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September 5, 2017   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | OTAS assists, advocates for Franklin College’s…
Magnify OTAS 2017 McElhannan and Field-h.env
Katherine Field, right, talks with Franklin College transfer student ambassador Lyndsey McElhannon. Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski

OTAS assists, advocates for Franklin College’s transfer student population

Alan Flurry

Director of Communications, Franklin College

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Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
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By Alan Flurry | September 5, 2017
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The process for transfer students begins long before they step on campus and can continue long after they arrive, as they adapt to UGA.

At every step of the way, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences' Office of Transfer Academic Services, coordinated by Katherine Field with the help of administrative associate Sabine Adair, assists and advocates for students by providing resources, information and guidance for the transfer population in the Franklin College.

In an average year, transfers make up nearly 20 percent of newly enrolled students at the University of Georgia.

"Students in this transfer population include veterans, in-state and out-of-state transfers, international students as well as nontraditional students," said Field. "Students often arrive on campus unaware of the many UGA resources designed to help them succeed."

For example, Kayla, a new transfer student, was enthusiastic about progressing toward her biology degree, confident she would excel at UGA. Two semesters later, she found herself on scholastic probation, with a 1.93 cumulative GPA. She was financially independent and working long hours, struggling with the rigor of UGA's coursework compared to that of her previous institution. Ultimately, Kayla began to feel that her major selection was no longer a good fit.

"Kayla's challenges are not unique for a transfer student. While most acclimate to the academic rigor and campus life at UGA, some experience ‘transfer shock,' the tendency for a student's grades to fall during their first semester at a new institution," Field said.

Franklin transfer students with a cumulative GPA below 2.0 are required to participate in academic counseling through OTAS. The retention support has two parts: students on scholastic or continued probation complete a self-assessment, which prompts them to identify contributing factors to their academic difficulty. Students are required to attend in-person academic counseling.

"Their difficulties have various sources—personal issues, learning styles, time management issues, choice of major—but whatever the nature of the challenge, OTAS works to help them identify the cause and find a solution that will put them on track for graduation," said Diane Miller, director of the Office of Student Academic Services in the Franklin College.

For prospective transfer students interested in learning about the UGA admissions process, including eligibility, major selection and transfer equivalency, OTAS offers phone, email, Skype or in-person appointments.

To further bridge the gap for transfer students, this year the Franklin College welcomed six transfer student ambassadors representing a variety of majors across the college. The ambassadors will develop and implement programming to encourage campus engagement among new transfer students for the 2017-2018 academic year.

They attended portions of the five transfer orientation sessions during summer 2017, hosting an OTAS table at the Resource Fair and introducing themselves at the academic area meetings and at various advising locations.

"On many levels, our students are the most effective advocates for UGA," Field said. "By meeting other students and parents and answering questions, the ambassadors help alleviate some of the concerns that come with unfamiliar terrain and provide a positive introduction to UGA."

OTAS has collaborated with Franklin academic advisors and departmental colleagues on a variety of events for new transfer students, including departmental open houses, a campus bike tour led by a cycling advisor, a downtown networking dinner, a plant biology greenhouse tour where students

observed life science research in action and a transfer-specific pre-health information session facilitated by UGA's Pre-health Advising Office.

With guidance and support from OTAS, Kayla changed her major, cleared probation and is now progressing toward completion of her degree.

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