Book Reviews

Book by Mark Allen Poisel and Sonya Joseph
Review by Matt Church
Academic Advising Coordinator
College of Arts & Sciences Advising
University of Louisville


Higher education is changing and 60% of college graduates complete their degrees with credits from multiple institutions (Poisel and Joseph, 2011). Due to various factors, many students begin their academic careers at one institution with the intent to finish their degrees elsewhere. The proliferation of transfer students is so great that one out of every five students enrolling at a four year school for the first time is a transfer student. Poisel and Joseph’s monograph is an excellent resource that addresses the reasons for the increased population of transfer students, strategies for cooperation between institutions, and suggestions for increasing transfer student success. As the authors conclude, transfer student populations will only increase with current political and economic trends and the future of higher education depends on “the ability to effectively manage transfer student enrollment, retention, and graduation (p. 113).”

The text is divided into several chapters focusing on topics such as feeder institutions, transfer student orientation, profiles of transfer student populations, transfer centers, and articulation agreements. Numerous chapters stress the need for different approaches to dealing with transfer students versus traditional first year students and the chapter on orientation exemplifies these differing needs. Marling and Jacobs (2011) contend that academic advising is the cornerstone of transfer orientation, a key component of retention, and should be placed as early in the orientation as possible (p. 78). The authors conclude that transfer students should be a constant focus of admissions and not a population used to make up for shortfalls in first year student admissions and that stereotypes or negative connotations about transfer students or two year institutions need to end (p. 13-19). The text further delineates transfer students into differing typologies including vertical transfer, swirlers, and lateral transfers.

While a portion of the text is spent explaining the reasons for an increased focus on transfer students, the remainder focuses on what is necessary for transfer student success. Transfer students need information on degree plans, course offerings, and access to upper level courses. As part of the latter requirement, the authors of the text rightly suggest transfer students should register based on their earned hours and not at the end of registration, which hinders their access to necessary courses. Though campus involvement and acculturation are important to transfer students, the recurring importance of academic advising is interesting. Throughout the text, various authors suggest that academic advising is paramount to transfer student success. Advisors at initial institutions need to help students identify whether or not they intend to transfer and be knowledgeable on which courses transfer to which institution. Advisors at transfer destination institutions must not only understand equivalencies, but be able to lay out degree plans and provided definitive information on degree plans and programs. Despite the mention of transfer centers, articulation agreements, and orientations, advising is constantly listed as a key to transfer student success.

Summarily, Poisel and Joseph (2011) provide an excellent monograph on transfer students in higher education and the importance placed on academic advising makes it particularly useful to advisors. Upon reading this text, advisors will have a better understanding of the scope and influence of their role on transfer student success. The subjects covered in the text cover a wide scope and deal with things from a macro (state articulation agreements) to micro (transfer center) level perspective. Upon the conclusion of the text, the importance of transfer students for the future of higher education is clear, as is the need to adjust student services to the needs and goals of transfer students. This is an excellent monograph for all higher education professionals.


Transfer students in higher education: Building foundations for policies, programs, and services that foster student success. (2011) Book by Mark Allen Poisel and Sonya Joseph. Review by Matt Church. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for the First Year Experience. 121 pp. $35.00. ISBN # 978-1-889-27171-2
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