By Donna Smith | University Communications and Marketing
It took USF senior Katelyn Mackay a couple of years to find her way to the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, earning credits at two other colleges before transferring in the fall of 2022. Overwhelmed by the process of figuring out which credits would count towards her psychology major, she sought help from a USF transfer advisor, who helped her sort through her transcripts and make a plan to get her past the finish line.
“It was a big move, but I got so much support and reassurance that I was able to take a deep breath and take things step by step,” said Mackay, who is one of more than 13,000 transfer students enrolled at USF this fall. “I also learned about the resources available related to extra-curricular and volunteer opportunities and graduate school advising.”
Oct. 16-20 is National Transfer Student Week, and dozens of events are planned on all three USF campuses to celebrate transfer students like Mackay and highlight all the ways USF is working to enhance their experience by offering pathways, support and fellowship to empower them for success.
This fall, transfer students make up about 27 percent of the student body. About half of them arrive at USF with associate degrees, with 87 percent of those degrees earned within the Florida College System. These numbers are due in large part to transfer agreements between USF and FCS institutions.
USF offers several pathway programs to transfer students. For example, Fuse provides guaranteed admission to select USF majors for students who complete an associate degree at a participating FCS institution. USF Pearls is available to students who have lived in the foster care system.
Other programs on the St. Petersburg campus like Pinellas Access to Higher Education (Pathe), Community Scholars, UMatter and Call Me Mister offer even more targeted support and pathways to enrollment at USF.
Transfer students have a range of backgrounds, with broad variations in age, previous college experience and current life situations. Joyner Atiles-Lopez, assistant director of New Student Experience at USF St. Petersburg, says USF uses data to meet the needs of such a varied student population.
“Our transfer students are at different stages in their knowledge of how to navigate a state institution and need individualized attention and programs that meet their specific needs,” Atiles-Lopez said. “We tailor services to the needs of each individual by collecting key demographic information that is accessible to any service that may be crafting initiatives for transfer students or to whom a transfer student might be reaching out to for help.”
Mary Cruz, a Fuse program graduate, graduated in May 2021 with her bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from the Judy Genshaft Honors College. She says the advice she received in the Fuse program made her transfer process easy.
“Fuse advising helped me put what I wanted in perspective,” said Cruz, who is now working on her master’s degree in health care administration at Tulane University. “I always knew where I stood and what was coming next.”
According to Jonathan Lee, associate director of the Office of Transfer Student Success, once students transfer to USF, their needs shift from transfer to getting acclimated and socially integrated on campus. While his office offers academic advising, groups such as the Transfer Student Organization and Transfer Engagement and Achievement Mentorship provide peer mentoring by trained transfer students who have completed a year at USF. Transfer students also have their own honor society, Tau Sigma, which recognizes and promotes academic excellence and campus involvement among them.
“It can be very daunting to arrive on a university campus after being online or at a community college,” Lee said. “These peer programs give them the opportunity to meet other transfer students who can fill them in on things like the best places to study or eat, and just share their experiences.”
Mackay was inducted into Tau Sigma last spring, and now serves as the organization’s president. She hopes that transfer students will take the opportunity to attend some events during Transfer Student week, as her biggest goal is to get new transfers engaged in campus life.
“Often among transfer students, the main focus is just to get that degree. In that mindset, it’s easy to get lost in the process and not take advantage of what USF has to offer. It’s so worthwhile to become involved. I went from not knowing anyone to becoming involved and meeting new friends and even taking a study abroad trip.”