Deputy Arts Editor Adam Kluge and Managing Editor Caroline Mullooly start the new semester with tips and tricks for the transfer community.
The Bwog Transfer Squad is back and ready to share how to succeed as a Barnumbia transfer, without really trying too hard.
The academic transition into CU can be challenging at first, but it is also an opportunity for growth. Our biggest tip is that it is okay to ask for help. You have so many resources around you at one of the world’s greatest universities, so why not use them! Dean Kuan Tsu and Dean Hershberger want to help make your transition to CU as seamless as possible and are here to help with any questions regarding advising and course registration. Your professors hold office hours because they’re excited to talk to students outside of class, and attending them can help you digest the material or break down a new concept. There are also tutoring resources like the Writing Center and the Center for Student Advising. We know this semester is not the same as the one you had envisioned, but there are still resources available to help you thrive.
There’s a variety of ways to find course materials. For those in the Morningside Heights area, most people use Book Culture or the Columbia University Bookstore. Book Culture is an independent bookstore; however, if you like to rent textbooks—especially used textbooks for the cheaper costs—the CU bookstore is your best bet. You can also use the Facebook groups, Buy | Sell | Trade at Barnard and Columbia University Buy Sell, to get books from people in the area. You can also check to see if books are available electronically. Sincerely, I spent $20 on textbooks last semester for a full course load.
Sources for finding ebooks:
- CLIO: The school’s library catalog.
- NYPL: Get a NYPL library card, and you can easily rent ebooks.
At the end of the day, everyone is in the same boat when it comes to academics here—no matter how put together they seem. The person that magically knows the answers in class may have spent the whole day cramming, and the person that epitomizes sprezzatura may have been holed up one too many nights in Butler that they’re starting to see visions of the 1920’s light fixtures. The important thing is to keep your head above water and find a ~healthy~ balance that works for you.
Registering for classes as a transfer can be SUCH a pain! Transfer students register later than returning students during their first semester at CU, so the registration experience tends to cause a few more headaches. Ali Keenan (BC ‘22) said that transfer registration can be “stressful” because “the way the waitlist works is probably [differs from your old school] that doesn’t have a shopping period.” To clarify, you have three waitlist spots you can use during registration. If a class is full during your registration time, you can “waitlist” it by clicking the waitlist button. CU also has a shopping period, where you can test-drive, add, and drop classes at the beginning of each semester. Shopping period usually lasts two weeks, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and online classes, it was only one week for the Fall 2020 semester. Collier Nammack Curran (BC’20) had a similar experience with shopping period. “I was shocked that people would “shop” classes,” said Curran. “At my first school, no one shopped classes, so when I got to Barnard I had trouble registering and was scared of being shut out of everything I wanted to take.” While the fear of not getting any classes you enjoy is real and valid, there’s also a lot of movement that takes place during shopping period. “Don’t freak out if you get waitlisted for a lot of classes,” recommends Keenan, “if it’s a class for your major you can “pull the transfer card” and talk to the professor to help you get in.”
The Transfer Card™ is our biggest secret weapon, but its power tends to fade the longer we’re here. By emailing a professor before school starts to express interest in the class, you make sure that you are on their radar. Pulling the transfer card and reminding them that you have inherently less time here than the rest of the student body can put you over the edge and move you from “waitlisted” to “registered.” Keenan also recommends that new transfers contact the department of their intended major as soon as possible, because “you may have to retake a class for your major, even if you took it at your previous college and you want to do that sooner rather than later.” Cora Ko (BC ‘21) also wishes she knew about CULPA before registering for classes, as she “checked RateMyProfessors and Barnard/Columbia’s directory was practically non-existent.” CULPA, or the Columbia University Listing of Professor Ability, is a student-run platform that acts as our own RateMyProfessors. In our experiences, the majority of CULPA reviews have been somewhat accurate, so it’s a good idea to check them when choosing your classes, even to get a sense of how many assignments a class will require. A former Columbia College student suggests new transfers should “use caution” when taking classes with famous professors. While famous profs can have “outstanding research” and be experts in their fields, this former Lion says that “it is far better to take a class with someone who teaches well than someone who is just well-known.” They also say that it’s important to note that there are other professors who are “very famous and very good teachers…[such as] Don Green and Sunil Gulati.” If you’re a Barnard transfer, you may also want to check the Snowbird list, which details which classes offered each semester fulfill Foundations.
Adjusting to life on campus can feel daunting as a transfer student, especially when it comes to navigating the unique social cultures that serve to both uplift and confuse one institution of higher learning from another. Take, for example, the ivy-clad, Brooks Brothers-wearing societies that seem to coalesce on the lawns in Cambridge. While this same air of snobbish academia might exist in certain pockets of Columbia’s campus (see: the Butler Library Reserves), there is also the refreshing reminder that the students who choose to matriculate at Columbia—either as first-year students, transfer students, or graduate students—are at least somewhat attracted to the more eccentric, bohemian flair of New York City. After all, you can’t exactly erect a campus in the middle of Manhattan, just adjacent to Harlem, and not expect the culture to infiltrate the gates at 116th Street. Basically, there is an eclectic culture that exists at Columbia that provides spaces for just about any interest, hobby, extracurricular, or talent to convene. The key, especially as a transfer, is to really seek out these opportunities.
