes scares the crap out of most transfers. Will the credits transfer cleanly? Will I have to take that dreaded math or English class again? OMG THE FRESHMEN ARE PRE-REGISTERED FOR CLASSES AND I'M NOT REGISTERED FOR ANY?!?! Whoa. Take a breather. Almost all of almost everyone's classes in the last 3 years transferred. I know this because I sat in the meeting every year with the Registrar and her assistants as transfer students found out what credits had come in. They very carefully review your transcripts and transfer in as much as is remotely possible as general credit. It is up to you to go to the head of departments to get specific credit in that department--generally only necessary if you've already done work towards your hoped-for major and/or something you transferred in needs to be a prerequisite for another class. You have the first few months of school to do this, so don't sweat it too hard. Professors know that transferring in can be confusing, and so if you e-mail them, they'll probably give you a break and consent you into that class you really need to take immediately. Yes, the freshmen pre-register for classes. But as a transfer, you'll probably have an earlier on-campus registration time during orientation than they do, and one of the two classes they pre-registered for was a first-year seminar, which you probably aren't taking. Calmer now? I promise that your Academic Ambassador will be an expert on this. Further, once you figure out how to get on PRESTO, the student records system, your transcript there will show your transfer credits as soon as the Registrar's office gets them figured out, probably weeks before you get to campus.
Well, after orientation, you'll be an Oberlin student. You, like many other students, will have a unique background of experiences; yours will just include having been at another school. You'll run into other transfer and former transfer students. (You'll be surprised at how many of us there are around and how involved we are. We're kinda like the Masons. Except not.) The RA of the transfer hall, Academic Ambassador for transfers, and the Transfer Student Association will be available to help you out and will keep you up to date on any transfer student specific events going on. I'll always, always be willing to answer questions here or via my e-mail at brandi-dot-ferrebee-at-oberlin-dot-edu. After all, I am always willing to serve my subjects.