Semesters behind: DePauw's transfer students adjust to campus

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Zach Schiller’s DePauw story starts far from the state of Indiana.

Schiller found DePauw after attending summer camp with current DePauw student junior John Jessup and a couple DePauw Alumni in northern Minnesota. 

Students discover and transfer to DePauw for a multitude of reasons; the manner in which they find home on campus follows a similar pattern. This past year, DePauw welcomed 16 transfer students from other institutions to Greencastle.

“The way they talked about DePauw was so different than all these other students who were going to other liberal arts colleges and big state schools and Ivy leagues,” said Schiller of his experience.

After high school, Schiller got off the waitlist at another institution and decided to go elsewhere.

“There was still that sense of warmness missing from the school I was at,” he said.  

After visiting Jessup at DePauw last spring, “it clicked again, this was where I was supposed to be,” said Schiller.

Current students and alumni connections have led other students to transfer to DePauw as well. Sophomore transfer Jessica Szyska’s sister went to DePauw.  

“I knew that I loved it,” said Szyska.  “It was an easy decision as soon as I got in. I knew that [DePauw was] where I wanted to be.”

The path was not as straight for every transfer student. For Riley Riordan, DePauw is her third college.

Riordan wrote in an email, “being a transfer is a much harder process than people think. Finding a way to get settled after everyone else already is, is one of the hardest things to do because, like I said, we're late to the party.”

Cara Setchell, dean of students, explained the mentor program that aims to get transfer students up to speed at DePauw.  

We feel it is important to recognize that transfer students already have at least one semester's worth of college experience,” wrote Setchell, “that their needs differ from first-year students, but it is still vitally important to help them successfully transition into the DePauw community.”

Sophomores are invited to participate in an adjusted version of the mentor program that first-year students are a part of when they arrive on campus. Senior Kevin Bugielski, a peer mentor serves as a mentor and student resource for this year’s transfer students.

Szyska chose to participate in the mentor program upon arriving on campus.  

“[The mentor program] was super helpful. Kevin [Bugielski] is the best, he was always able to answer all my questions,” said Szyska.

For some students who come in already attached to a program, the mentor group is less applicable. Riordan came to DePauw knowing she was going to play soccer.

Coming to school on a team made all the difference,” wrote Riordan. “It was an immediate group of support and friends. However, that does not mean the transition was easy, or is easy.”

Riordan reiterated that being a transfer means that even when your new peers are friendly, you have a lot of catching up to do. 

Coming to DePauw attached to a program made a large difference for both Riordan and Schiller

Schiller also did not participate in the mentor program, but still felt a smooth transition because he came in connected to his fraternity from his past institution.

“I feel that because I started living in Sigma Chi it made the transition that much easier because I already had a place and they introduced me to all of these other things, such as the bachelor that I am slowly becoming affiliated with," he said.

The administration keeps in mind that each transfer student will have a unique story. Riordan spoke of this in her evaluation of the application and transfer process.

I really felt as though they were interested in me as a person, not just a number in a school,” said Riordan.

Setchell commented to this point in the construction of transfer student orientation.

Because each transfer student comes to DePauw with varying semesters of college experience, it is also important to be mindful to meet their individual needs," wrote Setchell.

Beginning at a new school as an upperclassman is vastly different from entering as a first year, but each transition shares a similar goal to become acquainted with a new institution. Of her transition Syska said, “every school is different so you have to learn what's individual to DePauw.”