Resources on Advising Transfer Students
Bridges Between Institutions: A Brief Look at Advisors’ Roles
in Transfer Student Transition
half of first-year students take advantage of open entry and low
tuition at two-year institutions. Cejda, 1997, noted that eighty-percent
of these students report their intentions of transferring to pursue
a bachelor’s degree (as cited in Berger and Malaney, 2003, p 5);
however, only forty-percent get on track to transfer. Of those
on a transfer track, only about ten-percent actually transfer,
and only a small percentage of transferring students actually
complete the bachelor’s degree (Berger and Malaney, 2003). This
failure to attain the bachelor degree is an unfortunate result
of the barriers many students face when attempting transfer from
one institution to another.
The following article explores the barriers
that affect student persistence, with special attention given
to areas that impact transfer students. The authors suggest programs
and activities that advisors can initiate and/or participate in
that will address these barriers.
college students experience barriers that can make persistence
and degree completion challenging. Transfer students must learn
to navigate these barriers at least twice, once at their initial
institution, and then again when they transfer. The types of barriers
transfer students face may determine whether students choose to
transfer, and may affect students’ likelihood to graduate.
discussed here are broken into four categories: (1) cost of attendance,
(2) policies, (3) campus climate, (4) and post-transfer adjustment.
of the largest barriers to student persistence is the cost of
attending college. Dougherty and Kienzl (2006) found that socioeconomic
status was the biggest contributor to failure to transfer. The
differences in tuition costs between two-year and four-year institutions
often are not made up within federal financial aid. There has
been a decline in the amount of money provided students through
federal grants, and an increase in the number of federal loans
taken by students (Zamani, 2001). This can be detrimental to the
persistence of students who most need financial assistance as
they often work while attending school, take fewer credits at
a time, and stop out to save money, all of which prolong completion
of their degrees.
them from repeating or taking unnecessary courses.e.g.,Women’s Centers, ROTCs, major departments,
etc. Additionally, they need help in creating class schedules
that will maximize the use of their moneyi.e.,Students
must connect with financial aid counselors or programs that offer
(2004) identifies how the failure of statewide policies to align
secondary institutions creates barriers for transfer students.
He talked specifically about (1) the misalignment of high school
graduation and college entrance requirements, (2) lack of a standard
tracking system, (3) failure to provide need-based financial aid
for students, and (4) lack of statewide articulation agreements
(p 26-27). The articulation issue is particularly problematic
for students transferring between in-state schools.
many states have tried to mitigate the cost of transferring through
the creation of statewide articulation agreements (Anderson, Alfonso,
and Sun, 2006), these policies may not always have the desired
effect. Articulation policies may not be enforced well enough
to prevent students from retaking courses. This may be because
many faculty members at four-year institutions see their courses
as superior to those taken at two-year colleges or it may be because
different majors may have different requirements.
what will, and will not, transfer can affect student persistence.
If students are confused by requirements or if they take courses
they do not need, they may become concerned about wasting money,
or be frustrated by an institution’s lack of help, and may elect
not to attend.
climate of an institution can also be a barrier to persistence,
specifically when there is a division between students’ backgrounds/needs
and the campus environment. Examples of disconnects between students
and campus climate may include differences in academic expectations
and differences in levels of formality expected between students
and faculty members. Moreover, Finkelstein, Seal, & Schuster
(1998) state that faculty and administrators at some four-year
institutions may view transfer students as less qualified for
university work and more likely to drop-out. These perceptions
can negatively affect transfer students’ relationships with faculty
and may result in their choice to depart.
climate also “encompasses student interactions across race and
ethnicity, perceptions of the climate for inter-group relations
(racial and ethnic tension), experiences of overt discrimination,
and the ethnic and racial diversity of the student body” (Eggleston
and Laanan, 2001, p. 10). The selectivity of the institution will
affect the climate of the campus and the adjustment of the students
who transfer there.
24 years of age or
older, have a spouse, and/or children, live more than five miles
from school, or are employed off campus), transfer students are
likely to connect less with the campus and focus more on other
responsibilities. Skahill (2002) concluded that first-year students’
failure to persist often is due to students’ support networks
being located off campus. Although Skahill studied first-year
students, his conclusions regarding student support networks also
apply to many transfer students.e.g.,It
is also important to consider the strength of a student’s connection
to members of the campus community (both academic and social)
when examining barriers to educational completion. Zamani (2001)
noted that students who feel a connection within a campus community
are more likely to persist academically. An example that illustrates
this is provided by Velez (1985) who found that students who live
on campus are 43% ore likely to persist than are students who
commute (as cited in Zamani, 2001 p 16). Since many transfer students
are also nontraditional, (
of the biggest issues discussed in transfer literature is “transfer
shock.” Eggleston and Laanan (2001) define transfer shock as the
temporary dip in students’ GPA during their first or second semesters
after transfer to a four-year institution (p. 87). This can result
from students’ inability to adjust to different academic standards
at the four-year institution and/or the lack of support from the
and Laanan (2001) believe that the focus on student GPA after
transfer, or on their academic adjustment, is not the only thing
that should be considered. Other concerns are the psychological
and educational environments, and the campus climate, and how
these affect students’ abilities to adjust. Understanding more
about what helps transfer students adjust to individual institutions
is important to finding the most effective ways for them to succeed.
