More and more students are taking different
paths prior to arrival on our campuses, and they
may require expanded, additional, or different
services than we have offered in the past.
Undoubtedly, knowing what courses will transfer prior to
enrolling at four-year institutions will help students chart their
program of study and further ease their transitions. Transfer
students advised their incoming peers to be proactive in
searching for course information, articulation agreements, and
other documents to assist in their planning processes.
Get involved in extracurricular activities.
Transfer students should not delay becoming involved in
extracurricular activities on campus. Many students acknowledged feelings of anxiety when they initially transferred, yet
realized the benefits of meeting new people and becoming part
of the larger campus community.
Some students found it easier to become involved in academic clubs and organizations rather than social groups and
emphasized the importance of interacting with a variety of
student groups on campus—not just fellow transfer students.
Involvement on campus provides transfer students with valuable networking opportunities outside the classroom.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
The final piece of advice transfer students offered was to ask
plenty of questions. Many students expressed anxiety about
beginning classes on new campuses surrounded by strangers,
yet recognized the importance of moving beyond their comfort zones and asking others for assistance. Students emphasized the importance of asking questions of peers, faculty, and
staff about any and all of the unfamiliar aspects of their new
institutions. Four-year institutions must create greater opportunities for transfer students to exchange information at every
level to ensure that their informational needs are met.
Planning for the Future
Only a limited body of research explores the experiences of transfer students. More conversations like those I conducted with transfer students must take place
to find effective ways to serve these students. Frankie Santos
Laanan, associate professor in the Educational Leadership and
Policy Studies program at Iowa State University, argues that in
light “of transfer students’ diverse backgrounds, more research
is warranted to better understand the factors that facilitate
or impede their educational success.” First, institutions must
begin to identify and understand the factors that contribute
to transfer student success. Second, after reviewing current
university policies regarding transfer students, institutions
must determine whether their policies had a positive or negative influence on transfer student persistence. Lastly, we need
qualitative research on this particular student population to
complement the currently available institutional data. All of
these measures will help fill the missing pieces of the transfer
puzzle and provide greater insight into the student experience.
National trends suggest that community colleges are
expanding rapidly. Given those projections, it is imperative
that professionals at both community colleges and four-year
institutions be equipped with the knowledge and understanding necessary to create effective programs and resources for
current and transfer students.
As SSAOs, it is our duty to provide activities and create programs and opportunities to better serve all students.
Furthermore, we must recognize that some of our old programs simply do not fit the needs of the 21st-century college
student. More and more students are taking different paths to
degree attainment, and they may require expanded, additional,
or different services than we have offered in the past. As student affairs professionals, we can lead the way by developing
innovative approaches to help ease transfer students’ transitions. We can provide quality programs and services to help
them navigate the college system and enhance the acclimation
In their own words, students provide the most powerful
images of what is truly happening on our campuses. The
more I have worked both directly and indirectly with transfer
students, the stronger I believe that—to paraphrase an old
adage—“out of the mouths of transfer students” we can find
the most effective ways to support their ultimate success. LE
Toyia K. Younger is the director of student affairs at the Association of
Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), formerly NASULGC. She
previously served as the assistant director of outreach in the College of
Education at the University of Maryland College Park and director of
student life at Montgomery College.