Transfer students face trials to find the perfect college community
Story by Megan Lockhart
Photos by Kate Nelson
Stepping onto a new campus for any student brings plenty of challenges and questions. How do I get to HIS 1305? Where do I find the chemistry textbook I need? Which one is Burleson and which is Draper? I locked myself out of my room!
Freshman students know full well the anxiety of their first semester. But there’s another category of new students who often go unnoticed. They are not fresh out of high school, yet they experience many of the same struggles as freshmen.
Transfer students make up about 3% of Baylor’s incoming students and their journeys to the university are unique and often challenging. Adjusting to a new campus, establishing meaningful friendships, creating connections with professors and navigating Baylor’s rigorous classes are shared struggles among new students. However, transfer students often have much less time to adjust to life at a university and establishing a social circle can be difficult when most people their age have already created solid friend groups.
Some transfer students feel uprooted from their past. But for many, it is a chance at a fresh start and new opportunities. These are the inspiring stories of the students finding new beginnings at Baylor and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Oriana Martinez knew she wanted to come to Baylor from the start of her college journey. While attending Texas State University, she felt as though something was missing. She wasn’t finding the sense of community and strong values she was looking for at a large public school.
“I had never even stepped foot on campus before I applied and paid my [deposit],” Martinez said. “I just kind of had a feeling that this is where [I’m meant to be]. So I just took the chance and I’m glad I did.”
But a big transition like that was not an easy one. Martinez recalled that it was actually harder than the changeover from high school to college.
One factor that made it more challenging was the absence of a week dedicated to ensuring that students are familiar with their upcoming assignments and other expectations, often called a syllabus week.
“There’s not a syllabus week at Baylor,” Martinez said. “Texas State has a syllabus week so the first week [of the semester] I felt like a deer in the headlights.”
A natural and often common reaction is feeling the urge to quit and turn back, but Martinez knew that although it would be a difficult road ahead, transitioning into a new school was ultimately the right choice.
“I called my mom and told her I wanted to transfer back. It was a really rough time for a while, but I’m glad I stayed, because once you figure out what’s going on and understand how to deal with it, it’s worth it,” she said.
Martinez quickly learned there was much to adjust to in order to thrive at Baylor, from study habits to organizational skills.
“I learned that I actually have to study,” Martinez said. “You really have to be organized with how many hours you spend on things. I have to write things down to remember. My time management skills were [nonexistent] when I moved here. I learned pretty fast that I needed to get things done ahead of time so I’m not procrastinating in order to be successful here.”
Through all the growing pains, Martinez is stronger now because of the experience. She watched as some transfer students withdrew and was tempted to do the same. However, she is glad she persevered because of the growth she saw in herself.
“At Texas State, I was very introverted and I didn’t want to do anything. I basically stayed at home and just hung out with my [family]. I didn’t feel like anyone at Texas State really cared or that there was any sense of community. I wasn’t very invested nor did I feel like I even wanted to be there,” she said.
Through a fresh start and new opportunities to find community and build relationships, Martinez discovered a new side of herself.
“Since being at Baylor, I have so many more friends and I’m so much more extroverted. I actually want to go out and do things, and I have more energy to do those things,” she said.
Making big changes come with plenty of trials, but Martinez said she found the rewards are worth it.
Amid the many uncertainties in his life at the time, Colton Nabors never imagined ending up at Baylor.
“Baylor was never in my head, not because I didn’t think it was a good school but because I never thought I would get in. Baylor’s all the way up here and I’m all the way down here,” Colton Nabors said, recounting his unexpected journey to Baylor.
Nabors planned to join his cousin, whom he was living with, at the University of Oklahoma following his time spent at Oklahoma Community College. But after experiencing the campus and the people at OU, he knew it wasn’t the scene he wanted for himself.
“OU was just a different culture and a different type of people than I had originally anticipated…[but] I always knew I wanted to transfer to a bigger university to finish my degree,” Nabors said.
After his aunt died, he decided to instead go to Collin College in Plano to be closer to his family and apply to Texas Christian University.
“I applied to TCU and they said they needed one more semester of my grades to see if they could accept me. So in the meantime, I was kind of freaking out thinking if I don’t get accepted, where am I going to go?” Nabors said.
When his uncle, a Baylor alumnus, suggested he apply to Baylor, he decided to take the chance on a dream opportunity.
“I kept looking every day to see if I got accepted and one day the notification came and it said [congratulations] and it really was a wow moment for me,” Nabors said. “It all sunk in, and it was such a great experience.”
After struggling through the process of transferring all his credits and making the move to campus, Nabors recalls that the biggest struggle he experienced as a new student was making lasting friendships and creating meaningful connections.
“I think the toughest part was just not knowing anyone. Luckily my uncle had some connection because he was in a fraternity when he was at Baylor so he connected me to some of the guy’s sons he went to school with. So I got connected with them and we hit it off and started hanging out,” Nabors said.
Nabors ended up rushing a fraternity and explained that the experience gave him the opportunity to meet new people.
“The whole reason, I think, was to have community and then when I didn’t get a bid, I realized I already have that [community] because they’re my friends and it’s not like anything changed that,” Nabors said.
Transferring from a community college to a larger university, such as Baylor, can be intimidating and confusing, but, it allowed Nabors to discover his unique identity.
“My freshman year I lived right by OU, which is a big party school. I was with my cousins and I partied a lot,” Nabors admitted. “After [transferring] though, I grew a lot and I feel like I figured out who I really am and who I wanted to be.”
Nabors saw people use partying simply as a way to feel social but he wanted something more than that. Experiencing those situations helped him grow into the person he is now.
“I feel like I really grew up and developed maturity wise. I’ve always felt I was more mature than most people my age but I developed into what I wanted to be for myself, being able to handle myself and just being an upright person,” Nabors said.
Being a transfer student is far from easy, as Nabors has experienced. However, in his case, a new beginning rendered new growth.
Veronica Thompson changed her major three times during her time at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She reflects on experiencing a lot of confusion and trying to figure herself out.
“I wasn’t going to get what I needed out of that school. The sense of community and what I wanted, the networking of students and the faculty — I wasn’t getting that there,” she said with the view of Fountain Mall beyond her. “[The quarter system] is very fast paced and knowing myself and knowing if I wanted to be successful in college, I couldn’t do it that way,” Thompson said.
Thompson decided to make a change. She applied to Baylor, got accepted and received her schedule all within a week before classes started for the fall semester.
“It was a rush. But as soon as I got here, it all made sense and there was such a comfort about it. People were very welcoming compared to the big city school I came from,” she said.
However, it’s common for students to become discouraged throughout the difficult journey. The stress of classes and the weight of expectations are incredibly heavy while also attempting to plan a career path.
“When going through [the transfer process] it was very confusing, and I was like, ‘I don’t know why this is happening,’ but I just kept telling myself, ‘I’m here, I’m in these classes and I’m meeting these people in these clubs,’ things I never imagined would have even happened before,” she said.
Once at Baylor, Thompson changed her major to marketing, finally finding her place. She has since joined the Baylor Women in Business Club and is a member of their social events committee.
Although the transfer journey was tedious for Thompson, she ultimately learned to trust the process despite the future seeming blurry at times.
“I’ve learned patience over it all knowing that everything is going to work out,” she said. “There’s going to be a reason for everything that happened and it will all come through in the end. You just need to let all the little steps fall in place.”