In the weeks leading up to the NISTS 2020 annual conference, we're highlighting the transfer stories of this year's National Transfer Student Ambassadors. All four students will attend the conference and participate in a student panel conversation during concurrent session one on Wednesday, February 5th.
What’s your major? Why did you choose it, and what do you hope to do after graduation?
My major is biology (Medical Sciences) with a minor in Spanish languages. I chose this major because, for the past five years, I have had countless opportunities to shadow healthcare professionals. One may ask why healthcare?
When I was in elementary school, my mother was a student in Hinds Community College’s respiratory therapy program, and she needed help studying her material efficiently. I helped her with everything from memorizing human anatomy to analyzing complex case scenarios, and I grew to appreciate people who worked in this field. Now a registered respiratory therapist, she is a living example of passionately accomplishing one’s goals, and she essentially reared me to do the same.
I participated in my high school’s health science academy and learned about medical terminology, pharmacology, medical ethics, and other various subjects. I joined HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) and eventually served as president; competed--and placed--in forensic medicine at the regional and state level; and shadowed nurses, respiratory therapists, medical doctors, veterinarians, and techs to learn more about their work. The birth of a family member’s twin sons sparked my interest in obstetrics and gynecology, but ultimately, my mentor Dr. Sheila Bouldin, an ObGyn at UMMC, ignited my passion for becoming a medical doctor.
After graduating from Mississippi College, I plan to go to medical school and hope to participate in the Rural Physicians Scholarship Program. Half my family lives in rural Mississippi, so I know first-hand how people value tradition there. I shadowed a family medicine physician in Carthage, and like him, I plan to spend time and build relationships with patients while finding ways to provide as much high-quality healthcare as possible.
Did you complete an associate degree before transferring? What led to your decision to finish it (or not)?
I wanted to start college at a four-year university, but because my parents could not afford it, I went to Hinds Community College instead. My goal was to stay for two years, obtain my associates, and then transfer. After talking to some counselors, however, I decided to move after a single year to set an example for other medical sciences students who might want to take the same route.
I knew I wanted to transfer to Mississippi College with as much scholarship money as possible, so I maintained a high GPA (3.8), joined Phi Theta Kappa, and even interned at the PTK headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi. I received $11,500 to transfer, and while making my final decision, I discovered that I could “reverse transfer” my credits to earn my associate degree later. I realized then the real value of community college. It saves time and money, but it also gives students time to decide their major, take general classes at a lower cost, build networking relationships with other students, staff, and faculty, and potentially earn entrance into Phi Theta Kappa.
What were your concerns about changing schools? What was most challenging about transferring/ acclimating to a new campus?
Even though I completed honors classes at Hinds, my biggest concern about changing schools was handling the course load. I intentionally took honor’s chemistry and honor’s Spanish to challenge myself in courses directly related to my major, thinking extra assignments would help me transition into the university a bit better.
To some degree, I was right because adjusting to the course load at Mississippi College was not as challenging as I thought it would be. For example, my honor’s Spanish project allowed me to practice deep research and presentation skills, and honor’s chemistry focused on original lab experiments, rather than classwork. In Chem I, I compared the specific heat of pure metals to metals from soda cans, pennies, and other common metals people use every day. In Chem II, I compared the amount of caffeine abstracted from instant and filtered coffee to see which form of coffee contained the most caffeine. These experiments pre-exposed me to the chemicals I used heavily in my organic chemistry class, and I even developed better organization skills that I needed for all of my classes.
Finding effective studying habits was the most challenging transition. At the community college, I made high grades by making flashcards and quizlets, reworking homework problems, and memorizing material. I assumed I could do the same at Mississippi College, but I found out that it doesn’t stop there. I had to learn the content, but I also needed to practice applying the material. Specifically, in my science courses, I took notes in class and then reviewed them. I even read the book to obtain more knowledge of the material, but it wasn’t enough. I needed to find additional practice and application problems because as a science major, we have to be able to analyze several issues and scenarios and provide the most effective solution.
What did you do to find support/community on campus?
I visited the tutoring centers offered by each department. I practically lived in the organic chemistry tutoring room because the tutors found additional problems and provided outside help. I even found the writing center to be extremely beneficial when it came to writing essays for my English and Spanish classes. I would say the teachers are the best part about helping students. They know the material is challenging, so they stay after class until they’ve answered each student’s questions and concerns. They highly encourage students to schedule personal appointments so they can re-teach parts of the lesson that may have been challenging at first.
What is something you wish you knew before transferring?
Before transferring, I wish I had learned more about what it is like to be a biology major at Mississippi College from students who are pursuing the same major. Building a relationship with existing university students is key, so that students can have a mentor to look up to and ask for additional help. I wish I had received advice on what notes and studying habits to attempt, which teachers to take and what their expectations are, and other questions I would feel more comfortable asking a student about in the time before transferring to the university.
What one piece of advice would you give students who are considering a transfer between schools? What about the faculty and staff who work with transfer students?
A piece of advice I would give students is to be flexible with the department that is associated with their major before transferring. It is important to email, call, and meet with professors and deans to see what their programs offer, and students should even reach out to other students in the program they plan to pursue before they transfer between schools. Building these relationships proves how important it is to the student to work on their future, and in faculty members’ eyes, it may even open doors in research, internships, or other positive opportunities.
As for the faculty and staff who work with transfer students, I would find a way to help your transfer students build relationships with incoming transfer students in the form of advising, recruitment, or other communications to give them a voice and provide prospective students with a breakdown of life at that four-year university. I would set them up with students of a similar major too. Ideally, this would be a mentor-type of leadership position/opportunity for these transfer students since they have more of the contemporary student experience studying at the university.