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Tom Grites, Co-Editor, Advising Transfer Students: Issues and Strategies NACADA Monograph

Students who transfer from one institution to another constitute a significant portion of the current college population, and they consume a considerable amount of the time and effort of advisors at both two-year and four-year institutions. While transfer students bring some higher education experience with them, they are new to the (receiving) transfer institution. They are, in a sense, an anomaly in that they are first-year students with some experience in higher education. This article serves as an overview and provides a brief description of the forthcoming NACADA monograph about this important student population.

In reviewing the literature there seems to be an overgeneralization about transfer students. Two specific observations become apparent. First, the data reported regarding transfer students sometime appear to be inconsistent or in conflict. The data sources, the timing of the data collection, and the varying definitions of “transfer students” all contribute to these inconsistencies. Therefore, it is essential that institutions clearly and accurately define their transfer populations when attempting to develop or modify their programs and services for these students.

Second, it is clear that most articles and studies found in the literature (in fact, most of the literature itself) about transfer students are limited to the community college transfer student and process. However, “transfer students” include not only those who transfer from two-year to four-year institutions, but also those who transfer from four-year to four-year institutions, and reverse transfers (four-year to two-year). Therefore, it is essential that institutions examine their policies and programs to insure that they reflect equity and comparability for the full complement and variety of their transfer students, especially if these efforts are to be based upon what is reported in the literature.

The various authors of the chapters in the monograph have identified several broad considerations that need to be addressed on many campuses in order to enhance the success of transfer students. These are summarized as follows:

  1. Recognize that “transfer shock” really exists. All transfer students enter a new and different institutional environment, which has different policies, different procedures, different advising structures, different terminology, different faculty and academic expectations, etc. Improving application materials and resources, strengthening Orientation programs, and expanding campus programs for transfers will all serve to overcome this “transfer shock” syndrome.
  2. Strengthen articulation agreements. The real value of articulation agreements has somewhat eroded as a result of recent trends toward legislated Statewide mandates, common course numbering systems, and other seemingly well-intended guarantees for transfer students. However, most of these trends have diminished value if they are not articulated within specific degree programs, that is, the student’s major academic program of study. Without this context, some agreements have served as no more than public relations and recruitment functions. Program-to program articulations better serve the transfer student and both institutions.
  3. Use technology wisely. On-line admissions applications, course equivalency determinations, electronic transcript submission and retrieval, and advance registration capabilities have improved the transfer process quite readily. Institutions should maximize the opportunities and capabilities of these technological improvements in order to serve transfer students more effectively, more efficiently, and more successfully.

Finally, the monograph editors observed a variety of recommendations that are provided throughout the document. They have attempted to synthesize these recommendations into a “common” set. These are:

  1. Enhanced communication must occur. Both two-year and four year-institutions need to improve upon this critical aspect in the transfer process. ; clearly publicized articulation agreements, course-to-course equivalencies, enhanced Websites and other technological media, and on-site campus visits at other institutions are just some of the ways that this recommendation can be realized.
  2. “Transfer Centers” should be established. The communication links suggested above can only be positively facilitated if a specific unit, office, or individual person is identified as the primary contact for transfer students. The concept of “one-stop shopping” has already been implemented for various student service areas on many campuses; the Transfer Center should simply become an extension of this concept. Where a smaller population of transfer students exists, an individual or specific office should be designated as the primary resource for transfer students.
  3. Orientation Programs must be improved and/or Transfer Courses should be developed. The seamless transition will not occur only on paper; students must be prepared for their planned transfer to a specific school (orientation out of the community college, for example), and the receiving transfer institution must provide a full and complete orientation to the new environment for all transfer students. The course format, similar to many First-Year Seminars, offers a more systematic and sustained way to acculturate all transfer students into their new environment.
  4. Similar opportunities should be afforded transfer students as are native students. Access to Honors Programs and curricula, scholarships, restricted upper-division majors, early entry to graduate and professional schools, and even individual course selection opportunities should be afforded the transfer students who meet or exceed the same criteria as native students.

A full description of these, as well as other recommendations, examples, and resources, are provided in the monograph. The authors, the editors, and the NACADA leaders look forward to this new monograph and trust that you will find it useful as well, as you monitor, review, and revise your services for transfer students. Find out more about resources for advising transfer students in the NACADA Clearinghouse.

Tom Grites
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Cite this article using APA style as: Grites, T. (2004, September). Advising transfer students. Academic Advising Today, 27(3). [insert url here]


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.