ne week before move-in, transfer student Hannah Tucker, LSOE ’21, still hadn’t received her housing assignment. Worried that she would be placed in temporary housing, Tucker called a Boston College ResLife representative and asked point blank if she would be assigned to an overflow room. The ResLife representative assured her that wouldn’t be the case—she would have a comfortable bed and a place to live upon arrival.
The next day, Tucker received an email that assigned her, along with 10 other sophomores, to live on the Newton Campus in a converted lounge with the prospect of guaranteed senior housing. Formerly a communal space for the residents of Keyes Hall, the lounges were furnished with couches and tables for reflecting and floor bonding.
Tucker had applied to transfer to BC after Winter Break of her freshman year from Husson University in Bangor, Maine. The first time through the college process, she admits she knew she wasn’t making the right decision, and that her choice was swayed by her desire to continue playing field hockey. After her first week of preseason, Tucker knew she didn’t belong there and found herself ready to leave before classes had even begun.
Almost 1,000 miles south and 15 degrees warmer, Autumn Hauser, MCAS ’21, was in a similar situation. Originally from New Hampshire, she flew down to UNC Wilmington, looking for a different experience in college, but found it overwhelmingly different—“superficial” and “surface level” were a few of the words she used to describe her experience. By Sept. 1, Hauser knew she wanted to move back to New England.
So, Hauser and Tucker both packed their bags, said their goodbyes, and joined the 38 percent of college students that transfer schools at least once. Once an overlooked demographic, transfer students are receiving increased attention from universities across the country, as undergraduate enrollment declines for the sixth year in a row.
While more people are willing to transfer, leaving a school and moving into a new unknown is daunting for any student. But the story of Hauser and Tucker shed light on the difficulties transfer students face after they’re accepted and moved on to their plan Bs. Meeting new friends at an unfamiliar school after missing out on the first year of campus acclimation is hard. It’s even harder when a new student is assigned to live in a freshman community room turned bedroom 10 minutes from the closest person in his or her grade.
"If I was to say one thing about the housing process, I think it fails a lot of transfers.” Molly Wolfe, MCAS '19
Tucker spent the entirety of many weekends throughout the Fall 2018 semester sleeping on air mattresses in friends’ rooms on Upper Campus, making every possible effort to resist Newton isolation and build friendships. Surrounded by unfamiliar freshman faces on Newton, many of whom seemed to already be friends, Tucker and Hauser both thought BC should’ve handled the overflow housing process better.
“On the Newton Campus, all the freshmen had their Welcome Weeks done, everything was scheduled for them, and all the upperclassmen already had their friends,” Hauser said. “So we were in this weird limbo where there was nothing for us to do. I just hung out in my dorm and did nothing.”
For 40 percent of BC’s freshman class, the initial difficulties of living on Newton make the transition to college life even more convoluted than it is for the average undergraduate. Thankfully, for many, Newton quickly begins to feel like home. Surrounded entirely by other freshmen, many who are placed on Newton their first year quickly develop pride and boast about its superiority to Upper Campus.
But for a sophomore transfer student, Newton is the opposite of a cozy abode. As a transfer, anywhere on campus is uncharted territory—new classes, professors, and friends—but living on Newton presents yet another problem for incoming transfers.
Hauser remembers spiraling into near panic as move-in day crept closer—and yet, she had no indication of where she would be living. While the majority of her fellow transfer students had received dorm assignments on Upper Campus a month ago, Hauser was left in the dark. When she was finally notified that she would be living in Keyes on Newton, Hauser was disappointed—but overall, felt relieved that she had somewhere to live.
Director of Transfer Admissions, Mary French, admits that this year was a particularly unusual for transfer housing. French’s interactions with transfer students occur mostly during the application period and orientation. In fact, French wasn’t initially aware that certain transfer students had been placed in makeshift dorms in Keyes’ lounges, an indicator of the last minute nature of these overflow rooms.
“I hadn’t heard anything about [students] being placed on Newton Campus until several weeks into the school year,” French said. “I didn’t know until a student told me.”
Although BC just started housing transfers on Newton this year, the housing process has always been difficult for them. Molly Wolfe, MCAS ’19, transferred from Fordham University. Unlike Tucker and Hauser, Wolfe didn’t particularly dislike her freshman college experience—rather, it was a sense of too much familiarity that drove Wolfe to transfer, as she ended up being one of many from her high school at Fordham.
Initially enthused by the prospect of switching schools, Wolfe’s housing process turned her first few weeks into a nightmare. Against her hopes, she was placed in Greycliff—shortly after hearing the news, she obtained a doctor’s note to be placed elsewhere due to her allergies, avoiding ever stepping foot in Greycliff. Despite recognizing that she had cheated the system, Wolfe never thought she would have to go to those lengths to be placed in a different dorm.
“Housing was a mess. … My friend said get out of [Greycliff],” Wolfe said. “No offense to anyone who lives there, but I’m a social person.”
