Second-term transfer students lack proper orientation, struggle to adjust

Think back to your very first day at Westview. Think of the nerves, that worrisome voice in the back of your mind questioning if you’d know anyone in your classes or have friends to sit with at lunch. Most students, regardless of their grade level, began their journeys as Wolverines in August, alongside roughly 600 other anxiety-ridden teens. They sat through the four-hour orientation led by either Link Crew or Peer Counseling, which was filled with advice and guidance to start the year on the right foot. And while some may have rolled their eyes at the process, others will admit that they valued the advice they were given, using the library bathrooms and becoming involved in clubs as a result.

Now imagine not having the luxury of the four-hour orientation. No introduction to Westview culture, no meeting your peers, no team-building before the academic rigor begins. Imagine being given your schedule and a brief tour of campus, and then being thrown into the deep end without a having clear vision of what you’ve gotten yourself into. This is what many of the roughly 50 students who transfer into Westview during the middle of the academic year experience.

According to a study conducted by the University of Chicago, there is a distinct correlation between students transferring schools mid-year and a drop in their grades. Transfer students must adjust to new environments, adapt to different teaching methods, varying workloads, and sometimes a change in curriculum on top of dealing with the social challenges that present themselves.

If new students were relieved from some of the social pressure that comes along with starting a new school, by having a structured program in place to support them, they could focus on their grades more, and hopefully stay afloat.

While our counselors do an amazing job at making sure that the 2,400 students on campus have pleasant and comfortable Westview experiences, it’s a very time-consuming and difficult job. As such, transfer students don’t always have the thorough orientation experience that they would have received had they had joined the school in August.

Currently, when a new student first arrives at school, each counselor has their own way of making sure that the student feels welcomed and becomes acquainted with the campus, as there is no set structure on how to do so.

“When I have a new student during the school year, I try to set them up with an ASB student or Peer Counselor for a tour of the school on their first day.” Mrs. Cudmore said.

Mrs. Cruz, on the other hand, tends to seek out students with similar interests.

Although each of these approaches can be helpful to newcomers, if the school had a detailed plan to follow when new students do arrive, the counselors would be better equipped to help them and hopefully less stressed when trying to figure out how to do so.

This plan could begin with the student receiving their schedule, followed by a tour of campus from an available peer counselor. The tour guide would be given a list of crucial locations to point out during the tour including bathrooms, the student’s classes, and where to buy food. This “orientation” would conclude with the student being given a small packet of helpful papers, such as a map of the school, a list of extracurriculars that they could get involved with, and a tips and tricks sheet to provide student-to-student advice that’ll help transfer students navigate the school. These sheets would ideally be compiled by Link Crew or Peer Counseling (as both organizations focus on student welfare).

While this would help the transfer students grow familiar with their new environment, a large part of the social aspect of transferring schools would remain unaddressed: actually meeting new people.

After all, the counselors try their best to support them in any way possible, but what happens when that isn’t enough?

While the counselors make it clear to newcomers that they are always welcome in the Wolverine Center, some students may feel embarrassed to take up that offer. Involving more students in the process would allow new students to connect with people their own age who may better understand what they’re going through socially and could offer a more relatable perspective and advice.

In order to give more students the option to help out a transfer student, it would be helpful if there was an outlet allowing the counselors to relay information to the students filtering through the Wolverine Center. Through this outlet, whether it be a board or paper or screen, they would be able to communicate whenever they have a new student, so that students would know to speak with them if they wanted to help out.

If more students became involved with helping transfer students with their transition, rather than having all of the pressure fall onto the counselors, those transfer students would have more meaningful and complete experiences and connect with their peers, which could help relieve the social anxiety that many transfer students face.

Having a stepping stone off which transfer students can more easily meet and befriend other students would be ideal in this situation.

Being connected to at least one other student right off the bat could connect the new student to a sea of other students and help the social aspect of their transition run a lot more smoothly.

High school is challenging enough as it is; balancing an academic life with a social life is tough, but trying to recreate both from scratch is even harder. The social struggles that transfer students face are not to be ignored, and while Westview does a good job of accommodating them as of now, there is more that could be done. In the future, if there was more of a focus on embracing new students on campus, Westview would in turn transition into becoming a more inclusive and supportive environment.