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For some transfer students, class registration at UNC feels nearly impossible

transfer student difficulties
Emma Hayes, senior psychology major, is a transfer student who has struggled with class registration and fulfilling general education requirements due to UNC's stringent credit transfer policies.

Summer sessions, 8 a.m. classes and 18-hour semesters — that's always been the workload for Emma Hayes since she transferred to UNC from the University of Washington during the fall of her junior year.

Hayes, now a senior psychology major, said late registration times assigned to transfer students have made her academic path at UNC much more stressful.

“Every time I’ve registered, I end up doing a mad dash to find new classes because the ones that are in my shopping cart are closed or have a long waitlist already,” she said.

The Office of the University Registrar assigns enrollment times based on a student’s number of semesters in residence at UNC. That often means transfer students receive enrollment appointments at least a day later, and sometimes more, than other students in their class.

Hayes said she has always registered for classes at least two to three days behind her classmates. 

Dennis Soberl, the senior academic adviser for transfer students, said transfer students are credited with one semester of residence for every 15 credit hours that transfer from their previous schools.

“Because of this, many do not register later than their classmates,” Soberl said. “We also work with many academic departments to have them reserve seats for incoming transfers in high-demand classes.”

During her first semester, Hayes had to fill her schedule with general education classes because the classes for her major were full after her late registration time. She initially did not receive transfer credit for many of her Gen. Ed. classes, so she played catch up during her junior and senior year.

“The Gen. Eds. were more stressful because it’s stuff I’m not interested in,” Hayes said. “Having to spend three out of my four years taking Gen. Eds. was frustrating.”

Hannah Glen, a junior environmental studies major who transferred from Central Carolina Community College this past semester, said she struggled to get the classes she needed during registration. 

When Glen’s community college adviser told her to start registering in late spring, her ConnectCarolina wouldn’t let her register. When she contacted academic advisers, she heard conflicting information about her enrollment period. By the time her account finally opened to register in June, she struggled to get into the classes she needed for her major.

“It was just going onto ConnectCarolina and seeing ‘closed, closed, closed,’” Glen said. “It was extremely frustrating because we’re already coming in feeling like we’re behind.”

Soberl said transfer students are urged to register before the end of May in a welcome letter from Academic Advising, in the transfer student advising module, on numerous websites and during Academic Advising interest sessions during the summer transfer student orientation. 

But Hayes said no one told her she would have to register later than her peers after her first semester at UNC.

“For a while I didn’t realize that I was registering later than people in my class,” she said. “I just had to poke around and talk to people and realize that all my friends registered two, three days before me.”

Soberl said any student can struggle to get into classes they need, depending on their major.

“We urge all new transfer students to meet with an adviser shortly after their acceptance to discuss transfer credits and how they fit into our curriculum and to provide strategies for registration issues they may experience,” Soberl said.  

Devon Moore, a junior linguistics major who transferred from Sandhills Community College this fall, said her community college adviser’s hands-on approach didn’t prepare her for the hands-off approach at UNC. She said the transfer registration module was more confusing than anything else, and communication from academic advising was often conflicting. 

“I just really want to hone in on how stressful it all was,” she said. “I’m on the age track of a university student, but nontraditional students who aren’t in this age group — they don’t know what to expect even more so than me. I can’t imagine how stressful it would be.”

Hayes said the credit transfer process isn’t much easier than registration. Because she transferred from an out-of-state school, the process took about a year. By the time some of her Gen. Ed. classes were approved a few months ago, Hayes had already taken classes to fulfill those same requirements.

Becky Egbert, the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program director, said the admissions office is working on improving communication to transfer students about course equivalencies before they receive a credit transfer report.

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“Could we do a better job of it? Of course," Egbert said. "A lot of our calls are from transfer students from other institutions wanting to know what to take, and our website is kind of vague." 

Glen said she would like to see improvement in UNC’s communication to incoming transfer students.

“Carolina says it’s for all, but in my experience and my other transfer student friends — we’re just very frustrated with the lack of resources and with what we’re not told,” she said. 

Hayes said she wished UNC had been more upfront about the academic obstacles that come with transferring.

“Honestly, if I had known how much of a hassle it would be and how much more work I would have to do to finish, I might not have transferred,” Hayes said. “It’s been such a huge stressor and time commitment.”