She moved into 90 St. Thomas More Rd. with five international students who were all best friends. Transferring had been challenging enough, and rooming with an already established friend group left Wolfe feeling very overwhelmed. So, once again, she began the process of trying to move out.
Eventually, Wolfe got her RAs involved to figure out a solution for her dilemma—but in the end, she was told there wasn’t a good enough reason for her to move. Wolfe’s mom ended up getting involved, calling almost every day to try and help her daughter. Finally, after a combined effort from both Wolfe and her mom, she moved into 2000 Commonwealth Ave. with a friend who had also transferred.
“I didn’t get help. I had to do it all myself,” she said. “And that’s most of the stories I’ve heard from other transfers that moved. We just all did it ourselves. If I was to say one thing about the housing process, I think it fails a lot of transfers.”
Like Wolfe, Tucker felt cheated. She understands that BC had to deal with over-enrollment somehow and feels lucky that they were able to provide her with a place to live. She admits, however, that she doesn’t think BC handled the problem well by placing her on Newton Campus.
“They isolated us. I feel so isolated on Newton,” she said. “It’s all freshmen, everybody knows each other, they all moved in a week before [the transfer students] did, and then we just showed up one day.”
Tucker and Hausers’ optimistic attitudes have helped them both. Tucker believes she’s made the best of the Newton housing situation. She spent most of first semester crashing in her friends rooms on CoRo. Hauser says the silver lining is the guaranteed senior housing that those placed in overflow rooms receive. Both Tucker and Hauser will be given senior housing on campus, unlike other transfer students, who are only given one year of on-campus housing.
Hauser, however, takes the term “guarantee” with a grain of salt. Chuckling, she questioned how accountable a promise of housing from ResLife really is.
“We were guaranteed senior housing too, but we didn’t get it,” said Caitlin Mahoney, MCAS ’19. “We got ‘space available’ and then we were [eventually] denied in July. I feel like ‘space available’ means ‘go find an apartment.’”
Mahoney and her boyfriend, Grant Kalfus, MCAS ’19, both transferred to BC as sophomores. They decided to change colleges because neither was comfortable with the size of each school’s student body—while Kalfus found Syracuse University too big, Mahoney felt suffocated by the smaller size of Lehigh University. Both had friends at BC, which ultimately swayed their respective decisions.
Kalfus experienced his own heartache when it came to BC’s housing arrangements. For him, one of the most difficult things when he first transferred was living in 2000—this meant that he was surrounded by juniors and seniors as a sophomore. Mahoney considers herself lucky, as she was placed in Vanderslice with a few other spring transfers, making her move to BC slightly more manageable. For Kalfus, the help of the administration made his transition easier as time went on. According to him, his transfer adviser was a bit of a saving grace—in fact, he found that the majority of the administration was ready and eager to help when he reached out to them. Kalfus and Mahoney also credit French for her efforts to help transfers integrate themselves into life on campus.
“I thought if I announced to the world that I’m a transfer, that would make everyone want to be my friend. Apparently, you’re supposed to keep that on the down-low.” Caitlyn Mahoney, MCAS '19
French’s role as an adviser has helped many transfers over the years. In an effort to help incoming transfers, though, she is mainly involved in the application process. French focuses on making sure they have all the tools and information they needed for the next phase and giving them a handshake into the University. She has made sure to discuss specific needs with transfer students. For example, when transfer students asked her if they could start a mentoring program, she helped start the transfer ambassador program and became the club’s adviser.
For BC’s incoming freshmen, the immediate pressure to make new friends induces intimidation and dread. For incoming transfer students, however, it’s often even more daunting. Even with programs in place, such as the ambassador program, that attempt to help ease them into the BC community, making friends outside of the secluded group of transfers is no small task. Hauser described it as a transfer bubble.
“Once you know a few transfers, they know a few transfers, and then your circle [inevitably] widens, but it’s kind of limited in a way,” Hauser explained.
Similarly, Tucker found it hard to fit into pre-existing friend groups. The combination of living on Newton and coming to a new school—at a time where most students already have the comfort of set friend groups—made branching outside of the transfer community hard for Tucker and the other students she transferred with. As she described it, the people at BC are incredible, but when she is with non-transfer friend groups, it can feel as though she’s sticking her nose into a conversation that she doesn’t belong in.
As for Mahoney, who came to BC as a spring transfer, making friends was even more difficult—to her, everyone already blended seamlessly into the fabric of BC’s culture. While hundreds of students paraded with purpose across Stokes Lawn towards their classes, Mahoney was left in the dust, wondering where in the world Gasson was located. At first, she had a hard time asking for help.
“I didn’t realize this when I first arrived here, [but] it’s weird to be a transfer,” Mahoney said. “I thought if I announced to the world that I’m a transfer, that would make everyone want to be my friend. Apparently, you’re supposed to keep that on the down-low.”
