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Notre Dame welcomes almost 100 more transfer students than usual

| Tuesday, August 4, 2020

As in the past, Welcome Week not only marks the arrival of the class of 2024 on campus but also the arrival of incoming transfer students. 

Typically about half of the transfers come through Holy Cross’ Gateway program with Notre Dame and the other half through external transfers from academic institutions across the world. However, in light of COVID-19, this year’s enrollment target for transfer students was increased to 250 from the usual 150 students.

“We wanted to be sure we would hit our enrollment target for sure given all the uncertainties at play,” said Erin Camilleri, director of transfer enrollment at the Office of Admissions. “Because of the timeline for our decision-making, we werent sure how many of our international students would be able to make it. We also didnt know how many students would be personally affected by COVID and wouldnt be able to attend or want to transfer.” 

While the majority of admitted transfer students will be attending their first semester at the University this upcoming fall, there were a number of students who had to postpone their transfer due to the pandemic. 

“Some of them are looking to postpone their matriculation, looking for deferrals, those things are happening for sure but the vast, vast majority of those [transfer] students are indeed coming,” Camilleri said. 

Camilleri said she and her colleagues are excited for the transfer students who will be arriving on campus. 

“We feel really confident in the decisions that we made,” she said. “We always have incredible students who we are able to admit through the transfer process, and this year, we certainly had a great applicant pool and we admitted a group of wonderful students.”

Transfer admissions work a little differently than those for first-year students because, unlike first-year students, most transfers come into the University with a particular area of academic study already in mind.

“We have the added complexity of working to admit students to a particular college and a particular major,” Camilleri said.

All academic programs are open to transfer students with the exception of programs which are at capacity or already have a waitlist, so Camilleri and her team work with the colleges within the University to ensure that potential transfers to various programs have all the background and academic resources they need to succeed at Notre Dame.

“Sometimes theres limited capacity in certain majors, so we work really closely with the Colleges to understand what their capacity is in different majors, and that can vary from year to year,” Camilleri said. “Theyre the experts when it comes to the curriculum, so we say, ‘Does this student have all of the necessary materials covered in their first year to really ensure that they will be making a smooth transition?’” 

While the admissions office works with the colleges to ensure the future success of potential transfer students and their smooth transition into academic life at Notre Dame, the Office of Student Affairs also works to welcome transfer students to campus for the first time with transfer Welcome Weekend programming, similar to that of first years.

The transfer Welcome Weekend is meant to give transfer students a chance to get to know each other, build a sense of community and touch base with academic advisors. Camilleri said that University President Fr. John Jenkins, a transfer student himself, is often in attendance to wish incoming transfers a warm welcome to campus.

Sophomore Maddie McBride is transferring to Notre Dame through the Holy Cross Gateway Program along with 74 other students. 

McBride said she doesnt have any family who went to the University and had never visited before applying on the recommendation of her high school counselor. However, she was offered and accepted a spot in the Gateway Program, and McBride said the Gateway Program and its community quickly won her over.

“I just fell in love with the program and all the people,” McBride said. “When I was there I really tried to make a community at Holy Cross and at Notre Dame. I was involved in things on both campuses.”

McBride also said while she is excited to be on campus, the hectic planning for this semester has been stressful in some ways for transfer students. 

“It’s been a little bit tricky just because I feel like we weren’t really informed about a lot of things, especially housing was a big issue at the beginning,” McBride said. “Before like two weeks ago, nobody knew where we were going to live. It’s out of their control, so I was never upset at the school, but it was a little bit stressful because we didn’t know if we’d be on campus or not.”

However, McBride said shes happy with the University’s efforts to make space for transfer students in on-campus housing.

“I’m happy that they worked really hard to get transfers in,” She said. “Although housing isnt guaranteed for Gateway students, and it never has been, they know how important being on campus is to a lot of us.”

The University has taken various steps to make sure transfer students smoothly transition on to campus and into the campus community.

“I think they have tried to really make the transfers feel welcome even before we’ve arrived on campus,” McBride said. “They started a Transfer Connections program which I decided to participate in; it was just the other night. We had a Zoom call and learned a little more about Welcome Weekend and got to know one another a little.”

Overall, McBride said she is both excited and a little nervous about the upcoming year. While she is excited to be on campus, to see old friends and to meet new ones, McBride said that as a Gateway transfer student she feels she has a level of experience with and exposure to the University and its community that non-Gateway transfers may lack coming to campus for the first time. While she could see the pandemic as a barrier to foster community, she said she thinks the University will be able to keep the students and their communities healthy.

“I’m definitely excited this year to just be on campus and in the dorms, and I’m also really excited just to get to know other transfer students from different schools,” McBride said. “But I guess I’m a little nervous about how the year is going to go and walking on eggshells the whole time wondering if we’re going to stay or leave. Its going to be a little hard to build a community this year with all the new precautions, but I think they’ve got some good things set up. I’m really happy they have all the tents outside and are encouraging people to spend time outside and not just be isolated.”

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