UMD should reserve housing for transfer students

Hagerstown Hall, one of the dorms on the University of Maryland's campus. (Gabby Baniqued/The Diamondback)

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

Whenever I meet transfer students at the University of Maryland, I’ve noticed how rare it is for them to live on or near the campus. Many of the transfer students I’ve talked to commute to school, but this is typically not their first choice. On-campus housing is difficult for transfers to get, and nearby off-campus housing can be expensive due to the high demand in a college town. To ensure better support of transfer success, this university should reserve housing spots for transfer students.

This university itself states that on-campus housing is limited for transfers, as they are not given priority for housing. Not only are freshman and returning students given priority for on-campus housing, the system as it currently exists gives them more time to search for off-campus housing than their transfer counterparts. 

Scrambling to find somewhere to live in a college town can be arduous, especially if you need something affordable. More and more students from low-income households are choosing to attend college in hopes of securing a higher salary in the future, according to the Pew Research Center. This may be especially true of students who transfer from community colleges, which are often used as a means to save money on higher education. 

The fall transfer on-campus housing application deadline for this university is listed as May 1. As a transfer student myself, I personally did not receive news of my admissions decision until May 2 — just one day after the aforementioned deadline.

Even worse, many transfer students apply to multiple schools, and their admissions decisions are not released at the same time. When I was transferring schools, my earliest admissions decision was released in January and my last in June. Transfer admissions decisions are released over such a large span of time that it can leave students floundering, unsure of where — or when — to pursue housing. 

This kind of gap in timelines leaves transfer students in a lurch. With the university potentially releasing transfer decisions right on the cusp of — or just after — housing deadlines, it’s unclear what students should do. Should they apply to housing before their admission decision is released? Should they wait it out and potentially scramble to find off-campus housing on a short deadline?

When transfer students attend their orientation, they are shown how to register for classes and learn that many classes have numbers in their “holdfile,” meaning seats in these classes are reserved, oftentimes for transfer students. A similar system for housing would reduce the strenuous amount of travel some transfer students endure to attend classes, and would make the overall housing application process a much less daunting task.

Transferring is a difficult transition even without considering housing. Though transfer students have attended college before, they’re not that far ahead of first-year freshmen in terms of understanding their new campus’s culture or geography. Transfers should not have such a low priority for housing; instead they should have spots in housing held available for them every year.

Lexie Werner is a senior English major. She can be reached at lexiew@terpmail.umd.edu.

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