Yalies may differ in their religious views or their thoughts on the current president, but there is only one right answer when a wide-eyed prefrosh looks up from her campus map and asks which is the best residential college at Yale:
“Well, my residential college, of course.”
But if the answer is not unqualified and unequivocal, but instead a hesitant explanation about transitions and bureaucratic red-tape, the prefrosh may unwittingly have stumbled upon a rare breed: the residential college transfer student.
Myths abound regarding these elusive transfers. Were they depressed? Were drugs involved? Did the student drop out to load equipment for Third Eye Blind’s Within Arms Reach Tour? But in truth, they most often only wish to room with teammates or friends from an a cappella group, and are not using the process as a means of escape. A few meetings, a short administrative form and a little bit of luck are all that is required to move from Timothy Dwight to Pierson College, or from Branford to Berkeley.
Tess Monaghan ’06 arrived at Trumbull College her freshman year and quickly made many friends in the college. She ate in the dining hall, spent time in the courtyard and attended Master’s Teas. Soon, though, she met Kate Nelson ’06 and Lynn Feng ’06, who were both in Calhoun College. Their friendship quickly became important to her.
“It was obvious that we had to live together,” Monaghan said. “There was no other option. I was unsure of the procedure, but it turned out to be really easy.”
Monaghan met with Trumbull’s master and dean, as well as the master and dean from Calhoun. Explaining that her Calhoun friends were, “the best people she had met at Yale and [her] closest friends,” she filled out the transfer form and got the necessary signatures. Although she lived in Calhoun this year, she continues to spend time at Trumbull with her friends from freshman year.
“There was nothing wrong with Trumbull, but I just never got close enough with anyone there to live with,” Monaghan said.
Applying to transfer from Timothy Dwight College to Ezra Stiles College does not seem like a major change, Annemarie Von Der Goltz ’06 said, because she never became engaged in the residential college system.
“I’m not really into the residential college thing,” Von Der Goltz said. “So it’s not too big a deal to switch communities.”
The transfer process is designed to be as accommodating as possible, Dean of Administrative Affairs John Meeske said. Normally, every student is allowed to transfer if he or she presents a valid reason and if there is available housing in his or her desired college, Meeske said.
For some transfers, though, the process becomes frustrating and disorienting. Much like transitioning to college as a freshman, it is difficult to leave behind a community that for months, or even years, was the place a student called home. Abby Deutsch ’06, who transferred from Calhoun to Branford, felt like a fish out of water.
“I still get disoriented in the labyrinthine Branford basement, I still cannot name many of my Branford classmates, and I still get a warm, tingly feeling when I peer at or enter Calhoun,” Deutsch said.
Most Yale students ultimately choose to remain in the college to which they were randomly assigned, Meeske said, and 70 percent of students eligible to move off campus remain in their residential colleges. This year, he said, there were only 60 students who requested transfers. Forty-eight of those requests were granted.
Most Yalies adjust to the colleges they are assigned to before they matriculate, Meeske said.
“Students are often apprehensive at the beginning,” he said. “But soon they make friends around them, and their dean and master make a huge effort to foster community in the college. They usually end up very happy.”