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From Associate Degree to Master’s Degree: A Transfer Student Success Story

Written by

Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Blog post's cover image that features a photo of Elerose Apple Cordero. She is holding a hunter green graduation cap and wearing a matching graduation gown with colorful sash.
Elerose Apple Cordero

It was another hectic morning sitting in forty-five minutes of traffic to get my children to school on time without spilling coffee in the car. I finally got to my office and sat at my desk with a big sigh of relief and started another long workday by opening my email. To my surprise, I read an email from a former student that said,


"With graduation coming up, I just wanted to reach out and tell you I am so thankful that I was able to meet you during the transfer seminar! You have played such a pivotal role in my academic journey—even beyond that course—and I appreciate everything you have done for me. Please know that my achievements are yours as well." - Elerose Apple Cordero

Moments like these and messages like this make my work as a Transfer Specialist with the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM), Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center (MTCC) meaningful and purposeful. 


Elerose Apple Cordero is a first-generation college student who began her undergraduate journey at Honolulu Community College (HCC). After speaking with her HCC counselor, she enrolled in a one-credit Transfer to UHM Seminar Course that I co-created and co-taught with my colleague, Nicole Mitani (counselor at HCC).


The IS 100: Transfer to UHM Seminar Course provided opportunities and resources for students to make a successful transition from a University of Hawai’i Community College (UHCC) to the UHM. By encouraging self-awareness, reflection, and planning, the course aimed to help UHCC transfer students increase their transfer student capital, which is the accumulation of knowledge of skills that are essential and unique to the transfer process (Poisel & Joseph 2018, chapter 3).


We led them in exploring their UHM major, taught them about the complexity of the transfer process, addressed transfer shock, identified UHM campus resources, and built a network of peers with the common experience of transferring. Our aim was to equip them with information so they could better navigate the transition to their new institution.


After completing our transfer course, Ms. Cordero transferred to UHM in fall 2022 to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. She transferred in at a junior standing and quickly pursued two programs she learned about through a virtual UHM resources scavenger hunt (an activity required for the transfer seminar course).


The first program was the accelerated Bachelor’s-to-Master’s (BAM) Program in Educational Psychology. Since the program requires students to apply before the senior year of their undergraduate program, Ms. Cordero only had one semester to prepare her application and meet all the admission requirements to be admissible to the program.


Despite this challenge, with the help of the amazing faculty at UHM, she applied to the program, was accepted, and started her graduate studies in summer 2023. Through this program, she was able to take graduate courses during her senior year of undergraduate studies and is projected to receive her master’s degree next year. Her Plan B Master’s Thesis is on the ethnic identity development of Filipinos in Hawaiʻi.


The second program she pursued was the Mānoa International Exchange (MIX) Program. Ms. Cordero states that her “study abroad experience was indescribable. If I hadn’t taken the transfer seminar course, I would not have learned about the study abroad opportunities available at UHM.”


Through the MIX Program, she attended the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. The experience challenged her to be more independent and resourceful in a new place. She saw many different places and met people from all over the world, which led to her academic and personal growth. She felt “enlightened” and believes that every student should experience studying abroad because it is an invaluable experience.


When Ms. Cordero started her college journey at HCC, she felt like she was navigating it alone. However, she credits her success to the transfer seminar course, which provided critical information and resources to help her through the transition from a community college to a university.


She is now a proud graduate of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with a BA in Psychology. She is grateful for the amazing professors she has met, friendships she has made, and the opportunities she has received. One piece of advice she would give other transfer students is:


"to just do it. I experienced a lot of hesitation and the regret that came with not doing it. I am so thankful that I did not hesitate with my education. This is the time in our lives for exploration and trying new things. If you are interested in something, pursue it! There’s no harm in trying it out—if it’s meant for you it will work out, but if it doesn’t work out, then that’s just redirection!"


Poisel, M. A., & Joseph, S. (Eds). (2018). Building transfer student pathways for college and career success. University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition and the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students.


Dr. Lauren Prepose-Forsen is a Senior Transfer Specialist with the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM), Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center (MTCC). She received her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling from the UHM and went on to complete her EdD in Education from the University of Southern California in 2015. Dr. Prepose-Forsen has been with the University of Hawaiʻi system for about ten years and in her current position for the past 7 years. She is committed to helping students achieve their educational goals through a developmental advising lens and is dedicated to higher education and promoting student success in all areas of life. She believes education is a catalyst for future opportunities in life and encourages life-long learning. As a member of an educational community, Dr. Prepose-Forsen does her best to promote equity, accountability, and integrity. When she is not working, she is a busy mom of two beautiful daughters and she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, traveling, and making memories through new experiences.


The views and opinions expressed on the NISTS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NISTS. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.


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