The week before classes begin, most colleges will be introduced to a number of transfer students who are completely new to their recruitment pipeline. These are students who, for whatever reason, only made the decision to go to college just before the semester begins. As dutiful admissions folks, we take our feet off of our desks and return to help mode. We do our best to accommodate the new applicants; but unfortunately, by the time we have identified these students, it is sometimes too late for thorough, introspective advice. We have to do what we can to quickly get them admitted and into classes that fit their busy schedules.
I have spent many frantic hours with what I call transfer “speed racers.” I have learned to communicate The End first – no pun intended. Forget the campus “fit,” campus setting, and major, and instead, go directly to the one factor that can derail their matriculation into college – the cost.
Though I am not fully comfortable with students making a decision based solely on cost, we have to be realistic and make sure that students understand what they are getting themselves into when choosing a transfer school. “Speed racers” sometimes assume that they are able to pay the price, but then find that the bill is higher than they had expected. (Students do not always take the time to pay attention to all of the details.) A good example of this is when students assume that they are allowed to pay per credit hour as a full-time student.
Many “speed racers” are anxious to facilitate the admissions process; however, they do not always put their ducks in a row to get the financial aid process done quickly. Sometimes a student may not even have an aid package until after the first week of classes has ended. A common first sign that students will have money problems is if they inform you that they cannot pay the enrollment deposit. This could have been avoided if we had presented the cost discussion right away.
So what can we do as transfer counselors? I like to relate their risk to a physical item they want to own (like a car or cell phone), but they’re trying to take ownership of it immediately without having any idea of its actual cost. This example is similar to our discussion about their cost for college. Students can often make this connection and understand that in the end they will not be happy if the cost is greater than what they were willing to pay. If, after this discussion is over, students figure out that it is not cost effective to attend college for now, then the discussion can turn to other options. One way that we can help is to identify direct equivalent courses they can take at a community college (where the cost is already defined), because you know that the course will then be usable when they reapply to your campus in the following semester. This will also give them time to properly apply for financial aid for your school. I also advise them to keep in contact with me. I can help them to schedule visits to our campus for activities and/or sitting in on classes. (I usually contact these students twice a month to make sure that they are keeping on task.) These are just a few small ways in which I choose to help, but you are sure to find your own ways in which you can best slow down your transfer “speed racers.”