Transfer Admissions & Advising Committee

Bridging the knowledge gap between two and four year schools

Imposter Syndrome

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         Have you ever walked into a room that you wanted so badly to belong in, but you just didn’t? Everything was perfect down to the very last detail, except you just felt you weren’t accepted? This, my friends, is the dreaded Imposter Syndrome.

        This can be a common occurrence for a transfer student as they jump from one school to another. The student has adapted and attended a college for as little as fifteen weeks, but as much as 2 years and then all the sudden has to finish somewhere completely different. Usually, the other students on campus already have their own cliques and groups and it can be hard for new students to break through.

        This Imposter Syndrome can actually lead to something called the “transfer dip”, a term defined by J.B. Cuseo (1998). This is actually when a transfer student dips academically, which is directly attributed to a student having transfer shock, rather than the students’ ability to be successful. Transfer shock is something that more and more 4-year schools are trying to avoid to make the process as seamless as possible.

        So what can both 2-year and 4-year schools do to help the transfer student prepare for the leap? Well, for one, talking with the student during the entire process (before, during, and after) helps things go a lot smoother for the student. This allows them to understand what is going to happen during the transfer process and what to expect upon arrival at the new school.

        Also, a transfer specific orientation has proven to be a successful segue for success, as this helps the transfer students recognize each other. And yes, a transfer student should definitely attend an orientation because it helps them to feel more connected to the school. Studies show that students who complete an orientation program are more likely to be successful in college than those who do not. Often times, when a transfer and high school orientation are done together, it becomes harder for the transfer student to associate themselves with the school itself, therefore feeling out of place, and then out comes the dreaded Imposter Syndrome.

        While it is important for the 2 and 4-year schools to communicate with the student during the process, the transfer student himself needs to do work to be happy and successful as well. The most obvious answer here is to join a club/organization. There is no easier way to get involved than to join something. Even if the group only has 5 people in it, those are 5 people more than the student knew before. Second, set up a networking/communication plan. Allow time to go to the academic support or tutoring center. This will help with the transfer dip as well as opening lines of communication. Third, take a transfer strategies or seminar course. Some 4-year schools offer credit based courses on teaching transfer students how to be successful and where the resources can be found on campus. These are just small things that schools and students can do to help have a seamless transition from one school to the next.

        While only the transfer student can know if a school is right for them, the 2 and 4-year schools can help before the transfer even starts. I will talk more about the upsides of transfer orientations in a future article, but by being aware of the Imposter Syndrome and how to subdue it, students are better equipped to handle these challenges and achieve a successful transition.


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