to Transfer Student Barriers
good news is that these barriers are not without solutions. Academic
advisors can play a key role in helping students address these
barriers through one-on-one advising, early intervention programs,
and connecting transfer students with resources. Each campus varies.
Thus , the specific approach to supporting successful transfer
from both sending and receiving institutions may differ. However,
certain programs are widely accepted as positive influences on
the persistence and graduation rates of transfer students.
Bergerand Malaney (2003) indicated that student satisfaction increased
when they knew the graduation requirements at the receiving institution
prior to transfer, received advice about transferring from faculty
or staff at both the feeder or receiver institutions, lived on
campus, and had higher social engagement. Johnson (2005) suggested
that persistence increased when transfer students had a greater
understanding of the academic rigors facing them after transferring.
most important implication of this research is that collaboration
between the feeder and receiver institutions is necessary if students
are to successfully adjust to the transfer institution. It shows
the necessity for building programs at the two-year colleges that
connect early with students seeking transfer and provide them
with the information needed to succeed after transfer.
comprehensive transfer center staffed by academic advisors is
a great start towards supporting transfer students as it provides
a central contact point both for students and faculty/staff interested
in transfer students (Pope, 2004). Transfer centers should be
housed on both sides of the transition, ideally allowing a student
to work with the sending institution’s transfer center to prepare
for transfer, and then transition directly to the receiving institution’s
center. Advisors within these centers should look for ways to
communicate and collaborate to support students on both ends of
in the transfer center should be responsible for identifying potential
transfer students, and providing them with the services listed
below. While creating a transfer center is the most efficient
and effective way to centralize and carry out these programs for
transfer students, an institution, college, and/or department
can elect to implement any of these programs to better serve their
transfer student population. Regardless, every institution that
serves a transfer student population needs to create programs
that will improve student persistence and graduation (Bell, 2004).
aid students in selecting majors with transferable course offerings.
They counsel students on appropriate general education courses,
possible honors programs, and rigorous classes that can help prepare
students for upper division work. A large part of advising is
also connecting students with resources and explaining relevant
policies, such as articulation, common core requirements between
schools, common course number systems, and differences between
financial aid systems.
can also help students create degree plans that will help them
determine courses to take each term until they graduate. This
can help decrease the number of courses students must retake.
Additionally, advising targeted towards transfer may provide students
with the motivation they need to complete their degrees.
Feeder colleges should
provide first-year students who intend to transfer with information
specific to their transfer needs. Receiving institutions should
provide orientations that serve as an overview of the school as
well as providing specifics regarding what students can expect
during their first terms.
Advisor Campus Visits
from receiving institutions can make a commitment to the success
of their future students by visiting local two-year institutions.
These visits should be held on a regular basis, and advisors should
be prepared to discuss ways in which students can utilize their
time at their first institution to benefit them during and after
transfer. This can include being selective about academic courses
as well as participating in extra-curricular activities that will
improve the quality of their experiences.
Career and goal counseling
Utilizing inventories such as the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator
and Strong Interest Inventory allows students to consider career
options. This fits with Tinto’s (1987) focus on the importance
of student goal commitment; students dedicated to their goals
are less likely to depart from the institution.
and/or faculty from local two and four-year institutions to discuss
their colleges and their programs. This allows students to meet
personnel from these institutions and discover the norms for the
institution prior to entering it. This aids students in their
Newsletters and transfer blogs
Newsletters and transfer blogs inform students of upcoming transfer
fairs, college visits, and change in requirements at local institutions.
They also provide updates about resources that will assist the
student to be successful post transfer, e.g., library resources and child care.
nontraditional students, connecting with faculty is important
to their persistence and success (Cedja, 2004). Faculty at the
two-year and four-year institutions should become familiar with
each other and their respective programs. There should be incentives
for collaboration on courses that would allow students to become
acquainted early with faculty at their potential transfer institution.
students with an opportunity to tour the transfer campus. Students
should be allowed to sit in on a class and experience the classroom
environment at the transfer institution.
communities can serve not only traditional students but can help
connect nontraditional and/or commuter students with the campus.
