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.

This is an area where students cannot find much help on campus. I am not in counseling or administration, but I snoop around.

Over the years I learned from student's testemonies and by investigating terms and conditions of these articulation agreements.

I actually ask students what their plans are.

If they intend to transfer, I suggest they contact institutions which have given credits to our sudents before-- some of which hold open houses locally.

To my surprise the institutions in fact tell them which classes to take and not to take. To my surprise some instudents elect to get the AA once they get the assurance that their credits will count, so our college benefits.

All in all the students should restric the choice to these favorable institutions, if he does not like them, he might elect to leave or take his chances

So now, some colleagues send students to "talk to me" about those issues. i wish someone else would start doing the same thing, as the counsellors are not cooperative.

Three of my siblings transferred at one point in time. Based on their complaints, the intensity of which made me hell-bent on avoiding transferring mid-degree, you've hit many great points. I would add:

- Coherence between transfer offices/counsellors in the origin institution and the destination institution. Getting told one thing at an origin institution and finding out something different at a destination institution is supremely frustrating, though I'm at a loss for how this can be effectively mediated. My sibling's GPA was artificially lowered after hir transfer (don't ask, I don't know how that's allowed), which made hir ineligible for a co-op program.

- Sunset clauses in articulation agreements, or some sort of initiative that forces institutions to double-check course codes every few years. My other sibling lost almost 2 years of college credits in university because the college had changed course codes, which the university didn't recognize because it wasn't in the articulation agreement.

- A document from the destination institution outlining how credits from that particular origin institution will apply after transfer.
My first recommendation is that your correspondent start at home, by finding out where the transfer students come from. Mostly from a few places? Mostly with an AA? Do you track where students go after they hit your website and click on new student transfer info?

My second suggestion is that Dean Reed needs to look at the relationship between Shugard's college and UCF. Quoting from the column you cited Monday "If you have an AA degree from Valencia or Seminole State, or Brevard, or Lake Sumter, you are guaranteed admission to UCF". They do this by having UCF advisors full time at Valencia and the other schools. It is "high touch", but apparently works by making sure they complete everything as a sophomore that they need to transfer in as a junior on track to graduate in two more years. If you send a lot of transfer students to a particular school, and they get most of their transfers from you and want more, it might be relevant to your college.

As for me, I only have the plural of anecdote:

I teach students with a definite plan to transfer to one or another of a handful of engineering colleges. They came here because they either could not get admitted as freshmen or could not afford to attend as freshmen or got a scholarship that made us a really good deal. They usually have one top choice and a backup, so they are a lot like HS seniors applying to university but with more maturity.

They want certainty that doing X will result in admission to Y. They really, REALLY want to know what classes to take here that both transfer and meet the hit-the-ground-running-as-a-junior criteria as well.

I see the same attitude among students who want to major in business.
Ask the folks at the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students

They have an annual conference worth going to
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