Joining the University community can be a daunting process as students leave their previous experiences behind. For incoming first-year students, navigating Grounds is made easier with University support. One meaningful experience that U.Va. — through Student Council — has provided to incoming first-years is the University Peer Advising Link. Transfer students go through similar trials, considering the daily life of a student at the University can vary significantly from that student’s previous college experience. Their transition, however, is not sufficiently supported by the University. In an effort to better adjust transfer students to life at the University, ULink should expand its services beyond first-years, and accept applications from any new student.
Started in the fall of 2013, connects first-years with upperclass students in the hopes of easing the transition into college life. The 2014-15 academic year was the first in which they accepted first-year advisees, and from an applicant pool of 1,400 students, the program was able to match 400 new students with over 100 student advisors. In the next year, ULink expanded its services to accommodate over 1,200 new students, increasing its number of student advisors to approximately 240. The program’s expansion continued for the next two years, and 2017-18 is projected to be a ground-breaking year of participation. Supported through the U.Va. Parents Fund and Committee, ULink has continuously increased its coverage of first-year students in an effort to provide meaningful support to those entering the University. In light of this goal, the program should expand further to incorporate transfer students.
Transfer students are well-suited for participation in the ULink program. First, their previous experiences are not necessarily similar to the life of a University student. The approximately 600 transfer students who enroll each fall semester come from a variety of backgrounds, including community colleges, in-state and out-of-state four-year institutions, each of which provides students with a unique experience that can vary significantly from their time at the University. Currently, the University provides the . The advisors in this program are often transfer students themselves, which is helpful in giving students the resources they need to adjust to the initial stages of University life. The program, however, needs additional support to accomplish the main goal of transferring to the University — integrating new students into the broader community.
Although Transfer Student Peer Advisors may be able to educate students about the best ways to deal with the transition, the ULink program is better suited for learning to engage in the University community, and transfer students should have access to programs that help them branch out from the transfer student community. ULink can supplement the work of the Transfer Student Peer Advisors because ULink Peer Advisors can connect students with similar interests and fields of study. Transfer students should have equal access to programs available to four-year University students.
University life can be a rich and fulfilling experience if students are aware of how to take advantage of the opportunities around them. The ULink system provides a meaningful introduction for first-year students, and this experience would greatly benefit transfer students. Student Council should expand the program in an effort to fully integrate transfer students into the University community.