How Students and Administrators Can Transform the Transfer ExperienceJoianne Smith | President, Oakton Community College
Community colleges are an excellent choice for students based on the quality of education students receive, convenience, breadth of programs and affordability. For many, they are also a great means to earn a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university through the transfer process.
However, with all the benefits of attending a community college before transferring to a four-year college or university, there are some issues transfer students experience that can act as barriers to baccalaureate completion.
Oakton Community College Coordinator of TRiO Student Support Services identifies the following three challenges transfer students may face:
1. Feeling like a first-year student again
Since most four-year college orientation programs are tailored to new first-year students, transfer students may not have access to the same resources or exposure to campus as their first-year student counterparts.
The four-year institution should provide ample resources to make the transfer experience easier, including admission and orientation events geared specifically toward transfer students, transfer-student advising, and early access to extracurricular activities.
2. Feeling like an outsider
One of the greatest challenges for transfer students may be a lack of engagement or assimilation to the new institution. Since students tend to find their niche during freshmen year, transfer students may have difficulties finding a social group to join.
Providing opportunities for transfer students to engage socially—early in their experience at the institution—is important in helping them make a successful transition.
3. Pace of academic calendar
Students transferring from a college with semester terms to a quarter/trimester college (or vice-versa) may require an adjustment period to get used to “the speed of the game.” After all, the amount of course material that may be covered during the quarter may be more intense than that of a semester-based school.
Providing students resources to help navigate the term may allow them to adjust their study habits and make informed decisions about dealing with the new academic pace.
Besides addressing the above challenges at a four-year school, community college students should consider the following before transferring from a two-year college to a four-year institution:
1. Stay and Complete
National research shows that community college students who finish their associates degree program complete their baccalaureate degree at a much higher rate than those who do not complete an associate degree.
There’s an added advantage there too: If for whatever reason you don’t complete a bachelor’s degree, you still have an associate degree to fall back on, which is a valuable credential that bears greater earnings than just a high school diploma and some postsecondary experience.
2. Find the Best Fit
Before jumping in, research all of the college options available to you as a transfer student to find the best fit for you in terms of academics, career goals, social and extracurricular activities and cost. Alignment between student goals and programs offered at the destination college are critical to success.
3. Maximize your community college experience
Plan your transfer experience by working with advisors to create a pathway to transfer and by taking courses whose credits will transfer to your destination college. For students in Illinois, the Illinois Articulation Initiative is a statewide transfer agreement on courses transferable among more than 100 participating colleges or universities in Illinois. Colleges may offer additional programs designed for specific four-year schools. For example, Oakton’s Engineering Pathways program creates a path for high school students to take their first two years at Oakton and guarantees admission to the prestigious University of Illinois College of Engineering upon completion.
Ultimately, staying organized, focused, engaged and motivated will help students increase their likelihood of successfully transferring to a four-year college or university.
However, both community colleges and four-year universities must examine their transfer processes and services they offer these students to ensure the process is as seamless as possible for students.