Monday, February 11, 2013

Ask the Administrator: What Do Transfer Students Want?

I need some help from my wise and worldly readers on this one.  A longtime reader writes:

I used to be staff in a marketing-type capacity at a communitycollege, and after a break in private industry, find myself back in asimilar spot at a different college -- this time a four-year school.About half of our incoming students are transfer students.
I have seen several marketing-type reports related to what incomingfreshmen are looking for in our materials. ("Top tasks", in the lingoof some of the experts.) This has been helpful in prioritizing work aswell as working out what words to use where.
But no one seems to have anything similar for transfer students! Doyou know of any data, reporting, etc, on the information-seekinghabits of transfer students when looking at four-year colleges? Iwould make a guess that some things are the same, but if there aredifferences, then we should be taking them into account.

My first thought is, I don’t know.  I haven’t seen any research on that, though admittedly, I haven’t looked.  Anyone who can cite anything specific is invited to share in the comments.

From conversations with students who’ve transferred and come back to share their experiences, I can think of a few things they should look for:

- Credit acceptance policies.  Nothing grinds a student’s gears more than being told she has to re-take a class she has already passed -- and paid for -- elsewhere.  Articulation agreements and transfer blocs are supposed to prevent that, and they help, but the devil is in the details.  Frequently a college will proclaim loudly that it takes all credits, but then relegate a bunch of them to “free elective” status.  “Free elective” status is where credits go to die.  Since very few four-year programs have many “free electives” in them, students wind up having to take (and pay for) far more than they should.  In the cases I’ve seen, the culprit is usually the department in which the student’s intended major is housed.  It doesn’t want to “give away” too many credits.  As “conflicts of interest” go, this is pretty basic.

- Transfer scholarships.  This should be self-explanatory.  

- Support for transfer students.  Is there some sort of recognition of the stress of transfer, or are students just thrown in the deep end and told to figure it out?  Is there some sort of community?

Of course, what students should know, and what they actually look for, may not always be the same.  Your question was more about the latter, so I’ll throw it open.  Wise and worldly readers, has anyone seen any actual research on what prospective transfer students look for when they look at four year colleges?

Have a question?  Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.