Savanna Mesch, 22, received her acceptance letter in May, quit her job in June, and moved to Los Angeles in August. But since arriving at USC, she says it has been hard to adjust to college life.
"There really was no guidance coming into this and it all happened really fast," she said. "I'm having to deal with the stressors of moving and with the stressors of doing it all by myself, and trying to adjust to a four-year university, let alone a private school."
Mesch is not alone in feeling like she was "thrown to the wolves," as she puts it. An Annenberg Media Facebook poll, surveying students about their transfer experience, showed that more than half of respondents felt the transfer process could have been better. Forty-one percent said they could not find the resources offered at USC. Only eight percent said their transition was great and that university helped every step of the way. For full disclosure, Facebook does not specify just how many people were actually polled to come up with these percentages.
Mesch is now the events and outreach organizer for the Transfer Student Community, a club dedicated to giving transfers a sense of connection to the Trojan Family. While the club has been around for a few years, this semester, the organization's leaders are hoping to reach more transfer students.
Veronica Richardson, Vice President of the Transfer Student Community, said transitioning to USC is known to be difficult among the transfer population. After speaking with other transfers through the club, Richardson realized the issues she faced were "pretty universal."
According to The Los Angeles Times, USC admits more transfer students than any other private university in the country. For the Fall 2017 term, transfer students made up about 28 percent of all incoming students, according to data from USC's Office of Admissions.
Although Mesch says she feels valued as a transfer student, she believes the university needs to do a lot more to help its transfer students. "I don't know if they understand what it's like to be a transfer student," Mesch said.
Director of Admissions, Kirk Brennan, cites the Trojan Transfer Plan as one of the many programs and resources for prospective transfers.
"Trojan Transfer Plan is an individualized transfer advising session for someone we turn away as a freshman who has a connection already to the university," Brennan said. "We offer one-on-one transfer advising sessions during which we keep a written record… if that student applies the following year, the admissions committee will see that they have been working with us and they have set out to accomplish this particular goal."
While the Trojan Transfer Plan is not a guarantee of transfer admission, it is one way USC aids prospective transfers before they apply.
Once admitted, Brennan says the orientation programs offered to incoming students before school are the primary resource for helping transfers acclimate. According to Brennan, orientation includes activities allowing students to meet each other and get a feel for campus.
But what about when school actually starts?
"People think like 'oh you transferred, you did it, you're so smart, you got into a private school, you're fine.' And it's like, well I still need support," Mesch said.
Assistant Vice Provost of USC Undergraduate Programs, Dr. David Glasgow says he understands transfer students are at a disadvantage.
"They have to catch up and find out where things are," he said. As a result, Glasgow believes transfers should look to their academic advisors for information on resources and clubs on campus, since they have all the information.
However, Mesch says her academic advisor was not well-versed in the transfer experience. Instead, Mesch suggests the university have specific transfer counselors, whose main focus is on transfer students and their experience and transition.
Similarly, Mesch remembers orientation was not all it was promised to be. "This one girl described it to me as a 'glorified registration' and she was right," she said. "I wish that they would've talked more about the transfer experience in the opening remarks."
According to Glasgow, there used to be a transfer resource center students could go to on campus, but since its funding ran out several years ago, the program has been discontinued.
The Transfer Student Community is hoping to change things. The club meets weekly in the basement of Leavey Library, where they share their experiences and plan group activities to build social connections.
"There was a small presence on campus before I joined," said vice president Veronica Richardson. "We're trying to build it back up."
Currently, there are at least 10 members in the club, but President Ryan Vargas says there are many more who want to attend the meetings, but cannot due to scheduling conflicts. Judging by the club's Facebook page, the organization has a following of around 750 people.
Vargas and Richardson expressed frustration with receiving assistance and communication from the administration. When Richardson reached out to USC asking for the email addresses of transfer students in hopes of expanding the club, USC refused, citing confidentiality reasons.
Similarly, it has been hard to get funding from the university, which is approved by the Undergraduate Student Government or USG. “USG doesn’t move that quickly, especially with us,” Vargas said.
Despite challenges with aid and resources, the Transfer Student Community is still trying to provide a positive environment for transfer students.
Based on her experience in the club, Mesch said, "It did feel really good just talking to other transfers and having somebody to relate to and knowing that I wasn't crazy and that I wasn't going through all this alone."