Book by Janet Marling
Review by Julie R. Nelson
Academic Advisor 
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA

These days, it is increasingly common for undergraduate students to begin post-secondary education at community college and later transfer to a traditional four-year institution en route to graduation.  The transfer trend has become so widespread the authors of Collegiate Transfer describe the phenomenon as “the new normal” to earning a college degree.  

As this volume illuminates, however, eventual graduation from a four-year institution depends on the ability of transfer students to successfully traverse a complex terrain of articulation agreements and institutional climates which may extend time to degree or prevent degree completion.

The purpose of this book is to encourage educators to develop institutional policies for transfer students which minimize complications and maximize academic success.  This concise resource is intended for a broad range of educational policy administrators.  Academic advisors are not the primary audience.

Despite this, academic advisors have much to gain by reading this important and well written monograph.  The eight chapters in Collegiate Transfer, each written by a different author, provide timely information and thought-provoking strategies which can help advisors develop intentional interventions and programs for transfer students.

There are three primary benefits for academic advisors who read this book.

First, Collegiate Transfer challenges academic advisors to appreciate the role advising plays in the academic success (or discouragement) of transfer students.  The authors provide evidence of inconsistencies among advising practices which may affect retention rates.  The authors argue that transfer students often do not understand the institutional policies at the new school and/or feel intimidated by unfamiliar expectations and environments.  Advisors are in a position to give transfer students a comprehensive overview of advising practices and institutional pathways leading to graduation.  Effective advising is clearly a major factor in the academic satisfaction and ultimate success of transfer students and reading this book is a reminder of how profoundly advising shapes the transfer experience.

A second reason for academic advisors to read this volume is to appreciate how the transfer process affects specific student populations.  Individual chapters capture the experiences of women and under-represented minorities in STEM fields as well as students from low-income communities.  The authors identify broad trends among transfer students while also arguing there is no “cookie cutter” approach to working with transfer students.  Advisors should tailor transfer advising programs to the unique needs of their students, an important point made by the authors.

Finally, Collegiate Transfer provides higher education administrators and academic advisors with specific institutional strategies for improving the campus environment for transfer students.  This is especially important when so many students come from low-income families or from communities where attending a four-year institution was not a community norm or expectation.  Creating a welcoming environment is, actually, a core theme of Collegiate Transfer.  Effective, intentional advising makes an important contribution to creating a positive atmosphere for transfer students.
The only missing piece from this volume is a chapter on undergraduate students at four-year institutions transferring the other direction to community college due to financial or other academic concerns.  As Marling (2013) states in the introduction, there is still much we need to learn to make the transfer experience equitable and seamless for all.  Future research on the trend moving away from traditional campuses toward community college or two-year programs would be a valuable contribution as well to help advisors support students who choose to complete their degree at community college.

Transfer students do not get there by chance, and that is the main take away for academic advisors reading this book.  Our work makes a genuine difference when the advising is consistent, timely, accurate and welcoming.  The increasing numbers of transfer students require us to develop systems and services to help students succeed.  Collegiate Transfer serves as an inspiration to academic advisors to tailor advising to the needs of this growing, creative and energetic student population.

Collegiate Transfer: Navigating the New Normal. (2013). Book by Janet Marling (Ed.), Review by Julie R. Nelson. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, 96 pp., $29.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-118-70102-7
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