33-year-old COD alum transfers to Iowa, lives in dorms, finds community


photo credit: Grace Smith

33-year-old UI transfer student lives in dorms, finds community

Billy Stoynoff said he feels right at home at the University of Iowa despite being older than the typical student.
UI student Billy Stoynoff poses for a portrait in his dorm room in Reinow at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. Stoynoff is a 33-year-old transfer student entering his third year in college. To document his experience adapting to Iowa City as a nontraditional student, he began making TikTok videos and has amassed over 6,000 followers in just about two weeks. Stoynoff said that he hasn’t thought about the future of his TikTok, but he has a plan for if he starts making money on his videos. “I’m TikTok illiterate basically, but if I ever did make money, my plan is to donate it to the Children’s Hospital,” Stoynoff said in an interview to DITV.

William “Billy” Stoynoff is like many other students in their first year at the University of Iowa. He lives in the residence halls, cheers for the Hawkeyes on game days, and takes the Cambus to classes.

However, there is one major factor that sets him apart from other first years — he is a 33-year-old transfer student with an associate’s degree and a growing following on TikTok. His top TikTok video of a dorm tour reached 277,000 views, as of Aug. 28.

Stoynoff’s journey to the UI started when he began to feel dissatisfied at his job as a social media marketing employee at an apparel company.

“It paid pretty well, but I woke up one morning and I was like, ‘Okay, this isn’t what I want to do long-term even though I’ve been here for six years,’” Stoynoff said.

After receiving his associate degree at the College of DuPage in Illinois, Stoynoff’s next plan was to go to Northern Illinois University. However, he felt he would be doing himself a disservice if he didn’t at least try to get into the UI, as he and his family have been Hawkeye fans their whole lives.

To his surprise, Stoynoff said, the UI accepted his application. He would soon be a third-year transfer student majoring in sports and recreation management.

The only thing standing in Stoynoff’s way before officially becoming a Hawkeye was housing. The transfer student said it made the most sense to live in the dorms with his financial situation.

“I don’t know anybody out here, so getting a house with another person or a few other people wasn’t on the table,” Stoynoff said. “So I would have to get a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, and the rent for those in Iowa City is pretty expensive, and then I would have to pay for utilities and WiFi and cable, whereas if I live in the dorms, the university supplies cable and internet to all the rooms.”

On move-in day to Rienow Residence Hall, Stoynoff said he had a few awkward interactions with parents who assumed he was moving a kid into the dorms, but other than those few instances, he has felt welcomed on campus every day.

“That was the one thing I was worried about, like ‘How are they going to react to a 33-year-old living in the dorms?’ But no one has had a problem,” Stoynoff said.

To make light of his nontraditional experience, Stoynoff started posting vlogs to his TikTok account where he would talk about his day at the university. Initially starting as an inside joke, the videos soon began to blow up.

More on Billy’s Claim to fame:

This virality has made Stoynoff somewhat of a campus celebrity, with people stopping him on the street and on campus to take selfies with him, he said.

Although he has always been a shy person, Stoynoff said he never turns down a request for a picture. His newfound fame has also had a positive effect on him emotionally, he said.

“It’s definitely really helped me come out of my shell,” he said.

Stella Petersdorff, a first-year student who also lives in Rienow, said she has interacted with Stoynoff. At first, she said she assumed he was a parent moving a student in, but eventually came to realize he lived in the residence hall.

“It was a little odd at first, but now I think it’s great,” Petersdorff said. “Everyone loves him here. He gets along with everyone.”

While Stoynoff may be a nontraditional first-year student, he is not alone at the UI. According to the UI’s Fall 2022 Profile of Students Enrolled report, 2,493 new transfer students came to the university last year.

In terms of students older than the typical college age range, UI Public Relations Manager Steve Schmadeke wrote in an email to the DI that in Fall 2022, there were a total of 535 undergraduate transfer students over the age of 26 enrolled at the UI.

Schmadeke wrote the UI has support systems in place to help transfer students feel more welcome at the university.

“The university has a dedicated support team that reaches out to transfer students at key points during the semester, offers help, and follows up with them on specific questions they have,” Schmadeke wrote. “The support team helps transfer students both in and out of the classroom and assists as needed to help them get connected on campus and in the community.”