When thinking about a transfer student from a professional point-of-view, I sort of feel bad for them. Not only do they have to leave where they have been for a minimum of one semester (more than likely at least a year), but they have to re-evaluate tuition, room and board, financial aid, campus climate, and any relevant policies. Then, on top of all of that, they have to readjust to being a new student on a new campus even though they are not a freshman. Chances are they will feel that they are being treated like a freshman since they have to learn the lay of the land just like all the other newbies.
Let’s break this down piece by piece. The biggest issue is cost. Students transferring from a 2-year college to a 4-year college (particularly a private institute) are used to paying an in-state per credit cost. After the student has earned an associate’s degree, sticker shock can become a huge barrier for the student. If the school has a $30,000 tag on it, most students won’t pay anywhere near that, but without the knowledge of the schools discount rate (which students do not know), the $30,000 seems like a huge cost.
• My biggest advice here is to inform the student to ignore the sticker shock and go through with the whole process until a decision needs to be made. The entire process is free up until then (maybe a small application fee at some schools and a transcript request fee at your current school) so why not go through the process and get a financial aid package and make an informed decision? That is the best way to help your students get through the sticker shock—especially a transfer student.
The next barrier is definitely campus climate. A student can only feel connected to the school if they have a reason to. Generally, the older the student, the less connected they may feel. Particularly someone who is married, commutes and lives more than 5-miles from campus, or has a full-time job tend to be less concerned about the school itself and more about his or hers own responsibility as a member of society. These types of students are the biggest culprits of non-continuers. They tend to feel that their responsibilities have become too great. How can this be fixed? Well, off campus resources is a big one. Maybe an advisor from a 4-year school makes a regular trip to the local community colleges to speak with students about the transferability of courses. Or maybe an advisor stays late one night a week to get the students who work days. Another is to offer innovative advising ideas such as skyping or FaceTiming to get a more personal touch to the advising aspect. Another would be to offer extensive career and counseling services for these types of students. Rather than trying to focus on their enjoyment while on campus, focus more on the results they are hoping to obtain for their future.
And the last barrier is something I have touched upon before but it is worth mentioning again; transfer shock. This is when a student makes the switch and then arrives onto their new campus and they feel out of place. They have to readjust to a new place with a new set of rules and a different lifestyle. There is no one way to help a student make the transition, but some examples would be to get them involved and do it early. Have a separate transfer orientation. If the school isn’t large enough to hold two separate orientations, have a separate section within the freshmen orientation so that they feel acknowledged. You can also offer them a higher level on-campus job so that their level of responsibility and maturity is matched.
There will always be transfer barriers for most students on all campuses. It is just a matter of what each school does to help eliminate the immovable barriers and make them all moving targets. Each student will handle them differently as well. Just having someone available to troubleshoot when necessary is the key.
Other ways to keep transfers in the loop are: faculty involvement, campus visits, learning communities, honor’s programs, and a transfer “leader”. With a mixture of all these things, we can increase transfer retention and graduation, and we can make sure that the older, more at-risk students don’t fall through the cracks.