Find the clubs that are the most active. Explore the many exteriors to find the steps on campus most suitable for your lunch break. As Pia Deshpande (CC ‘20) encourages, “Make use of the lawns when the weather is nice and prospective students flood campus. They will be tarped up the majority of the rest of the year.” Attend the virtual transfer mixers that Undergraduate Student Life is sure to throw (seriously, just go to one). As Ali Keenan (BC ‘22) says, “To make friends, try to join clubs that are more active. It’s much harder to make friends in a club that meets once a week, has a conversation, and then everyone leaves.” It is, as Keenan observes, vital to explore “a club that has multiple events a week, where people [might] go and get dinner after.” And, to that point, there really is no better way to make friends at Columbia than through the proverbial action of breaking bread. Even in virtual times, don’t discount the potential of a spontaneous Zoom Happy Hour or Zoom Ice Cream Social to unearth honest conversation and create lasting friendships.
It is also important to remember the following three things, which I learned in my first week as a transfer student:
- There is a reason you chose Columbia. Whether it was the location, the academics, the allure of JJ’s Place and pancakes at 2 am, there is a part of you that fits perfectly within our eccentric tapestry of misfits and renegade dreamers. (Okay, a little Perks of Being a Wallflower of me, but you get the point) Embrace the things you are interested in, and there will always be a community waiting for you on the other side.
- There are a lot of other transfer students on campus, and I would bet anything that they too, are looking for a friend to socialize with as they adjust to life at Columbia. As one recent graduate of Columbia College says, “There are actually quite a lot of transfers on Columbia’s campus. Talk to them! They’ll be able to share your experience in a way other students just can’t.” Being a transfer provides you with a unique gift: there are at least several other students in the same boat as you. And, let’s face it, we could all use a friend at the start of a major change.
- NSOP and your first weeks on campus do not define your ability to make friends. You may find your closest confidant in a rehearsal for a performance weeks before the end of the Fall Semester. You might meet a future bridesmaid at the start of your senior year, or discover that someone from your hometown is also attending Columbia. The point is, opportunities exist far and beyond NSOP, and you will never be without a chance to get involved and meet a new community of students. Attend activity fairs, check out Bwog’s ClubHops, and audition for a cappella groups or dance groups.
Love to argue? Columbia Debate Society.
Avid consumer of all things POLITICO? Columbia Political Union.
Reformed Class Clown? Try-out for Late Nite or Fruit Paunch Improv.
Seriously, there are over 500 clubs across campus, and they would all be lucky to have you. As Talia Rosen (BC ‘22) puts it, “I would want my past self to know that there are tons of opportunities beyond NSOP to make friends, and putting so much pressure to have everything perfect in that first week only makes it harder. It’s okay to take time to find your place and get settled, and it’s okay to not feel like you have it all figured out right away.” A word of caution though: try to get involved early. The club food chain can be a bit overwhelming, especially in the first several weeks of classes, and having an idea of the types of groups you want to be a part of and shooting your shot, for lack of a better expression, as early as possible is key. If you don’t believe me, take it from Jerry Zheng (CC ‘22), another transfer student, who says “I wish I was more proactive at the beginning of the semester in terms of reaching out to people and meeting new people…being a transfer means you really just have to be more proactive and outgoing than you would’ve had you come in freshman year.”
The first several weeks adjusting to a new campus atmosphere, especially during these strange times when so much will be conducted virtually, can be especially overwhelming for transfer students. But remember, you chose Columbia and Columbia chose you. This is a new chance to spread your wings, seek out new opportunities, meet new people, and really embrace the college experience. Spencer Bruce (CC ‘21) sums it up perfectly:
“It’s okay to miss your old university, but don’t look back on your decision to transfer with regret or remorse! You made the best, most informed decision that you had at the time. Don’t let people make you feel like you’re behind, since transfer students have been through the first year scaries already.”
Seriously, you’ve got this.
In a pre-pandemic world, only Barnard transfers struggled to find housing as Barnard does not guarantee housing for transfer students, but as the COVID-19 pandemic has limited lodging at both schools, many students have ventured off-campus.
The two greatest factors in finding a place off-campus are pricing and who you’re living with. Roommates can help cut the costs, but you also want to make sure potential roomies follow COVID protocols as much as you do. There’s nothing scarier than a roommate seeing a different group of people every night in the middle of a global pandemic.
New York City rentals can also be a hassle. Peyton Yen (BC ‘20) shared that she “got screwed over by a broker…[and] transfer students should educate themselves about off-campus housing.” Peyton also suggested contacting Barnard’s Athena Center for help. We also recommend checking out the off-campus housing Facebook groups for roommates and apartments, such as Columbia Off Campus No Fee and Low Fee Apartments.
