82% of Bates Students Surveyed Say They Have Thought of Transferring

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, college students have been reevaluating their relationship with the institutions they attend. With the college experience now more different than ever, the amount of students considering and deciding to transfer has gone up significantly.

What really causes these sudden transfers?

According to the U.S. News, Bates College is nationally ranked 25th in National Liberal Arts College. This year, Bates is also ranked 34th out of 50 for hardest colleges to get into in the U.S. In addition, in the year 2019, Bates received 8,222 undergraduate applications and only accepted 998 students, bringing the acceptance rate to 12.1%, a lower acceptance rate than in 2018, which was 17.8%. Currently, the class of 2025 has an acceptance rate of 17.3%.

According to an anonymous survey conducted by The Bates Student, 88% of the 50 students who completed the survey know someone who has transferred. Of those 50 students, 68% of them know why someone transferred, and 82% have thought about transferring themselves. When asked whether they have taken action to transfer from Bates, the data reads:

In addition, the survey asked what were/was the reasons for thinking about transferring. Some notable comments mentioned Bates’ small size and location, the difficulty to make friends due to COVID-19, party culture, sports culture, Maine weather and the condition of [athletics] facilities. More sensitive responses mentioned issues like sexual assault, lack of disability access, lack of support for BIPOC students, not feeling like themselves here, mental health, lack of flexibility when it comes to financing their stay at Bates as well as not feeling a part of the community. 

The Student also asked students to rank the five given options in regards to reasons for transferring on a scale. A total of 29 students selected personal/mental health circumstances as usually true when it comes to why they believe students transfer, the highest number on the chart. 

Editor’s Note: The given options were academics: major/minor; financial situation; COVID-19 impact; personal/mental health circumstances; and identity-based support systems. 

Q&A With Two Transfer Students 

Two students who transferred from Bates were willing to share their experiences with The Bates Student. Vaughn Ortner ‘23 and Luke Parolin

Ortner ‘23 is currently attending the University of Pennsylvania and transferred during the fall of 2021. Parolin is currently attending the University of Melbourne in Australia. 

What factors influenced your decision to transfer? 

“The most important factor for me was my department’s (Anthropology) recent high faculty departure rate and the resulting decrease in courses. This led to a substantial decrease in course offerings and I felt that my ability to pursue my academic goals at Bates was no longer what I had initially hoped. Additionally, some of Bates’ COVID-related policies were very difficult for me last year, especially the removal of most of our breaks. I realize that Bates was not the only college/university to implement such a policy, but it led me to contend with much more stress and homesickness compared to my freshman year. Last winter, I decided that I wanted to apply for transfer to a larger school closer to my home in New Jersey with a wider range of course offerings and a larger department.” — Ortner ‘23 

“I think the first reason was just the location and size of Bates, it was just too small and rural for me. Another reason was the COVID situation; I got asked to leave campus because of COVID restrictions and Bates didn’t offer me an alternative place to stay. Bates didn’t really care about me or my mental health during this time. I felt like the reason I chose Bates was because I thought they did care and up until that point, I didn’t feel that. Also, the student body. I didn’t really feel connected to the community. I felt like I didn’t really have a place. It’s nothing against the academics or professors, or the whole school really, it was purely based on other issues.” — Parolin

How was the transfer process?

“I felt that the transfer process was faster and simple than the initial college application process from high school, but it is worth mentioning that I only applied to a few schools for transfer and I had help from a strong support system. I found that competitive colleges/universities look for students who have performed well in college-level classes, have good recommendations, and have an adequate reason for transferring in their transfer applicant pool.” — Ortner ‘23 

“It was fairly easy since I was already an international student. The applications themselves didn’t require much of what I had to do before when I applied to colleges in high school. I also didn’t really tell Bates I was transferring until I got into my current school. I originally requested the semester off. Then when I was certain about leaving, I reached out to my FYS advisor, who really helped me with the transfer application.” — Parolin

Who was your support system in transferring? 

“When I began to think about transferring, the first people I told were my family members and they were all very supportive. My parents were definitely my biggest emotional supporters throughout the process. I then consulted a few of my closest professors at Bates and they were also extremely supportive. They even offered to write me letters of recommendation, which I believe played the biggest role in helping me to get accepted. My former major advisor at Bates was and continues to be someone who inspires and supports me on my career path even though he has since retired from teaching at Bates.” — Ortner ‘23 

“My parents were extremely supportive. My friends also encouraged me, which helped a lot. Again, my FYS advisor helped in the whole process. I am just glad it all worked out in the end.” — Parolin