Transfer Students Find Connection, Support At Transition Camps
New students at Texas A&M learn many of the institution’s storied traditions within the first weeks they spend on campus. Some traditions are learned even earlier. Orientation programs such as New Student Conferences, as well as Fish Camp, Howdy Camp and T-Camp, give new Aggies a glimpse into life in Aggieland.
Aggie Transition Camps, the student organization that hosts T-Camp and Howdy Camp, exists to “successfully transition new students into the Aggie family.” Although, T-Camp and Howdy Camp are not only for transfer students. Dalton Jones ’18, faculty advisor to Aggie Transition Camps, said, “The majority of our campers are ‘traditional’ students in the sense that they are continuing college immediately after departing their previous institution. We do have the occasional handful of nontraditional and graduate/professional students that attend our programs.”
The idea for Transfer Camp began with a group of transfer students in 1987 who wanted an extended orientation program geared specifically toward their experience. Since its founding, Transfer Camp has become known as T-Camp. It moved under the Aggie Transition Camps umbrella in 2014 with the introduction of a spring semester extended orientation program: Howdy Camp.
ATC hosts T-Camp each summer for students enrolling for the fall semester and Howdy Camp each January for students enrolling for the spring semester. These three-day, two-night extended orientation programs offer new students the chance to experience the traditions of Texas A&M, learn the significance of the Aggie core values and begin to build their personal Aggie networks.
ATC introduces new students to what it means to be an Aggie through activities including skits, small group discussion and yell practices. While significantly smaller than Fish Camp, T-Camp and Howdy Camp boast the same spirit. And it is current students who are helping cultivate that spirit.
“In most of our programming, current students lead the charge,” Jones said. “Current students are at the forefront of our operations, as they serve as student leaders for the organization.” These students serve as ATC’s directors, cochairs, counselors and teamers.
A unique aspect of ATC programing is the inclusion of “Team.” This group of students, “teamers,” leads the All-Camp times with a focus on teaching yells and introducing new students to the more somber Aggie traditions such as Silver Taps and Aggie Muster.
Many counselors have the urge to give back to the organization because they were once campers themselves, including Paige Romig ’25. “I was super nervous going into A&M,” she said. “I was worried I wouldn’t feel like I belonged, but that quickly changed when I went to Transfer Camp. Immediately I met so many amazing people, campers and counselors alike. It’s because of them that I wanted to join ATC as a counselor.
I want other incoming students to feel just as welcomed as I did and to be filled with pride for their new school. Transfer Camp really was a changing experience for me, and I left it with a newfound confidence that all incoming students should have as well.”
Since most students who attend T-Camp and Howdy Camp as campers have been previously enrolled in college, Jones explains the importance of relationship building within ATC. “What we believe is more important for our campers to take away from camp is feeling that sense of connection to the new community that they are joining,” she said. “We center a lot of our programming around the traditions, spirit and values of Texas A&M, while also providing some opportunities to share in resources and services that students will have access to that will assist in their continued academic success.”
According to the Texas A&M University’s enrollment profile, transfer student enrollment dropped by about 1,000 students from fall 2020 to fall 2022. Spring enrollment has also been trending downward slightly. Jones provided this insight: “Transfer students are admitted to Texas A&M via their intended academic program, not by the Office of Admissions. With that, each department only has a specific number of seats that become available semester to semester, year to year.”
ATC is working diligently to rebuild following a decrease in participation after the COVID-19 pandemic. “We anticipate our student organization to grow as we continue to navigate new changes and territories, including a new camp location, Lakeview Methodist Conference Center,” Jones said.
Prior to each camp session, a send-off is held at the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center. Representatives from The Association attend each camp session and speak about the impact of the Aggie Network and share ways in which current students can engage with The Association even before graduation. The Association also assists in recruiting campers by sending communications to newly admitted transfer students during the camp registration process. This year The Association edited, designed and funded the production of the T-Camp packet, a booklet each camper receives with all the information they will need to reference while at camp.
The experience has a lasting impact on students like Courtney Hampton ’23.
“I was a camper in T-Camp during a really rough time in my life,” she said. “I went from being scared and alone to leaving camp with a feeling of purpose and belonging.
ATC became my home away from home. I found myself surrounded by the Aggie Spirit and for the first time in a long time felt like I was where I belonged.”