Learning communities provide the social support central to student
retention (Bean and Metzner, 1985; Tinto, 1987; Skahill, 2002).
Learning community courses are a perfect location to build a transfer
to mitigate the effects of transfer shock (Eggleston and Laanan,
2001), advisors at both institutions can encourage students to
participate in rigorous academic courses, honors programs, prior to transfer.e.g.,
Faculty and Staff Cultural Competence
There should be on-going diversity training for faculty and staff
that provides them with the information needed to be sensitive
to cultural differences. This training should occur at all campuses
regardless of available transfer programs, and should be followed
up with an assessment of the impact of the training on the campus
Metzner (1985) define outside encouragement as, “…the extent of
encouragement to remain at a college that a student receives from
influential persons in the student’s life who are not employed
by the college” (p. 504). This encouragement may come from a friend,
a spouse or family member, and/or an employer. This encouragement
is especially important for students who have outside commitments
or are part of a close knit family and/or community. Although
institutions cannot give the students this external support, they
can create programs to educate families or employers about the
value of an education and how campus resources and opportunities
can help their students succeed.
suggested that feeder institutions should offer aid with applications
to receiving institutions, provide support through proper referrals
to student services, motivate students toward their goals, and
involve faculty in the students’ success (p. 148).
transfer student population is growing nationwide. When our institutions
place as much attention on transfer student programs as they place
on freshman programs, then we can increase student retention and
graduation rates. Advisors have an important role in the creation,
coordination, and implementation of transfer student programs
since advisors are often the first individuals students seek before
and after transfer. As such, it is important that advising communities
on two-year and four-year campuses consider ways in which they
can create or improve transfer student programs on their own campuses.
Advising as a Comprehensive Campus Process Series
Note:This is an article in a series celebrating NACADA 30th anniversary.
In this series current NACADA members
build upon the work done within the 1995 monograph, Advising as
a Comprehensive Campus Process , as they highlight the important
connections advisors make across campus.
University of Utah
Weber State University
Coordinator for Freshman Advising & Retention
University of Utah
Anderson, G.M., Alfonso, and Sun. (March 2006). Rethinking cooling out at public community colleges: An examination of fiscal and demographic trends in higher education and the rise of statewide articulation agreements. Teachers College Record vol.108 (3), 422-451. Retrieved from EbscoHost.
Bean, J.P. and Metzner, B.S. (1985). A conceptual model of nontraditional undergraduate student attrition. Review of Educational Research, vol. 55 (4) , 485-540. Retrieved from JSTOR.
Bell, LW. (2004). Critical issues in advising transfer students: Student retention begins before matriculation. The College Transfer Student in America: The Forgotten Student Washington DC: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, 71-85
Berger, J.B. and Malaney, G.D. (2003). Assessing the transition of transfer students from community colleges to a university. NASPA Journal, vol. 40 (4) , 1-23
Boswell, K. (2004). Bridges or barriers: Public policy and the community college transfer function. Change, vol. 36 (6), 22-30.
Cedja, B. (2004). Nontraditional students as transfers. The College Transfer Student in America: The Forgotten Student, Washington DC: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. 163-174.
Dougherty, K.J. and Kienzl, G.S. (March 2006). It’s not enough to get through the open door: Inequalities by social background in transfer from community colleges to four-year colleges. Teachers College Record vol.108 (3), 452-487. Retrieved from EbscoHost.
Eggleston, L.E. and Laanan, F.S. (2001). Making the transition to the senior institution. New Directions for Community College, no. 114. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.
Finkelstein, M. J., Seal, R. K., & Schuster, J. H. (1998). The New Academic Generation. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Johnson, M. D., (2005). Academic performance of transfer versus “native” students in natural resources and sciences. College Student Journal, 39 (3), 570-579.
Pope, M.L. (2004). Preparing transfer students to succeed: Strategies and best practices. The College Transfer Student in America: The Forgotten Student Washington DC: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, 145-159
Skahill, M.P. (2002). The role of social support network in college persistence among freshman students. College Student Retention, vol. 4 (1) , 39-52.
Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Zamani, E.M (Summer 2001). Institutional responses to barriers to the transfer process. New Directions for Community College, no.114. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 15-24
the above resource using APA style as:
A., Homer, S. & Park, L. (2009).Creating
bridges between institutions: A Brief look at advisors’ roles
in transfer student transition. Retrieved -insert today's date- from the NACADA
Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: