Give Now

New to SMU

How to Escape Transfer Shock

Congratulations on your transfer to SMU!  You've already proven that you can succeed in college, or you wouldn't have been admitted to SMU.  No matter why you transferred or how happy you are to be here, you will face a period of adjustment.  Other students have already formed friendships, relationships, and study groups.   They are familiar with the campus, with its resources, with the sought-after professors, with the local hangouts.  How do you catch up and feel as though you really belong?  Here are some suggestions:


Take advantage of orientation activities for transfers.  Yes, you already know about college, but this is a new place with new demands and options.  It's much like moving to a new city, where we need to locate stores, post office, doctor, dentist, etc.; no matter how many places we've lived, we need to learn about the new town or neighborhood.  Orientation is a prime opportunity to learn all you can about SMU.  You'll get acquainted with advisors, professors, past and present transfer students, and available services -- before the semester begins and you are too busy to search them out.


Use the catalog, map, and newspaper to learn about your new home. Study the catalog, especially requirements and course descriptions in your major.  With a campus map, walk around campus and visit each building; read the campus paper cover to cover.  Get off-campus, too, to discover social and cultural opportunities in the SMU neighborhood.  Nearby DART buses and trains provide an inexpensive way to explore Dallas.


Visit Fondren Library and ask for a brief tour before the semester gets busy.  Every college library is organized differently, and you'll be a step ahead if you have a general sense of the SMU system before that first assignment sends you there -- with a deadline.  And don't hesitate to ask a research librarian or a student worker for help with a specific task.  No one expects you to know it all, and a little guidance could save you hours of frustration.  


Get involved in at least one extra-curricular activity right away, no matter how busy you are.  You'll meet people who share your interests, reach beyond the classroom, and tap into the grapevine of informal communication.  Avoid the P-C-P syndrome!  (Parking lot - Classroom - Parking lot)


Introduce yourself to one person in each of your courses.  Exchange phone numbers and email addresses, then plan to take notes for each other if either of you must miss a class.   You may want to compare notes or study together for a test, so look for a serious student, not a last-row latecomer.


Swallow any shyness.  It's not easy to walk into a classroom or cafeteria where you don't know a soul and, worse, everybody else seems to know everyone.  (They don't -- it just seems that way!)  You've already survived freshman year elsewhere; you can handle being a newcomer more easily with that experience. Smile, introduce yourself, and ask a question; suddenly, you'll know more people than you did yesterday. The poise you develop will be valuable in both college and career.


Take stock and set some short-term and long-term goals. You're at a natural turning point.  Evaluate your interests, aptitudes, and career possibilities.  Your advisor will help you match courses not only to your degree, but to your individual needs and talents.  As you set those goals, plan to take advantage of such free campus resources as:

  • Hegi Family Career Center, main floor of Hughes-Trigg Student Center, 768-2266
  • Counseling & Psychological Services, second floor of the Health Center, 768-2211
  • Women and LGBT Center (the home of Women's Interest Network, Spectrum, Campus YWCA, Women in Science and Engineering, Men with Integrity), 3116 Fondren Drive, 768-4792
  • Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC), 202 Loyd Center, 768-3648
  • Writing Center (at the A-LEC), 202 Loyd Center, 768-3648
  • The Foreign Language Teaching Technology Center, 234 Clements Hall, 768-4597
  • Services for Students with Disabilities (including accommodations for students with diagnosed learning differences), A-LEC, 202 Loyd Center, 768-1470
  • Student Activities and Multicultural Student Affairs, 300 Hughes-Trigg, 768-440
  • International Student and Scholar Services, Blanton Building, Suite 216, 768-4721

Be prepared for classes to be different.  Depending upon the college you've transferred from, SMU classes may be smaller or larger.  Faculty may seem more or less formal, and more or less focused on teaching, research, and writing.  Being surrounded by many students whom you do not yet know may make you feel less at ease.  Yes, the setting is somewhat different, just as your high school differed from your first college, but the goals of successful teaching and learning are the same.  Give yourself a few weeks, get to know your professors (see below), and you'll be more comfortable.  


Visit each of your professors during office hours or by appointment.  Introduce yourself, mention that you have transferred, and let them know that you are eager to take advantage of SMU's academic opportunities.  In short, become an individual, not just a name on a class roll.  Once you've established contact, sit near the front of the classroom, participate fully, and make your mark.  You'll soon need career or graduate school recommendations from your major professors, and you don't have four years to get acquainted with them in leisurely fashion.  It's also far easier to ask for help with an assignment or after a poor test grade if the professor already knows you and your positive attitude. 


After your initial visits, stay in touch with professors!  At SMU, professors expect you to take the initiative and ask for advice on preparing for the first test, narrowing a paper topic, or choosing a major.  If a grade is low, it's fine to ask to look over the paper or test with the professor to determine what you can do differently on the next one.  If you don't react to a low grade, a professor may assume that you don't care.  In reality, you may just be embarrassed or a bit intimidated.  Don't let emotion hold you back; do go to office hours to take full advantage of the opportunity to learn from that expert faculty member.  No, you don't need to visit daily, and yes, a professor may have a bad day.  

If you aren't warmly welcomed, ask for an appointment to return later.  Use e-mail and voice mail, too.


Expect more demanding courses.  Upper-level courses are likely to require more study time than introductory courses; be prepared, perhaps for the first time, to really need the recommended 30 hours of study per week for a full course load.  You may need to be more active in your approach to study.  How? Take more notes in class; don't just read, but also reflect upon new concepts; work to see relationships and make connections between lectures and texts.  Advanced courses may also include longer and different types of tests, papers, and presentations.  Some final grades may depend upon just two exams -- a midterm and a cumulative final.  In junior and senior level courses, professors aim to prepare you for your future career or graduate work, so be prepared to think more analytically, to learn more independently, and to be asked to demonstrate your knowledge more completely. 


Don't be alarmed by low initial grades, but do take action.  Given all those differences, it is common for a transferring student's GPA to drop in the first semester, but most students then make some adjustments and their GPA's rebound.  Don't panic if your expected A's do not materialize at first.  Some professors grade hard at the start to clarify their high expectations, and some just don't award many A's!  Once you get back the first graded test or paper, you'll have a better idea of how to improve on the second one.  Pay attention to early grades, react quickly and appropriately, but don't panic.  Ask students who transferred here before you, and you're likely to find that they experienced the same pattern of events.  Each semester, of about 5300 SMU undergraduates, only a few dozen students achieve a 4.0 cumulative GPA.  SMU's Honor Roll features several hundred students each semester, but a straight-A cumulative average is rare here. That, too may differ from your first college.   


Honestly evaluate your study habits and skills, even if you had a 4.0 at your previous college.   Because professors' expectations, reading loads, or grading standards may be different at SMU, the study system that worked before may need to be refined, especially for junior and senior level courses.   Call the A-LEC at 768-3648 for a free 30-minute appointment to take and interpret the LASSI (Learning and Study Strategies Inventory), a computerized self-assessment.


Monitor your own academic performance.  Take action at the first feeling of uncertainty about course content; the best step is often to devote more time to that course.  Plan time to keep up with the reading, to prepare more thoroughly for each class, to review weekly, to see the professor for advice, to meet with a study group, to see a tutor.   And to reduce both stress and procrastination, give yourself an academic checkup each Friday.  Look back at the past week.  Have you fallen behind in a course or two?  Devote some weekend time to catching up.  What's coming up in the week ahead?  Get a head start on those tests or that paper over the weekend.  If you check yourself once a week, you'll never get so far behind that you can't get back in control. 




You may never have visited the learning center at your previous college, but don't miss out on SMU's unique A-LEC!   Each year we record over 16,000 student visits for tutoring, the Writing Center, individual academic counseling, and study skills workshops.  And it's all free!  To get the most out of your SMU education and your tuition dollars, come see us.  Here is what we offer to help you do your best: 


For a quick refresher course on key study strategies -- managing time, tests, lectures, and texts -- come to some of our free drop-in hour-long workshops.  Pick up a schedule at the A-LEC or check our website (see below) for this semester's schedule.  In a workshop, you will assess your current skills, learn new techniques, and take home handouts to help you apply the methods to your courses.  For detailed information on each workshop, check our website.  If times don't work for you, call 768-3648 to set up an individual session on that topic with an A-LEC staff member.


Individual academic counseling can help you find a solution to a problem with a particular course.  There is no cost to see an A-LEC staff member for help with a poor grade on a test, difficulty with a textbook, or a recurring problem with time management, test anxiety, or essay exams.  Call 768-3648 for an appointment.


Or, for a thorough, structured approach to building reading and study skills, register for HDEV 1110, Reading and Learning Strategies.  This one-credit, 12-week course in advanced reading/learning strategies is taken by hundreds of SMU students each year. If your reading rate, concentration, memory, time management, or note taking skills need improvement, ORACLE can show you how to succeed academically by giving you efficient, effective learning techniques. Upperclassmen preparing for graduate school and striving for the best possible grades in their major often find that ORACLE can help them raise their grades from good to excellent.  Classes meet two times a week; look under "HDEV" in the Schedule of Classes for a listing of class times this semester. Call 768-3648 for more details.


The Writing Center, staffed by English department faculty, offers free help with writing any paper, in any course, at any stage of the writing process.  Call 768-4253 for more information or to make a 30-minute individual appointment.   


Free tutoring in most introductory courses and some upper-level courses is available on a drop-in basis six days a week, during the fall and spring semesters.  So you've never seen a tutor in your life?  Now is the time to start!   At SMU, it's often the student with a B+ -- who wants an A -- who uses tutoring to get that extra edge.  Tutors are typically juniors and seniors who have earned A's in the courses they tutor.  They not only know the content; they know the professors, the tests, the best ways to study, and they'll share it with you, free!   You can access our tutor schedule on the A-LEC website.