Ah, imposter syndrome. A very real, very frustrating, often disheartening phenomenon that can run rampant within the Columbia community. As a transfer student, I would be lying if I said the fear of not belonging, or meeting the rigor of the school, can feel like a constant burden in the first several weeks on campus. Admittedly, many students carry at least a grain of this with them the entire time they are in college, regardless of the institution they attend.
But, hey: it’s normal. We all feel it, transfer or otherwise. It’s not always easy to feel you are meeting the standards set by professors in each course, or performing to your fullest potential in every rehearsal or athletic practice. This is a part of life, a part of adjusting to college, and a part of finding your place as a transfer student. However, it is likely that the other students around you also carry their own insecurities. Whether it be about money, intelligence, figure, or relationships, there can often seem an endless parade of concerns and fears that burrow into the mind of a college student. And yet, through it all, one thing ties us all together:
We are all at Columbia. We have all been accepted. We all possess traits that were deemed unique, and special, and important to allow our campus community to grow. We are, in the most dramatized way, each a key part of Columbia’s ongoing success.
In many ways, it is the very culture you are creating that causes you doubt. So, rather than shy away from the pressures and lack of familiarity that can come with transferring to a new institution, seek out the ways in which your addition to campus might alter a certain club; expand an existing friend group; bring light to a performance, or a smile to a professor’s face. It is a bit cliche, but it is true that Columbia uses a holistic process when determining which transfer students to accept. You weren’t picked on accident—trust me. That’s not to say that moments of self-doubt aren’t a normal part of life on campus. There are wealth and power in the Columbia community, and it can absolutely create an implicit hierarchy if you aren’t paying attention. Pia Deshpande (CC ‘20) sums this up well, writing that, “I wish someone had sat me down and truly explained how wealthy and powerful some of my Columbia classmates would be. We came from different worlds, which was difficult to adjust to at first. This doesn’t apply to all Columbia students, but you will meet the occasional political protege or child of the business elite. In my experience… it was difficult for me to socialize with them because they always wanted to go out and spend money (money I did not have).” What’s important to remember is that this demographic does not account for the majority, nor does monetary wealth or personal success define an individual on campus. Seek out friendships and connections because they make you happy, or because you find yourself drawn to someone’s personality or someone with a common interest. Slowly, but surely, the imposter syndrome on the surface will begin to fade away. As one student in the Barnard College Class of 2022 puts it, “Some of your friends may be coming from other elite schools, and that’s okay. Your experience is not less valid or less deserved because you come from a public institution or community college.” Know your worth.
As you enter NSOP, it is also important to remember to rely on those who have been through the process of adjusting to Columbia’s culture already. This might mean seeking out advice from a current student or confiding in your orientation leader (that’s literally what they are there for). Talia Rosen also touches on this point, stressing that it is “important to be honest with your orientation leader about how you’re feeling and to lean on the supports that are in place. You don’t need to pretend everything is great when you’re feeling anxious or scared or out of place, especially because chances are they’ve felt that way too!”
There are difficulties that can come with transferring to a new campus, but there are also so many amazing things about transfer students themselves—things that you bring to the table.
- The self-awareness to know that you needed a change in institution.
- The bravery to actually make that change, and take that leap.
- The openness to meet new friends, seek out new experiences, and alter your entire collegiate experience.
- The willingness to reinvent yourself, or reintroduce the parts of yourself that might have been missing at your previous institution.
- The courage and determination to make college the best experience it can be, even if that means moving between institutions to find the best fit.
Ali Keenan puts it perfectly. “Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to be a transfer student… Transfer students are so incredible for recognizing that they wanted a change and then putting in all the work to do the college admissions process a second time.”
You hear that? You’re incredible.
And remember: “There’s a lot at this school that you can gain from it, and the key to being a transfer is finding those things while being critical of the college for its shortcomings.” (BC ‘21) It is in those “shortcomings,” or that imposter syndrome, that you can really discover the unique traits that make you special, important, and vital to Columbia.
We’d be lying if we said health wasn’t an issue on this campus, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. We should all try to preserve our physical health by social-distancing and wearing masks to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19, but our mental health may be harder to maintain. As a certain former SNL writer once said “I try to stay optimistic…but things are getting…a little sticky.” With online classes, limited access to campus, and everyone in different time zones, arriving at a new school in 2021 would make anyone feel lonely.
The important thing is to remember that you are not alone. Everyone is in the same situation as you! Everyone feels stuck, helpless, and incapable of moving forward with things because we don’t know what the future is going to look like. But if you feel like you’re near your wits’ ends, you have to hang on a little longer. You have to fight for yourself, because you are worth it.
Here’s a list of resources to help. Please use them generously (like lotion or sunscreen!).
- (212) 854-2092
- (212) 854-2092
- (212) 854-7426
Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS)
- (212) 854-2878
- Nightline is an anonymous peer listening service, run by students for students.
- Spring 2021 Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday from 5-7 pm EST
At the end of the day, the returning students want you to feel happy here. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and reach out to your fellow transfers (us included).
HSM NSOP Jump via Bwog Archives