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 16, 2018

While transfer and graduate students represent a smaller portion of Tech's new student population, they are a great addition to campus and bring a unique perspective to the community.

With the start of a new academic year, it is important to remember that even though these students have past college experience, they 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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Electrical engineering graduate student Skanda Prasad came to Tech in Fall 2014 from Bangalore, India, where he completed his undergraduate studies. He is a former 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,” said Prasad. “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 2018 Graduate Orientation sessions are approximately one hour and will be held at multiple times through Aug. 21. Advanced registration is required. Graduate students will also be welcomed to campus with a new event this fall, Graduate Student Welcome, on Wednesday, Aug. 29. The event features a convocation ceremony, followed by a free picnic hosted by Graduate SGA.

A few other bits of advice from fellow graduate students:

1. Connect with other graduate students.
Skanda Prasad

Skanda Prasad

renee shelby

Renee Shelby

Graduate students may find it difficult to identify and schedule time for extracurricular activities, but should be aware that there are many campus organizations open and welcoming to them. Prasad first found his place on campus through the India Club.

“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.”

Student groups set up tables early in the semester to recruit new members, so keep an eye out for tables, flyers, emails, and events. Graduate students can also use Tech’s Orgsync page for more information about active campus organizations.

The Office of Graduate Studies organizes Grad Groups, which give students a group not tied to a specific academic or social interest.

“They’re a great way to find fellow grads outside of your lab and college, and provide an accessible way to get to know what’s available on campus,” said Renee Shelby, vice president for Grad SGA. Shelby led a group for two years and still maintains friends from the experience. “New grads get inundated with information that can be difficult to retain when you’re still trying to figure out where your classes are, how to navigate the department hierarchy, or even just unpacking your life in a new city. Grad Groups can help.”

2. 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, try 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.

3. Prioritize your health.

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.”

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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 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 your BuzzCard at For more information on meal plans and dining locations, visit the Georgia Tech Dining Services website.

Remember that as a student you also have access to the Campus Recreation Center for workouts, and can purchase a semester-long pass for group fitness classes. Group fitness classes are free from Aug. 20–25.

4. Know that you belong.

Before classes even began this semester, Renee Shelby has heard new graduate students talk about experiencing impostor syndrome — saying things such as, “I still can’t believe Tech let me in!”

“I think impostor syndrome is something that many people in academic spaces feel, but especially women and people of color,” said Shelby, who studies history and sociology. “This can add more anxiety on top of the already stressful grad student experience, and make folks afraid to talk or ask for help because you don’t want to look like you don’t know what you’re doing. But honestly, most people in grad school don’t.”

Shelby’s advice: Reach out, don’t freak out. “There are people all over this campus who are rooting for you and want you to succeed — fellow students, faculty, and staff. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want to talk, people are here.”

From assisting with communication skills to health-related issues, Georgia Tech offers many resources to help graduate students through their studies and careers. Learn more here.

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Two Georgia Tech students, Louis Apraku-Boadi and Jessica Reffitt, may not have started their college careers here, but that didn't stop them from jumping into life at Tech. The two are now president and vice president of Tech's Transfer Student Association and offered their thoughts on how to get adjusted to a new campus culture.

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Louis Apraku-Boadi

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Jessica Reffitt

1. Find a community.

Reffitt, a chemical and biomolecular engineering major, said, "Get plugged in to one of the numerous student groups on campus and meet people who can help you with your transition to Tech." You can search Tech's hundreds of student groups on Orgsync with your Georgia Tech login.

2. Take your time.

"Do not try and rush your way through Georgia Tech," said Apraku-Boadi, also a chemical and biomolecular engineering major. He suggests looking into opportunities such as internships, the InVenture Prize, campus career fairs, and CREATE-X.

Tech graduate Libby Galli offered similar advice, and the encouragement that it can take time to find your place.

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

That's Reffitt's advice. "Read the book. Go to office hours. Seek help through academic coaching or tutoring if you aren't doing as well as you'd like."

4. Go to the Career Fair.
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There are dozens of career fairs on campus each year, and Apraku-Boadi thinks you should go to as many as you can.

"Start thinking about how you're going to prepare for them your first week here, because the all majors fair comes up quickly," he said. This year's fall All Majors Career Fair will take place Sept. 17–18.

5. Don't overload yourself.

"Ask students in the classes ahead of you about your course load, and do not be afraid to drop a class if needed," said Apraku-Boadi. Academic advisors can help you know how that will affect your future semesters. Find your advisor here.

Reffitt emphasized that students should remember they are not alone even if they're new to Tech.

"If you start struggling, remember that you are not the only one, even if everyone else seems like they have it together," she said. "And the curve can be your friend."

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1) Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons
The Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons includes lecture halls, labs, desks and tables for studying, Starbucks, 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 West Village. In Tech Square, there are more: Subway, Ray’s New York Pizza, Moe's, Tin Drum, Waffle House, Umma's, Gyro Bros, and The Canteen. The Student Center also has dining options, including a Panda Express, Chick-fil-A, Subway, Blue Donkey Coffee, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, and 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 health care and health education to students. The services include primary care, pharmacy, women’s health, psychiatry, immunization and allergy, health promotion, sports medicine, 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.