Tips for Success for Graduate and Transfer Students

transfer and grad student guide to tech

Tips for Success for Graduate and Transfer Students

By Julia Faherty august 14, 2017

Incoming undergraduates make up a large portion of new Tech students; but as one of the top research universities in the United States, Tech attracts students from well beyond high school. 

Transfer and graduate students are an important part of the new student population at Tech. Even with past college experience, these students may be nervous about their first year on campus.

Fortunately, students at Tech are happy to share their wisdom, and listening to their recommendations will make the first year as a transfer or graduate student a breeze. Welcome, new Yellow Jackets!

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Fourth-year electrical engineering graduate student Skanda Prasad came to Tech in Fall 2014 from Bangalore, India, where he completed his undergraduate studies. Prasad now serves as president of the Graduate Student Government Association and has a few recommendations for incoming graduate students.

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“Grad students don’t have FASET or an extensive orientation, so joining Tech can be an intimidating experience,” he said. “As an international student, I spent my first semester trying to make the transition to grad school while adapting to a new country and culture. Luckily, life at Tech got a lot easier in my second semester when I was able to figure out the system and plan my time better, which gave me more time to explore the city, do new things, and join Grad SGA.”

Tech offers Orientation and GradExpo to help new students transition to life on campus. Fall 2017 Graduate Orientation sessions are approximately one hour and will be held at multiple times Aug. 10–22. Advanced registration is required. The Fall 2017 GradExpo will take place Thursday, Aug. 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Clough Commons and will help new graduate students learn about campus services, student organizations, and local businesses in the surrounding community.

If you’re a graduate student looking for more information on how to make a smooth transition to Tech, Prasad has a few bits of advice.

1. Connect with other graduate students.

During his first year at Tech, Prasad found current graduate students to be some of the most helpful resources on campus.

“Through the India Club at Georgia Tech, I was able to connect with other graduate students soon after I received my admit, and they walked me through all aspects of life at Tech — right from course suggestions, housing, and even something as minor as what spices to bring from India.”

Skanda Prasad

“Take breaks, explore the city, meet people, join a campus club, do new things, and stay healthy."

—Skanda Prasad

2. Get involved on campus.

Many new graduate students find it difficult to identify and schedule time for extracurricular activities, but students should be aware that there are many campus organizations open and welcoming to them.

“There are a number of ways to find campus organizations to join at Tech,” Prasad said. “Organizations table at various expos at the beginning of the semester, and most of them have events early in the fall, so students should keep an eye out for tables, flyers, emails, and events.”

Graduate students should take advantage of Tech’s OrgSync page for more information on active campus organizations. Alternatively, Prasad has found that word-of-mouth publicity is a great way to discover less formal graduate student groups that are not chartered through Georgia Tech.

“Talking to fellow students and new people is the best way to find graduate organizations that are more ‘low-key’ or specific to a certain school or discipline,” he said. “Plus, you get to meet new people.”

3. Look beyond campus for housing and roommates.

Graduate students are not required to live on campus during their first year, so students can also explore off-campus housing. During Prasad’s first year at Tech, he lived off campus in a six-bedroom house in the Home Park neighborhood. Prasad found that living with five friends made his first year easier.

“Since our house was fairly large, it became a fun gathering place for grad students and that meant we got to know a lot of new people, which eased the pain of moving to a new city,” he said. Prasad suggests house-hunting early since many places are rented by early June.

4. Purchase Dining Points if you plan to eat meals on campus.

Graduate students are usually comfortable cooking meals for themselves, but a busy schedule often means less time in the kitchen. Prasad said he mostly cooked for himself during his first year, but not always.


“Given how hectic the first semester was, cooking all three meals was out of the question,” he said. “For the most part, I’d have lunch on campus and sometimes dinner.”

Prasad found that graduate students didn’t use the dining halls frequently, so a full meal plan was unnecessary, but he found value in Dining Points, which can be used at all Community Restaurants and 19 Georgia Tech Dining Services on-campus locations.

“When using Dining Points, not only do you save on tax, but you also get 10 percent of bonus credits, so it’s effectively a big discount on food.”

Dining Points can be loaded onto student Buzzcards at For more information on meal plans and dining locations, visit the Georgia Tech Dining Services website.

5. Don't let the workload overwhelm you.

Graduate school at Tech can be intense, but the benefits of finishing the program are extensive. Prasad recommends that students make time to care for themselves.

“Take breaks, explore the city, meet people, join a campus club, do new things, and stay healthy,” he said. “Often, it’s more productive to put your feet up and take a break so you can get back to work rejuvenated and with higher productivity.”

Prasad has found a vibrant community in Atlanta. “I’ve enjoyed visiting the museums near Tech, watching plays, poetry, stand-up comedy, and live music, hiking and camping, trying new foods, among other things," he said. By spending time in the city, Prasad is able to take his mind off his studies and get a well-deserved break.

6. Make use of your resources.

Prasad found it helpful to form study groups with his peers.

