The Transfer Experience
Each year more than 1000 students transfer to the University of Michigan (UM) and among those are quite a few pre-med students. We decided to ask two of our peer advisors, who transferred to UM, to share their experiences with us.
How did you adjust to the pace of classes at the University of Michigan compared to your previous institution?
Haniyeh: Since I was junior standing credits-wise (~ 60) when I transferred to the UM, I knew that I had to take more upper level classes, which meant I needed to dedicate more time per credit. I decided to take fewer credits the first semester to be able to better cope with the new environment and have enough time to explore different opportunities and student organizations that were available to students. When I had questions about specific concepts in a class, I attended office hours to figure it out with the help of the professor well before the exam. Also, I joined the SLC study groups, which helped a lot to connect with my classmates and adjust my study habits to the pace of classes at the UM. Regarding other academic questions, such as which classes to take, I made appointments with both general Newnan advisors and pre-med advisors.
Anni: I had a similar experience to Haniyeh. I was also a junior coming into UM, and as severe as it sounds, I didn’t come to UM for the social aspect of it, I I came to get a degree. My previous school was a private liberal arts college, so the way the academics are structured are very different from UM. I feel that the rigor is the same between the two schools, so the challenge was to figure how to change my study habits based on what UM assignments and courses look like. I definitely had to get better about studying by myself since the classes are so big and you don’t really get to know your classmates or professors. I joined SLC study groups, a research lab, and went to office hours frequently in an effort to be aggressive and integrate myself into the UM community. I finished a lot of my pre-med classes at Wellesley, which made the transition a lot easier than it could have been. Newnan and the UPiN (undergraduate program in neuroscience) office were also very helpful in clarifying the graduation requirements!
How did your extracurricular activities change after transferring?
Haniyeh: As I mentioned, I had a light schedule the first semester at the UM and gave myself some time to explore my interests. Festifall was a great place to start to get to know other student organizations. After that, I attended mass meetings of different clubs and joined a couple of them to learn more about their plans throughout the semester and my commitment as one of their members. In the second semester, I made a decision and chose those student organizations that were most aligned with my interests. In terms of volunteering at local health related institutes and shadowing hours, since I was living in Ann Arbor even before transferring to UM, I kept my previous positions.
Anni: Research was the main reason I transferred to UM, so I really made my lab my main extracurricular activity. At my old school, I was very involved in residential life and pre-health/academic clubs, but made the decision when I transferred that I wanted to completely switch it up. This decision was driven by feeling a little burnt out at the end of my sophomore year, so I steered away from clubs I felt I could be stressed by other pre-meds. I found one of my orgs, Consider magazine, at Festifall, which has been great for making my schedule less STEM heavy and indulges my love for writing. I found the farm at St. Joe’s and Glacier Hills Retirement through the Newnan extracurriculars page. Just like with academics, I jumped right in when it came to extracurriculars because I knew I had so little time here.
How did you find a research opportunity in your field of interest?
Haniyeh: I applied for the Changing Gears program, which is a UROP program for transfer students. I got admitted to their program and that was the starting point for me. I developed some new skills (both technical and professional), which helped me to realize the area of my interest and strategically apply for other positions in future.
Anni: I knew Michigan had a great Parkinson’s program, so before I was even accepted to Michigan, I looked up “University of Michigan Parkinson’s Labs,” went through the list of researchers on The Udall Center’s website, and cold-emailed all of them with my resume and explained I was a prospective junior transfer student. I ended up going to the first lab that e-mailed back, the Sarter lab, and talked with them through email for the next 8 months so that everything was ready to go when I got here. I also met with Dr. Sarter when I came for orientation in July so he could put a name to a face.
How was your social transition experience in university adjustment?
Haniyeh: It was challenging at first for me especially because I was transferring from a relatively small community college to a big university. I remember even finding the classes on campus was challenging! I started little by little and took small steps in finding my way. Joining SuccessConnects introduced me to other transfer students and paired me with a peer-mentor and a success coach who were very supportive, and that was really helpful to find my community. Also, since I was an international student, I attended the international center events to meet people from all around the world and share my experiences with them. Participating in study groups and student organizations’ events were other ways of socializing and finding like-minded people for me. One thing that I believe is important to mention is: “It might take time to build friendship and connection with others, do not get discouraged! You will find your community here!”
Anni: Like I said before, my old school was very small, and though I didn’t like the school itself, I felt I had a great little community there between my friend group and professors. I must say that I’m a very independent person and an introvert, so I didn’t sweat the social aspect of transferring nearly as much as doing well in classes. I got really lucky that my Orgo II lab got along really well, which gave me the feeling that I was getting a handle on social life at Michigan. The Transfer Connections program was great for helping me find other transfer students (there’s a ton of us out here!) through socials, seminars, and mentorship. I ended up making most of my friends at the first social! Lastly, I really hit it off with my grad student and the other grad students in the biopsychology program, which opened up tons of other social and professional opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about had I not been so committed to research. My last word of advice for other transfer students would be to stay in touch with your friends and professors from your previous school! Not only do I love them and miss them, but it’s always good to have connections all over!