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Transfer Students Find a Home at Purdue

Katelyn Hickman on a path and leaning against a fence in a sunny, outdoor location

The path to Purdue is different for every student. For some,  Purdue is the culmination of a dream and for others, it is a newfound discovery. For a special group of students, the path to Purdue was a carefully planned process that took time, organization and dedication to reach.

Transfer students come to campus after attending another college, having to transfer credits from one organization to Purdue to ensure their future is on track.

Katelyn Hickman, a native of Lafayette and junior studying general management and marketing, considers her motivation for transferring to Purdue.

“The prestige and recognition are always a major benefit to going to Purdue, but it goes past just that,” Hickman says. “I love the community. I’m a Boiler by heart, Lafayette made.” 

Looking beyond campus, Hickman continues, “Even when you’re in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, if you’re wearing Purdue merchandise, someone is bound to say ‘Boiler up!’”

Hickman’s transfer journey started her senior year of high school. After having enough credits to graduate a year early but not wanting to abandon memories made senior year, she decided to start her college journey early at Ivy Tech. Using Purdue’s transfer credit calculator, Hickman confirmed that the courses she took her senior year would transfer for her upcoming sophomore year at Purdue.

James Atkinson Headshot

James Atkinson, a junior studying aerospace engineering, had a different transfer experience. Despite being waitlisted after his initial application to Purdue, he was determined to go to Purdue West Lafayette. After working hard for a year at Purdue Northwest  and achieving an exemplary GPA, he and his twin were admitted to the West Lafayette campus.

“Having the name on your transcript puts you far ahead from anyone else,” says Atkinson.

Purdue’s impressive ranking for aerospace engineering as well as its culture of hard work and discipline attracted Atkinson to the main campus. Purdue has consistently enrolled between 1,100 to 1,200 annually for the past few years. There have been transfer applicants from 49 out of the 50 states in the years 2020-2023. The main challenge transfer students face is successfully transferring credits between colleges, a challenge which is expedited with Purdue’s transfer credit calculator.


James Atkinson with a group of others posing with a replica of a B-2 plane.

After hours spent studying and finally getting the admittance letter, there were some major changes that Atkinson had to adjust to.

“The biggest change going from Purdue Northwest to Purdue West Lafayette was the size difference,” Atkinson says. “Purdue Northwest is so much smaller, whereas Purdue West Lafayette is a world class university. Going from the small campus mindset to the Purdue main campus mindset with very difficult classes was a challenge. I put in so much effort and tried standing out but every classroom has special kids in it and all of us are trying our best. It’s a huge difference.”

Each student had a system of supports to ease their transition on campus. Both students reflected on the help and consideration given to them from faculty on campus.

“I love my professors, they are very helpful in pursuing my long-term goals,” Hickman praises, “They understand that their classes are one step on the long road towards my future.”

Atkinson found that the aerospace department was particularly helpful and extended their support for his transition onto campus. As one of nine other transfer students going into aerospace, he was given personal support to aid his journey as a Purdue sophomore in aerospace.

Atkinson and Hickman each also utilized student organization involvement to find their fit on the West Lafayette campus.

Katelyn Hickman

Hickman is a dedicated member of Purdue Musical Organizations (PMO), Purdue Marketing Association (PMA), Brock-Wilson Center for Women in Business mentorship program and Boiler League Tag,  all student led organizations that serve a different purpose in her life. Her organizational involvement gives Hickman the ability to connect with her passion of singing and stay true to her faith, opportunities to advance in her career and blow off steam while having fun and exercising.

Hickman’s largest goal in her organizational involvement is to make a positive impact on others. When describing herself in these organizations, she says “I am a mentor. Incoming freshman recognize me when I’m walking down the sidewalk. I’m a friend in building the culture on campus. I’m a leader and Purdue has given me the chance to put an impact on the world.”

Hickman emphasizes that connection and relationship building is essential to feeling at home on campus. As a mentor through the Brock-Wilson Center for Women in Business, she encourages freshman to find their place and voice on campus.


James Atkinson holding a 1/100 scale replica of a B-2 plane.

Atkinson is also highly motivated to be involved on campus. As a member of the Minority Engineering Program and Vertical Flight Systems , he pushes himself to succeed and expand his talents. He found it important to join organizations that would give him work experience in his desired field.

From his involvements in organizations on campus, Atkinson was able to advance professionally.

“I received two internship opportunities already,” Atkinson enthusiastically shares. “Last summer my brother and I both interned at Rolls Royce, which was an opportunity from the Minority Engineering Program. I also received an offer for a co-op with Northrop Grumman.”

Atkinson considers why his involvement is so important.

“Being involved in all of these organizations and being a part of the research involved in the field really helped me as a professional,” he says. “Working on a team and figuring out how to tackle a problem and come up with a design for it is essential for my career, and getting to practice that early is so valuable.”

Hickman has grown as a professional through her organizations, but she also reflects on the social aspects of the organizations she’s a part of. “Being in clubs and organizations gives me a brain break, and I get the chance to grow with self-expression. My clubs have given me the gift to learn without the stress of being tested on what I’ve learned.” 

Being transfer students has built both Atkinson and Hickman professionally and personally. Hickman will graduate in 2025 with degrees in marketing and general management and is considering pursuing law school. Atkinson has plans to graduate in 2025 and pursue aerospace engineering full time. Hickman and Atkinson spent significant time and energy to get on campus, and it is clear to say that they are making the most of every second as a Boilermaker while making their mark on the community.

Written by: Hannah Williamson, Writing and Communications Intern, Student Life Marketing