“I’ve often struggled with a concept for days, but understood it after just a few hours by discussing it with friends.” The Institute has many resources to help graduate students through their studies as well. From assisting with communication skills to health-related issues, Tech is ready to support graduate students through their academic careers. Learn more here

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Fourth-year student Libby Galli, a literature, media, and communications major, transferred to Tech from Georgia Perimeter College. As a transfer student, Galli had to adjust to life on campus, a vigorous course load, and the caliber of students. Her advice:

1. Attend a transfer FASET orientation.

Georgia Tech offers specific orientations geared toward transfer students. Galli found this beneficial in her transition to Tech.

“FASET was where I discovered how I would fit in,” she said. “It showed me that college is much more than going to class and getting good grades; it's about finding your place in the world outside of your hometown. When I came to FASET, I was able to see myself preparing for my future and thinking about life after graduation.”

2. Don’t feel pressure to “catch up” to other Tech students.

Since transfer students typically have only two or three years at Tech, many new students feel pressure to get involved on campus and accomplish all of their goals in a very short period of time.

Libby Galli

“Finding things to get involved with can take time, and that’s okay."

—Libby Galli

“For me, I tried to do a lot of things my first semester, but they weren't necessarily things I wanted to do — I just did them because I wanted to be busy and involved,” Galli said. “It wasn't until my second and third semesters that I found things that I was really passionate about.”

During her first semester, Galli felt a need to "catch up" to other students her age who were already in their third or fourth year at Tech. In hindsight, she realizes she didn’t need to rush.

“Finding things to get involved with can take time, and that’s okay. It may take some fishing through different clubs, researching campus organizations, and meeting with and talking to different people to find the things you're really passionate about.”

3. Be open to meeting new people.

In her first year at Tech, Galli lived in the Graduate Living Center with three other transfer students, using the Georgia Tech housing portal to fill out her preferences and get matched with roommates. The group forged close bonds, and Galli continues to live with two of them.

She has formed relationships with her peers through classes and organizations as well.

“I love having the same people in a lot of my classes because I've gotten to know them personally and discovered that we have a lot in common,” she said. “I also have met people I'm close with in organizations, such as my sorority and a few other clubs. It's great to meet people through clubs simply because you have that common interest.”

For transfer students interested in Greek life, take the opportunity to rush with other undergraduates during the fall semester. Visit the Georgia Tech Greek Affairs website for more information.

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4. Take advantage of Tech’s resources.

Transfer students often find that Institute resources are more readily available than at their previous school. First-year transfer students should take advantage of these resources during their transition to Tech. View a list of common services.

Galli also found the Transfer Recruitment Team, made up of all transfer students, to be helpful. She now serves as president of the group.

“It was great to meet other students who went through the same process that I did,” she said. The purpose of the Transfer Recruitment Team is to connect transfer applicants and prospective students and families with current transfer students who can share their experience and involvement at Tech. Students interested in joining the team can find the application here.

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5. Remember: You belong at Tech.

Transfer students may compare themselves to veteran Tech undergraduates and feel like outsiders. Galli noticed that since she didn’t spend all four years of her undergraduate career at Tech, she was initially less comfortable than other students in her year.

Over time, Galli was able to overcome the isolated feeling and gain confidence.

“I know a lot of transfer students feel like they don't fully belong here because they didn't receive admission as freshmen. You put in so much work to transfer here, though, which not only proves that you belong here, but it shows how much you want to be here.”

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1) Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons
The Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons includes lecture halls, labs, desks and tables for studying, and multiple printing locations.

2) Library
The Library offers computers for student use, desks and tables for studying, and printing locations. Note that there is ongoing construction in the area, though.

3) Dining Options
Dining halls include North Avenue, Brittain, and Woodruff. In Tech Square, there are: Subway, Ray’s New York Pizza, Moes, Tin Drum, Waffle House, The Canteen, and more. The Student Center also has dining options including a 2nd floor food court.

4) Student Center
The Student Center contains the Georgia Tech Post Office, ATM’s, student mailboxes, dining options, a computer lab, Tech Rec, Paper & Clay, and Under the Couch.

5) Residence Halls

6) Campus Recreation Center
The Campus Recreation Center contains hundreds of types of exercise equipment, a 50-meter competition pool, a running track, a rock wall, the H2O Café, indoor racquetball courts, outdoor fields, and offers G.I.T. FIT classes.

7) Football Stadium, Basketball, Tennis, Baseball, Softball

8) Greek Houses

9) Stamps Health Services
Stamps Health Services is located in the Joseph B. Whitehead Building (Student Health Center), next to the CRC, and provides healthcare and health education to students. The services include primary care, pharmacy, women’s health, psychiatry, immunization and allergy, health promotion, and nutrition.

10) Barnes and Noble at Georgia Tech
The Barnes and Noble in Tech Square serves as Georgia Tech’s bookstore and includes the Buzzcard center, textbooks and supplies, Starbucks, and a few desks and tables for studying.


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Staying Caffeinated

Long nights of studying often mean early mornings, and a need for coffee. There are enough options for caffeine on campus that you need not settle for the same one every day.

Familiarize yourself with the many options through this comprehensive guide to campus coffee.