Written by program assistant Xavier A. Torres de Janon 12F
“Hi! What year are you in?” “Well, technically I’m a third year, but I’m changing my concentration, and I entered Hampshire last fall. You see, I’m a transfer student.”
Incoming transfer students may have similar experiences as first-years when they come to our school, but a transfer student’s adaptation to Hampshire is very different than that of a Hampshire first-year. This fall, 75 transfer students entered Hampshire (quite a large transfer class by Hampshire standards, if you were wondering). Let’s be honest: transferring into our school can be disorienting, but luckily for transfer students, Anne Downes can help in smoothing this transition.
Anne is a staff member of our Center for Academic Support and Advising (CASA) and she oversees students in their sixth through eighth semesters and transfer students. She’s been working at Hampshire College for 30 years now. Wait, let me emphasize that — she’s been working at Hampshire College for 30 years now. She started her work here as the Greenwich-Enfield House Director, then became the Associate Dean of Students, and later joined our Center for Advising (now CASA). There’s no question that she understands very well the nuts and bolts of our college and the needs of its students; when meeting with her, I couldn’t help but feel a huge level of understanding from her. As we talked, I inadvertently found myself getting much needed insight and advice into my own Divisional work (thanks Anne!).
Not being a transfer student myself, I asked Anne what common challenges transfer students face as they come to Hampshire. Other than, of course, our unique divisional system, transfer students tend to be surprised about the intimacy of our classes. This can probably be new to every incoming student, but because transfer students have had previous college-level class experiences, they are able to compare our courses to something different that they’ve experienced. Hampshire classes demand high levels of engagement, participation, and critical writing; it’s not about a grade or just passing a course. “Hampshire is more than course counting, and this is sometimes hard to understand for transfer students,” says Anne. At other institutions, what matters is getting credits in classes that can count towards your degree. At Hampshire, transfer students are expected to truly immerse themselves in their academic concentration, which often changes as we explore our interests through the divisional system.
Anne has the following words of advice for incoming transfer students:
- It’s common to change your academic program. This is hard to grasp because transfers have already spent time during their education focused in certain fields, having coursework limited to that. Faculty and staff like Anne Downes can help you if you’re in this position. Staff at Central Records can also offer support for transfer students with regard to how their former classes can map onto Division I and possibly be included in students’ Division II portfolios.
- Don’t feel you have to figure everything out on your own. Transfer students worry a lot about forming their committees for Division II and III. Because most of them enter Hampshire in the ‘middle’ of their divisional progress, they can sometimes feel that they are alone in the struggle, scrambling for unknown faculty just to get advisors and committee members. The fact is that regular students go through the exact same process, and there are tons of programming and resource to help transfers get through this. CASA is a fantastic place to start if you are feeling lost in the system. The five School Deans (of our Schools of Thought) are always happy to advise students in finding prospective faculty to collaborate with. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
- Focus on what you want to get out of your academic program. A Hampshire education is what you truly want to make out of it, not what your academics are ‘supposed’ to be or what classes you are ‘meant’ to be taking. Independent planning of your personalized curriculum is tough for everyone, but you should try to focus on what really interests you at an academic level.
It was fantastic talking with Anne Downes, and I would encourage all transfer students (and ending Div IIs and Div IIIs!) who are struggling with their academics to reach out to her at CASA. She also welcomes any new ideas or suggestions for her from transfer students, and encourages you to give her feedback!
You’re free to schedule an appointment with Anne by calling CASA at 413.559.5498, and she also welcomes drop-in visits to her office. Have a question that may not need an appointment, ideas or a suggestion for Anne? Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still have questions? Want more information? Email us at email@example.com. We’re happy to help!