Welcoming Transfer Students: Insights for SuccessKristen Capezza | Vice President of Enrollment Management, Adelphi University
Once misunderstood and overlooked, transfer students are now a population of focus for academic institutions nationwide. Attracting and enrolling these students is becoming increasingly important in today’s competitive environment, and it is becoming clear that many institutions do not have programs in place to address this historic shift. Today, transfer students are central to completing many enrollment pictures—and that requires they be front and center in our campus conversations.
We are facing a tsunami of market factors: The drop in high school graduates; the increasing pressures of financial discounting; the shrinking market of international students; the unpredictable political climate; and, for many private universities like ours, offers of free tuition competing for public attention. Many schools are just now turning to new populations, like transfer students, to meet their enrollment goals.
A recent six-year study released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center revealed that, of 2.8 million first-time students enrolled in postsecondary education, more than 1 million of them chose to continue their studies at a different institution, resulting in an overall transfer rate of 38 percent—a number that has grown over years of studying student behavior and mobility.
At Adelphi University, transfer students have been celebrated and valued in our community for decades, and made up just under 40 percent of our incoming class of new students this past fall. With more than 45 program articulation agreements in place with partner colleges, we’re focused on making transfers easy, and on ensuring clear pathways for transfer students to attain their degrees in the most streamlined way possible.
The old proverb holds true, with a twist: It takes a village to enroll a transfer student. Many institutions enjoy the idea of serving transfer students, but few actually deliver on that commitment. Why? It requires a conscious and intentional approach and often demands ongoing interdepartmental support. At Adelphi, we are committed to student success—regardless of that student’s path to a degree.
In recognition of this commitment, we established the Transfer Initiatives Committee, a cross-departmental group that meets regularly to discuss the particular needs of the transfer community. This group has produced some of our most successful initiatives: technology banks of credit equivalencies; instant transfer decision and registration days; and specialized transfer orientation sessions, to name a few. Our institution continues to find ways to best support this important student demographic on their journey to a college degree.
Three Foundational Elements to Delivering a Successful Transfer Experience
Throughout Adelphi’s history of serving transfer students, we have learned that there are three central foundations that must be in place for a successful transfer experience:
- Flexible and Transparent Credit Transfer Policies:
Many transfer students have shared with me their frustration in finding that a lab needs to be retaken, or a required class would not transfer, when they apply to a new institution. This is an expensive, unexpected and distressing bump in the road for transfers, who are highly motivated to graduate. Maximizing the applicability of these completed credits often minimizes the cost and time until graduation. Publishing transfer credit acceptance policies in an easily accessible place (like the institutional admissions website) empowers transfer students to focus on completing their college degree in the most efficient way possible. By investing in technology such as CollegeSource Inc.’s Transfer Evaluation System, institutions can offer prospective students self-service tools to begin their transfer process as informed as possible. Expanding institutional and programmatic articulation agreements reduces anxiety and guarantees increased transparency around well-defined academic pathways.
- Personalized Advisement:
Students transfer for a variety of personal reasons, and many of these reasons have affected their previous academic performance. Their transcripts sometimes show a rollercoaster of course grades, and waver between full- and part-time study. As a result, transfer students often need an adviser to guide them to the next stop on their educational journey. Over the past several years, Adelphi has pioneered personalized, one-on-one admissions counseling, individual on-the-spot transcript evaluations and customized one-on-one academic advisement sessions. These programs make transfer students feel heard and valued. We must recognize that not every academic journey is the same.
- Institutional Support and Commitment to Student Success:
Transfer-specific scholarships and financial aid are critical to creating and supporting access to an affordable education. Beyond admissions and financial support, transfer student success relies on the commitment of the entire institutional community. Do your student life leaders provide orientation sessions to the services and co-curricular opportunities offered for transfer students? Does academic advising offer flexible scheduling and registration, extending beyond the traditional deadlines? Do your students welcome transfer students into clubs, organizations, sports and leadership roles? Are you connecting transfer students to internship and career opportunities in an accelerated fashion? If not, you can’t provide the global kinds of support that transfer students need to thrive.
Making Transfer Service Part of the Mission
These foundational commitments must be rooted in an institution’s mission to serve students and serve them well. They must be reviewed, challenged and continuously improved to ensure relevance to today’s changing students, varying demographics and evolving needs—a process we’ve grown increasingly committed to throughout our years at Adelphi.
As the world of higher education continues to evolve and the pressures surrounding enrollment goals continue to increase, our institutions must remain person-centered and aware of individual student needs and goals. It is only with a true commitment to meeting students where they are that academic institutions can be adaptive, sensitive and truly successful in aiding the transfer student’s journey.
When that happens, both transfer students and your college will reap the benefits of a rewarding and transformative educational experience.
Author Perspective: Administrator