First off, congratulations on getting in! You’ve done all the grunt work, and now you can look to your bright, exciting future here. Along with the potential for a varied college experience, transferring to a new school comes with a new set of academic requirements that are important to consider before you begin your year.
Ease into your semester
Just because you’ve finally landed up at the college you were aspiring to attend doesn’t mean you should load up your first semester with difficult courses. Lean into your academic environment, get to know the professors in your department, and take a lighter course load. Think of the advice you would’ve given yourself in your first year: Don’t go too hard on studying and burn out. Instead, be mindful that you’re in an entirely new environment.
Know your academic requirements
As a transfer, my old school’s core requirements were slightly different from those of Columbia and Barnard. Make sure to log into your student portal and check which of the requirements you’ve checked off and which classes you have yet to take. It was fundamental that I did this going in, as I then searched for courses that would both satisfy the requirements and enrich my learning experience. For instance, the language requirement and digital thinking requirements are unique to the Foundations Curriculum at Barnard, and Columbia’s Core Curriculum is mandatory for all incoming students and can rarely be satisfied by other classes. Make sure you’re keeping track of what’s changed.
Double and triple count courses
I wish I’d known this earlier, as it would’ve saved me time and prevented me from taking unnecessary extra courses to complete the Foundations. For Barnard students, Snowbird easily allows you to check which classes satisfy which requirements, whereas Columbia students have access to plenty of planning information on the bulletins online. Choosing strategically allows you to maximize your experience, as you have less time here than the average student. If a course you’ve completed satisfies more than one requirement, you can also petition to have it officially noted on your transcript within reason.
Reach out to your academic advisor
I first met with an academic advisor virtually last August before college even began. We chatted about the Barnard culture and the advisor gave me major-specific advice along with networking contacts. Besides giving me a head start, the meeting reminded me that advisors are here to lift me up and hold my hand along the way. If you’re stressed and completely lost on your major, I would suggest reaching out to your advisors.
Use resources like CULPA
If you haven’t checked out CULPA yet, it’s a must. With anonymous reviews of professors and feedback from peers on courses, it is a reliable resource that allows you to save time and energy when deciding classes. I would suggest looking through professor reviews and finding one with a teaching style that resonates with you the most.
Message upperclassmen in your major for advice
I can’t stress this enough: Reach out to upperclassmen and ask for their perspectives! Given the onset of the pandemic, it’s possible that certain groups of people might be freer to give you their time right now. Your peers have been in your position, felt your confusion and indecision, and gained insight to offer on their major missteps. Barnard CS is a Facebook group that can act as an informative resource for many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics majors and minors, while Columbia CS gives you access to research opportunities and talks happening on campus. Columbia WiCS also has a coffee chat series that connects underclassmen with mentors in their major for internship and research advice and more! For non-technical majors, posting your major and asking for targeted advice in your graduating class group is your best bet.
Subscribe to campus newsletters
The best way to be more engaged with the campus community is to attend events and connect with peers over similar interests. While there are myriad performing arts and creativity-based clubs on campus, a large portion of academic clubs focuses on allowing you opportunities to network within your major. Clubs like Columbia Womxn in Computer Science, Columbia Financial Investment Group, Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, and others often have welcome back events when campus reopens in the fall and spring. It’s a great way to break the ice and learn about various ways you can take advantage of the club’s opportunities.
Lastly and more generally, hang in there! I remember being terrified to come to a completely new environment, acquaint myself with academic faculty, and re-do some of my major requirements. But it’s a slow process, and with the support of my advisors, transfer dean, and peers, I was able to narrow down on my goals and accomplish them. Now’s the time to sit back and enroll in classes you will enjoy and grow through. Good luck and welcome home!