Success Stories Start With Challenges for Transfer Students
Campus Resources, Camaraderie Smooth Transitions From Other Higher-Education Institutions
Mar. 5, 2013
Jane Akowuah, a part-time accountant and mother of three, is pursuing an MBA after transferring to UT Dallas and earning a bachelor's degree.
Transfer student and mother of three Jane Akowuah needed a little extra motivation to finish her bachelor’s degree at UT Dallas. So she tacked a chart of her courses on a wall at home and checked them off as she completed them.
That visual spurred her on to finish her degree in accounting and management information systems in December. She transferred to UT Dallas from Richland Community College in 2010.
“Any time I felt tired, I could look and see what I’ve already accomplished,” she said. “It was a challenge, but thank God, I did it.”
With her children now 22, 19 and 12, Akowuah is pursuing an MBA with concentrations in accounting and internal audit. She is also a part-time accountant at PDF Solutions, where she completed an undergraduate internship.
Akowuah is one of thousands of students at UT Dallas who have made the successful transition from other higher-education institutions. The University enrolls about 1,500 transfer students each semester and 500 or so more in the summers.
They come with diverse life experiences and their own set of challenges, says Kellie Hanford, assistant director of Transfer Student Services.
Older, non-traditional transfer students typically feel the extra pressure of holding a job and are often raising families while completing their degrees.
“It’s time. They have so many time constraints because they’re working jobs and have families,” Hanford said. “They would love to be more involved.”
Domonic Ayala has faced down the challenge of UT Dallas' demanding courses to become president of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society.
Younger transfer students who completed an associate degree at community colleges right after high school often need to juggle classes to get on the right course sequence to complete a degree at UT Dallas. Most find that their university classes require a greater time commitment.
Domonic Ayala, who transferred from Austin Community College, recalled that he could study the day before a big test and still come out with an A. At UT Dallas, he knew he’d have to apply himself much harder to maintain a solid GPA.
Ayala committed himself to that goal, and has done so well that he is now president of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society, an organization for transfer students that requires a 3.5 GPA in major course work. His dream job is a position with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
He now counsels other transfer students to invest two to three hours of studying for every hour of class they take.
“You can’t just regurgitate information on a test,” he said. “The professors here want to see you apply what you know.”
Ayala says he knew UT Dallas was the place for him when a recruiter told him he could earn a dual major in finance and economics here by taking just six extra classes.
Madikha Badar scouted out library resources and study groups to help her get up to speed with university life when she transferred to UT Dallas from area community colleges.
Madikha Badar is impressed not only with the academics at UT Dallas but also with opportunities to build on her leadership skills.
The Pakistan native is the first in her family to earn a higher education degree. Badar came to the U.S. in 2006 and chose UT Dallas because it aided her pre-med academic goals and was fairly close to her home in Crandall, Texas. When the neuroscience major graduates, she hopes to attend medical school and become a neurosurgeon.
Badar was impressed with the quality of academic life at UT Dallas and the expectations of her professors.
“That was really surprising. It was my first exposure to university-level classes. I never knew what university life was like. I learned to run with the pace,” she said. Though her time was limited because she also worked, Badar also got involved by volunteering at student orientation.
“I have learned leadership skills,” she said. “It built up my whole personality and gave me so much confidence, like when speaking in front of a group. UT Dallas provides so many things for students to get involved. I encourage every student to experience each and every thing.”
UT Dallas’s Transfer Student Services provides orientation sessions for transfer students that are designed “to make a large university small,” Hanford says, as well as a newsletter tailored to their needs and personal phone calls to welcome them and offer assistance.
“I love transfer students. They have such different stories and come from different walks of life,” Hanford said. “They’re such a broad group. They really do add to our classes.”
The Office of Admission and Enrollment Services’ Comet Connection program helps transfer students become acquainted with the many services available to UT Dallas students, including the Guaranteed Tuition Plan.
Sometimes what helps most is connecting with other transfer students. In mid-January, students had an opportunity to mix and mingle with other new transfer students at “Welcome Wednesday,” an event hosted by Transfer Student Services that included presentations, speakers and information tables on campus resources, services, centers and student organizations.
Opportunities for social mixers will be provided throughout the semester, Hanford said.
Justin Miller recommends that transfer students take advantage of the help that their academic advisors can offer.
Connecting with students, faculty and staff is what helps transfer students feel at home faster, said Justin Miller, who just arrived on campus this semester from Collin County Community College.
He picked UT Dallas because it’s convenient to McKinney, where he now lives, and has a nationally renowned criminology program. He eventually hopes to work for a federal agency, such as the FBI or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Miller said transfer students who want a smooth transition to college life should get to know their academic advisors and other students. And relax.
“Take a deep breath. Everything works out better than what your mind tells you,” he said. “Take the advice from the advisors. They know what they’re talking about. Listen to other students. Experience is knowledge.”
Jane Akowuah would agree. With a bachelor’s degree under her belt, Akowuah now passes on to other transfer students what she’s learned along the way.
“You need dedication. You have to stay focused. You have to know what you want and then do it. If that’s your aim, it’s not difficult to do,” she said.
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