“Not coming straight from high school, I have different life experiences of interacting more with the ‘real world,’ like having a job and interacting with so many different types of people of different ages and backgrounds in community college,” said Ixtle Montuffar ’27, a transfer student from the Community College of Baltimore County.
Transfer students face some challenges different than their peers in adjusting to life at Princeton.
“I would appreciate a little more recognition in that our experience is different,” Montuffar said.
Five years after reinstating the transfer program, which is especially geared toward students from first-generation, lower-income, community college, and military backgrounds, Princeton enrolled 33 new transfer students in the fall of 2023. Over time, the University administration aims to increase its transfer student population from the 86 currently enrolled in total to approximately 100.
Many of the transfer students have served in armed forces or worked professional jobs, with their ages and backgrounds varying widely.
Despite efforts to expand the program, current transfer students have expressed challenges integrating into the Princeton community, particularly throughout their first-year experience.
Sam Lee Regan ’26, for example, was hoping there might be an opportunity to get a shirt or memento during Orientation Week to mark his first year on Princeton’s campus. But there were only shirts for the class of ’27; Regan, as a transfer student from Tulsa Community College, was denied one for his own class.
“As low-income transfer students, you can’t necessarily afford Princeton merch,” Regan said. “A T-shirt does mean inclusion to make someone feel like they’re a part of the incoming class, which is something that I would say there hasn’t particularly been enough of.”
Since Orientation, the University has provided one piece of transfer-specific merch this year, which was provided for transfer students on Oct. 27 during an event hosted by the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity.
For all first-years, the University works to foster a sense of community by forming “zee” groups, composed of first-year students who live in the same residential hall. But several transfer students said they share a closer bond with other members of the transfer community than with their zee-mates.
“We are kind of excluded [in zee groups],” Givarra Azhar Abdullah ’26, who previously attended St. Louis Community College, said. “It would be nice to have at least one other transfer in a zee group.”
Emily Hinczynski ’26, a transfer student from Sussex County Community College, expressed similar sentiments.
“Everyone in my zee group has their groups already with their roommates and a similar high school background,” she said. “It’s nice to know that they’re there, but I don’t feel close to them in a way that they all feel close to each other.”
Instead of forming relationships through naturally built-in groups, many of the transfer students sought out community by joining various campus groups.
For veteran transfer student David Nagley ’27, who transferred from Mercer County Community College, club rugby “completely opened up [his] athletic and social realm on campus”.
“Everyone was really accepting and warm,” Nagley added. “I’m friends with people that are 22, 21, or 20. And it made me feel a lot more comfortable in that home because I can go around with people of all different age groups and not feel like I’m being isolated as the weird, odd, older student.”
Abdullah joined the Arab Society, the DEI committee, and the Academics committee in the Undergraduate Student Government.
“I’ve been able to get to know and become friends with a lot more Muslims,” Abdullah said. “There are study circles and welcome dinners, which is fun and cool.”
There’s also some academic support provided for transfer students. During their first semester at Princeton, they are enrolled in a writing seminar with their fellow cohort members. In addition to helping them adjust to Princeton’s academic environment and preparing them for junior independent work — especially for those who were starting as sophomores — the writing seminar provides a shared space for transfers.
“I really appreciate that class, because you do have your community there,” Regan said. “It’s super nice to be around all the transfers.”
Despite the support the writing seminar provides, Abdullah, a prospective math major, said she would like to see increased institutional resources for transfer students.
“I’m taking MAT 215, but McGraw does not offer tutoring sessions for this level,” Abdullah said. “It’s a bit difficult for someone like me who has no background and understanding of the math department’s approach, whereas other students in my class already have some background.”
“At my community college, we had a whole math center and you had four tutors there daily,” she added. “It’s crazy to me that Princeton doesn’t have the same resources.”
Dr. Keith Shaw, the Director of Transfer and Outreach at the Emma Bloomberg Center, said that while the Center offers multiple advising appointments throughout the year to monitor student progress, they do not provide extra tutoring sessions for transfer students as it would be unfair to non-transfer students. On campus, only the McGraw center and the residential colleges coordinate tutoring sessions.
Overall, Montuffar said they were grateful for the support they have received from Princeton’s transfer program during their transition.
“The staff that works directly with transfer students has made me feel less alone,” Montuffar said. “It is not an easy transition for anyone to come to a completely new environment, especially when you don’t know anyone, so having a team that is designated to provide support for me during my time here has allowed me a space where I can be a little more candid about how I feel.”
Looking ahead, students said they feel optimistic as Princeton’s transfer student program expands.
“The improvements are inevitable as we get more transfer students here, more diverse perspectives from different types of transfer students,” Montuffar noted. “I’m hopeful that there will be a lot more improvements, especially as we are vocal about things we want to see changed.”
And while pushing for more support, they remain proud of the unique paths that led them to Princeton.
“I’m not a traditional out-of-high-school student, and I’m not trying to be like one,” Nagley said.
“We are proud that we are transfers,” Regan said. “It’s who we are, it’s our truth, and it is alright.”
Chloe Lau is a staff Features writer for the ‘Prince.’
Please send corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.
Editors Note: A previous version of this article inaccurately stated the current number of transfer students.