When I was a freshman in college many years ago, I came home for the holidays and broached the subject of transferring to another institution. I was still in the process of adjusting to college life and many of my friends at other institutions seemed to be having more fun.
The conversation with my father was brief. After listening to my story, he reminded me that I had been accepted at several colleges and picked the one I was attending. Therefore, that was the choice I would live with. End of discussion. And by the middle of the Spring semester, I couldn’t even imagine leaving Boston College for anywhere else.
Today, students transfer from one institution to another readily. In fact, more than one-third of all undergraduate students are transfer students (i.e., started at one institution, but moved to a second or even a third institution). Most students transfer after their freshman or sophomore years, but a significant number make this decision during their final two years.
The reasons for these decisions vary. For some, it is part of their overall plan. Start at one institution for cost reasons (e.g., a community college) with the intention of graduating from a four-year institution. For others, they were not admitted to their original school of choice and start elsewhere to develop evidence for a re-application. These students are typically called “transfer by design.”
Others transfer because they are asked to leave their initial institution (e.g., academic failure, disciplinary issues). Some transfer because they can no longer afford their initial institution. Still others transfer to be closer to home (or further away) or to study in a program that their initial institution does not offer. These students are described as “transfer by default.”
A recent study conducted by Noel-Levitz provides helpful information about what these students need from the receiving institution. Based on the responses of 1,708 transfer students to the national survey, “Second-Year Student Assessment,” this study found that transfer students had specific needs and requests for assistance and support in the following areas: academics, advising, career planning, and finances.
The major findings of the study were:
- 49 percent of college transfer students newly enrolled at four-year public institutions requested tutoring support in one or more of their courses;
- 42 percent of transfer students at four-year private institutions wanted help with study skills;
- 50 percent of transfer students at two-year schools wanted help in developing a written plan leading to graduation;
- 63 percent of transfer students at four-year public institutions wanted help in discussing options for financing the rest of their college education;
- 78 percent of transfer students at four-year public institutions requested information about internships in their majors; and,
- 62 percent of the transfer students at four-year private institutions asked for information about advantages and disadvantages of their major and career choices.
With this in mind, the author of the study suggests the following strategies:
- Transfer student orientation programs similar to those offered to first-year students with targeted programming designed to support transfer students during their first year on the new campus;
- Trained academic advisors who can advocate for the maximum transfer of credits as well as provide information about internships and employment opportunities in each major;
- Scholarships and college-financing options designated for transfer students; and,
- Career resources provided directly to transfer students early in their transfer experience to validate their career choices or help them determine new directions.
While almost all colleges and universities have specific orientation and service programs for freshmen, less than 65 percent offer any similar initiatives for transfer students, and these are often limited.
These are our students, too. And they deserve every effort to support their academic and social success. They may not come to us as freshmen, but they deserve to graduate!
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)