CP editorial: Transfer students face challenges, but it is worth the effort to find the right fit

Growing up, I set life goals for myself earlier than most of my friends. And while some of them changed as I got older, one did not. Mizzou was the one dream that stayed constant as I entered high school and began to seriously think about my future.

However, like many kids from rural Missouri, finances soon became a factor. My parents couldn’t help me pay for college, and I had to come to terms with the possibility I likely would not land at Mizzou immediately after graduating from high school. After examining my options, I chose to be responsible with my money and attend a community college using my A+ Scholarship.

I spent two years at Moberly Area Community College, which has a campus roughly 20 miles from my house. While I was able to work full-time while attending school, I never lost sight of getting to Columbia. As a 19-year-old, I couldn’t help but notice that I was missing out on the real college and life experience. Yes, I was attending classes, meeting new people and making connections with some of my professors, but something big was missing. Nearly half of my graduating class had left town for universities throughout the state. There weren’t many of us left at home.

As I watched close friends start to drift away, I began to realize that those were the years and experiences that I could never get back. I kept working, and finally my acceptance letter came. I was going to be a tiger. It didn’t bother me that I would not be spending my first two years of college at Mizzou, that is, until I actually got here.

Summer Welcome came and I arrived on campus bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, knowing that this was where my life would start to take shape. What I was met with, however, was nothing short of disappointment. An optional tour that we had no time for, hastily getting my student ID, and a shockingly impersonal visit with my adviser (my original major was NOT in CAFNR) knocked me out of my daze and into reality. Is this what I would be experiencing for the next two years?

I realized that instead of feeling excited — after I was thrown into a batch of randomly chosen courses for my first semester — I had increased anxiety. This wasn’t the dream that I had cherished since middle school. It took me weeks to come to grips with the fact that maybe MU wasn’t the right fit for me.

I would never be a freshman at Mizzou. MU reported that 6,408 freshmen ran through the columns at Summer Welcome in 2014, and I would never be one of them. Instead, 1,463 of us were thrown into the system assuming that we already knew what we were doing.

Being a transfer student at a large university is demanding, difficult and overwhelming. I was faced with a choice of letting the challenge define me, or rising above it and taking my college experience into my own hands. I realize there are some things I will never get to do, such as run through the columns at Summer Welcome, live in a dorm or search for an open dining hall late at night. However, I feel that I made the best of a situation that could have deterred me from ever taking one class at Mizzou.

As I began to make friends and meet new people, an underlying theme started to appear. Most of the transfer students that I met had encountered similar barriers.

Maggie Glidewell, now a science and agricultural journalism major like myself, went through her own set of transfer difficulties upon arriving at MU. While some of her experiences mirrored my own, such as credits not transferring and finding the overall process frustrating, one incident was even more disappointing.

While the first meeting with my original adviser felt more like a five minute drive-by, Glidewell never had the opportunity to meet her adviser in her original major.

“I requested to meet with someone on campus that I knew,” Glidewell said. “But after I got my schedule at Summer Welcome, I was assigned to my adviser.”

Glidewell never met this person, nor did he or she ever reach out to assist Glidewell’s transition to MU.

While Maggie started out in CAFNR, I happened to find my place in the college by happy accident.

When I first applied to MU, incorporating agriculture into my major was not in my plan. However, a few simple conversations helped me change that. Two of my cousins had graduated from MU, both with majors in CAFNR. After talking with them about my experience, they strongly suggested that I at least take a look at the College and what it had to offer.

From the first time I opened the CAFNR website, I knew that I had found my place. Adding agriculture to my major was an option that I had never considered. However, once I learned that CAFNR offered a way to combine journalism and agriculture, I was hooked.

Like Maggie, I have found a niche inside CAFNR, specifically the science and agricultural journalism department, and it is a place that neither one of us would wish to leave for anything else. Now, as I prepare for my last year at MU, I realize that many other transfer students may be going through the same troubling times I did.

An assumption is made by many academic institutions that a transfer student arrives on campus with more knowledge than does a typical freshman. My experience has taught me this assumption is false.

Most transfer students don’t know where everything is on campus, know their major, know where to park or what they want to do after graduation. We are more like freshmen than any other level of undergraduates.

Over the past two years, I have observed many things that could have helped me in those first few anxiety-filled months before starting my first semester. New students should be open to exploring other colleges and majors across campus. If I had been more curious about alternatives, I might have stumbled across CAFNR sooner. Take time to research all types of majors, classes and clubs. Getting involved in on-campus activities could have helped my transition immensely.

I was lucky to find other transfer students in CAFNR who understood where I was coming from. I can honestly say that without CAFNR, my time at MU would have been completely different. Being a transfer student at a major university doesn’t have to be a burden or a nightmare, it can simply be a way to make a childhood dream come true.

Sarah Goellner

About the Author

My name is Sarah Goellner, and I am currently a science and ag journalism major at the University of Missouri. I received my associate degree from Moberly Area Community College before transferring to MU. I grew up in Palmyra, Missouri, with an older sister, Rebecca. Agriculture has deep roots in my family. My uncles’ and cousins’ farms surrounded my home, and I was always included in the daily activities. I was deeply involved 4-H and FFA throughout my childhood. I have always had an interest in writing and journalism. After graduation, I hope to be able to communicate and market the field of agriculture to a large audience. I am excited to work for Corner Post for the third semester because it will give me more experience needed to pursue my future career. I look forward to adding more stories to my portfolio in order to gain a career in the agricultural marketing field upon graduation.