Transfer students deserve better communication from Rensselaer

Rensselaer is on the 2020 Pi Theta Kappa honor roll for transfer friendly colleges, but their communication with transfer students falls short. With everything going on in the world right now, it is understandable that decisions will be last minute and plans uncertain, but transfer students have regularly been the last ones to know what to expect. The unnecessary delay of information has caused additional uncertainty and stress for new students trying to navigate new systems, find housing, and schedule their lives.

Transfer students are used to everything happening late. We apply to college months after our freshman counterparts, and correspondingly, get accepted, choose a school, and, at RPI, register for classes later. All of this is okay. While it’s tantalizing to wait some extra months to know where you’re going and what classes you’re taking, it’s expected and survivable. But there were some communications we should have received sooner.

Take, for instance, transfer orientation. By the time the module opened on August 24, I had learned nearly everything in it through other means. Information on the health portal forms? The administration should have told us about it when we were at home with our paperwork instead of when we could already be in Troy. How to get into SIS? Hopefully, we figured it out when we registered for courses the week before. Warning to look out for AlchoholEdu and Sexual Assault Prevention assignments? Those showed up in my spam folder more than a month ago. A lot of this information would have been more useful back in June, or at least early July. The orientation talked about housing options, but not off-campus housing, as in normal times, transfers would be required to live on campus for a year.

For students transferring as upperclassmen, finding housing was a last-minute struggle. With only around 200 incoming transfers out of an undergrad population of 6,600, it should be a relatively short calculation to see if they fit or not. During the town hall on June 10, freshmen and returning cohorts found out if they would be in person in the fall and if they would be housed, and that a 2:1 students to bathrooms ratio would be absolutely required to attend in person. Clear enough, but what about transfers? Only upon questioning did RPI administrators admit that they didn’t yet have a plan for transfers. Meanwhile, juniors and seniors were rushing to find living spaces that comply with the 2:1 bathroom policy.

Personally, I assumed RPI would maintain its on-campus housing requirement for incoming transfers, keeping us on campus for our first year. It wasn’t until a month later, on July 10, that transfers were told their status would match the policies for other students with their cohort determined by their number of credits. Junior and senior transfers were left with a month less time than their cohort counterparts to find affordable housing that would comply in an already depleted market. I only ended up signing a lease about a week before moving in.

Some of this can maybe be written off to the strange times we are living in, but I’ve heard tales from previous students about late transfer housing assignments, late credit evaluations, and general lack of communication. From a college that prides itself on its “excellence in the development of transfer pathways,” communications like the first transfer letter and orientation materials could have been sent out sooner, and transfers should have received their on/off campus status when everyone else did. Although everyone is feeling uncertain this year, RPI must do more to live up to its honor roll status by treating transfer students with equal regard as the rest of the student body, not as mere afterthoughts.