Like Hauser, Wolfe remembers getting caught in the suffocating cycle of transfer students solely befriending other transfer students and still remembers struggling to meet people outside of the transfer community when she arrived at BC. Similar to her experience with the housing process, when it came to joining clubs, Wolfe felt as though she was on her own. Now, Wolfe loves her social circles. But, she acknowledged that most of her stress when it came to making friends stemmed from BC’s process to join clubs. She was shocked to find out that many of the University’s clubs were application based. After being rejected from a few service clubs, Wolfe worried about finding her place at BC. Everyone was telling her the answer to making new friends was to join clubs—but in Wolfe’s experience, there were barriers involved.
Eventually, Wolfe joined Appalachia Volunteers because the service club didn’t have an application.
“I joined it because it was the easiest one, and that ended up being my saving grace at BC,” she said. “I don’t think I would’ve lasted without having more options of things.”
Though she’s forever grateful that the circumstances of BC’s extracurricular life landed her in Appa, she resents the unnecessary roadblocks she encountered. She found that whenever she asked for advice or voiced her concerns about making friends, people told her to get involved. She clarified, however, that no one provided any details about how or where to get involved, which can make social life at BC feel a little exclusive at times.
Mahoney also found it difficult to get involved on campus. Along with the many other challenges that being a spring transfer presented, clubs weren’t actively recruiting in the spring like they were in the fall. By the time she went to the fall activities fair her junior year, she felt as though she was too far behind to start fresh. In the end, Mahoney, like Wolfe, joined Appa. And like Wolfe, it ended up being one of the most integral parts of her BC experience.
Back on Newton, Tucker also found it hard to balance her social life. At first, Tucker loved life at BC. She described her initial time on campus as “almost being on a high.” Coming from Husson, a small school in a small town, the University’s undergrad size and proximity to a big city was a revelation for her. With new experiences being thrown at her from every angle, she had a hard time keeping up with it all.
“Initially, I was going out all the time and not paying attention in school,” she said. “I had no idea how to balance everything.”
Tucker soon found herself coming down from the initial high when she went on Halftime, a retreat to Dover, Mass. that is open to all sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Tucker remembers soaking in the vulnerability of her peers. Being able to openly discuss her experience thus far, and compare it to other students, Tucker began to think about BC’s imperfections. Sheltered by the safety of Halftime, Tucker and her fellow students talked about what is and isn’t unique about BC. It was then that Tucker realized that college often boasts a shiny exterior that can hide a dull underbelly which most students avoid addressing.
Her revelation lends truth to a much bigger issue: many college transfers feel obliged to always love their school, even if that’s not always the case.
“It’s weird for me, as a transfer, to come from a place where I was really unhappy and go to place where I expect myself to love it [all the time],” she said. “And to find out that’s not the case is strange.”
Thankfully, for Tucker and Hauser, the Newton nightmare has finally come to an end. Two days before the start of the this semester, both girls found themselves moving into their new dorm together in Stayer on Lower Campus. Along with three other transfers, they took the space previously occupied by five juniors who are studying abroad this semester. Though the transition was a shift—and learning the new dynamics that come with moving into a dorm with three juniors who already lived there has been a slight challenge—both Tucker and Hauser believe it was for the best.
“A lot of my transfer friends who weren’t on Newton are envious, because … say they were on CoRo, they’re still there, and this is there only year of housing,” Hauser said. “For me, I had one kind of crappy semester on Newton but now I’m guaranteed senior housing, and I’m in a really nice dorm now.”
As for the impact living on Lower Campus has had on their day-to-day lives, both girls agree that the convenience has been the biggest shift for them.
“I feel so much less stressed out … I feel more part of the community,” Tucker said.
Hauser and Tucker aren’t the only ones experiencing change. All in their last semester of college, Wolfe, Mahoney, and Kalfus have started looking toward the future. Kalfus is ready to tackle the world of marketing on New York City, and Mahoney is doing a year of service in Chicago before applying to medical school. They’re both preparing to head down vastly different career paths, yet they share the same sentiment for the future.
As for younger transfers students, Kalfus and Mahoney encourage them to not be shy. Both of them agree young transfers should broaden their horizons, take risks, and say yes to every opportunity before it’s too late.
“Talk to people in classes. If you mess up or say something dumb, no one’s judging,” Mahoney said. “You might feel like it, but they’re actually not. BC will start to feel like home.”
In an education system that often ignores transfer students, giving them a voice to talk about rough transitions, complicated housing processes, and everything in between is crucial, especially at BC, the home of community-oriented students. Tucker, Hauser, Wolfe, Mahoney, and Kalfus all paint a detailed portrait of the complexities of being a transfer student, and how they’ve taken it upon themselves to find their place on campus.
“By junior year, even though I had spent [more time] at Lehigh … I felt so at home,” Mahoney said. “These are my people. And this is my place.”
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor