Published on 2017/07/20

Solving Transfer Headaches with a Common Application

The EvoLLLution | Solving Transfer Headaches with a Common Application
Though transfer provides a significant pipeline of students to four-year degree programs, the transfer process itself is daunting and often off-putting for non-traditional students.

As it stands now, the transfer process from two-year to four-year institutions is often overwhelming and stands as a barrier to access for bachelor’s degree programs. While many institutions have individually attempted to overcome these obstacles by forging numerous bilateral transfer articulation agreements, the amount (and diversity) of paperwork required of two-year students who want to transfer to a four-year program is daunting. However, a common application for transfer could provide a solution. The Common Application has been active for decades in supporting admissions for traditional-age students, but now it’s pivoting to this new space. In this interview, Jenny Rickard sheds some light on the biggest issues with the current transfer environment and shares her thoughts on how a common transfer application could help to improve transfer processes for both students and institutions.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): What are the biggest roadblocks standing in the way of successful transfer from two-year to four-year institutions for non-traditional students?

Jenny Rickard (JR): This group of learners, which includes adult students, veterans and those applying from community colleges, faces several challenges. For starters, they may not even be aware that it is possible to transfer to a four-year institution or that there are schools that will allow them to transfer credits from their educational or life experiences to date.

Once these students do decide to continue their education, they then must deal with the complexity of the transfer process itself. Institutions have a wide range of transfer policies and application requirements that are not always easy to find or understand. As noted above, these learners come from a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences and some application questions may not be at all relevant to an individual, which can be discouraging. Compounding these issues is the fact that these students do not usually have the same support systems to rely on as those who are applying to college from high school.

Through our new transfer application, we plan to simplify this complicated application process by providing one place for students to go to learn about and apply for transfer admission and tailoring the “common” application experience to acknowledge their goals, background, and experiences. By streamlining the process for students to apply for transfer, we will remove at least some of the current roadblocks to transfer and enable more students to advance their education and realize their aspirations.

Evo: What are some of the long-term ramifications of these challenges to transfer if they remain unaddressed?

JR: The demographics of the enrollment landscape are rapidly changing, and it is essential that we provide tools that address the needs of both students and institutions. Today, traditional students represent only 15 percent of current undergraduates. The remaining 85 percent includes adult students, veterans and those applying from community colleges, among others. This group represents the largest segment of the student population, and we need to make sure we address their specific needs and enable institutions to recruit, enroll and educate them.

If we don’t address their challenges, in addition to depriving individuals of the opportunity to advance their knowledge and skills, our country runs the risk of not being able to remain competitive or sustainable in today’s rapidly changing global economy.

Making the transfer process more accessible to this group of students is critical for individual learners and our society as the requirements of the job market continue to evolve at an accelerated pace. Employers are looking for skilled workers—even more now than in the past. By helping these applicants get the education they need and desire we will be helping to transform the students of today into the workforce of tomorrow for the betterment of our society.

Evo: How would a common transfer application help to overcome these obstacles to transfer?

JR: Providing a dynamic and robust application for this important, but often-unrecognized group of learners will promote inclusiveness and expand educational opportunity. Without adequate support in working through the complex application process, many of these students may become discouraged and not even pursue a transfer. We are trying to break these barriers.

Our new Common App for transfer will present a more streamlined and simplified application experience—both for students and member schools—as admission requirements are often different for these applicants. We will collaborate with our members, counselors, students and other partners across the enrollment landscape to shape this solution. Our application will help transfer students discover the breadth of opportunities available at participating Common App member institutions and include application fee waivers for eligible students.

It will be critical to provide a user-friendly portal for applying to multiple programs with one set of application materials that accommodates returning adult students and students applying from community colleges by providing a dynamic interface that will adjust to a student’s background and academic goals. For example, a student transferring directly from a community college might need to provide different information as part of their application than a military veteran or a returning adult learner.

Evo: The benefits to students are clear—how would institutions (both two-year and four-year) benefit from improving the transfer process?

JR: The new transfer application will not only better serve students, it will also enhance the enrollment process for recommenders and member institutions. First and foremost, it will enable institutions to tap into a larger and more diverse cohort of college students when they are enrolling their classes. Schools will be able to uncover new talent and connect with students they may not have considered before. In that sense, the application will promote access and inclusiveness in line with our mission as a non-profit membership organization.

In addition to the transfer application, we are also launching a new analytics tool designed to enable colleges and universities to harness the power of data more effectively in managing admissions and enrollment. The analytics product will provide more detailed demographic and recruitment information in an easily accessible and viewable format. These data insights will help schools get a better understanding of overall enrollment patterns and be more attuned to the needs of today’s evolving student population.

Throughout its more than 40-year history, The Common Application has continuously leveraged technology to provide state-of-the-art solutions to the enrollment community, and we are excited to build on this legacy of innovation with the release of these two new solutions.

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Key Takeaways

  • The current transfer process creates significant barriers to entry for non-traditional students that, in and of themselves, will often stop two-year students from pursuing access to four-year credentials altogether.
  • A common application model for transfer will minimize the amount of paperwork required of students while also improving the bureaucratic process for participating member institutions.
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