THE POWER OF TRANSFER STORIES
Storytelling is the perfect way to challenge assumptions, build empathy, and instill transfer pride.
Although transfer-focused research has increased over the years, scholarship alone cannot provide a full picture of the transfer student experience. National Transfer Student Week offers the perfect opportunity to highlight transition struggles and successes and unite your campus partners in advocating on behalf of your specific transfer population.
The transfer stories below reflect a small fraction of the first-hand accounts we’ve heard through the years and may be similar to your students’ experiences. What type of stories do you tend to hear? How might they inform new and existing transfer initiatives at your institution?
1. Many transfer students are exceptionally high-achieving.
I got really good grades in high school and even earned some dual enrollment credits. I was accepted to several schools, but I decided to keep taking classes at my community college since I knew what to expect and already had some great relationships there. Plus, I knew it would help me save money. - Sara P.
My grades in high school weren’t great, so community college was my only option. Luckily, the people there saw my potential and helped me get on track with a major that fits my interests. I finished my associate degree with honors and was awarded a prestigious scholarship at my university. - Will R.
One of the most common myths about transfer students is that they’re academically underprepared for bachelor’s level coursework. If left unchallenged, this deficit mindset can impact students’ self-esteem and may even result in a ‘cooling down’ of their career aspirations. In reality, transfer students often perform at or above similarly matched students who started at the university as freshmen. Although some transfer students experience transfer shock, they tend to bounce back within 1-2 semesters of enrollment.
2. There are a variety of transfer pathways.
I thought I wanted a big university experience, but going there wasn’t what I expected at all. Nothing felt right during my first year, so I decided to transfer to a smaller university a little closer to home. I felt out of place for a little while, but things got easier once I got the hang of everything. - Jason N.
I’m the first person in my family to go to college, so no one knew how to help me get ready. I missed all the big schools’ application deadlines, so I had to start at a community college instead. It’s actually better anyway because now I’m certain I want to transfer and keep going for that degree. - Keri S.
Although transferring from a two-year to a four-year school is very common, researchers have identified several pathways that involve vertical, lateral, and reverse transitions. In fact, recent data suggests that the number of students who begin their college journey at a four-year school but transfer out continues to increase. As student mobility between institution types and sectors increases, schools must be prepared to support students who are moving in and out of their institutions.
3. Staying "on track" and transferring credits can be difficult.
I started college at a small university so that I could save money by living at home. I knew I could transfer to State after finishing my core classes, but it turns out I didn’t take the right pre-reqs for my major. I’m on track now, but it cost me extra time and money I hadn’t anticipated. - Kennedy F.
I’ve moved around a lot and have taken college classes off and on for years. I would love to finish my degree, but trying to get credit for the courses I took in different states has been challenging. You’d think a basic class is the same everywhere, but apparently, that's not always the case. - Luke B.
A variety of factors influence course transferability, including articulation policies and agreements, whether a student is moving between sectors or states, and how a student plans for their major. Many institutional partners, as well as some state systems, are making concerted efforts to align core curriculum courses between two- and four-year institutions. However, when these efforts are not in place or are not implemented well, students may lose momentum, often due to the unexpected extra time and money needed to finish their degree.
4. Students transfer for lots of reasons.
I started college after high school but dropped out in my junior year when my daughter was born. Now that all my kids are grown, I’ve decided to go back to school finally finish my degree. Luckily, I got credit for a lot of my old classes, but I’ll admit that I’m nervous about being a student again. - Carol B.
Unexpected health problems forced me to drop out of my dream school so that I could recover. I’m taking some classes at the community college to ease myself back into school and am hoping to transfer to State soon. It’s not my original plan, but at least I can graduate with a similar major. - Rami L.
A student’s decision to transfer can be triggered by a number of personal, social, financial, or academic reasons, many of which are unanticipated. Although all transfer students have some previous college experience, it’s important to avoid assumptions and instead listen for clues about the factors that make their situations unique. Using active listening to personalize interactions builds trust and helps transfer students know they matter.
5. Transfer students juggle multiple responsibilities.
I work full time and have been taking classes off and on for a few years. I need a bachelor’s degree to qualify for a promotion at work, but it's hard raising a family and spending so much time and money on school. I never thought it’d take this long to graduate. I am so ready to be done. - Michael T.
I would love to do an internship or something like that to build my resume, but I don’t know how to fit it in my schedule with all the other things I have going on. I’m taking three upper-division classes, working 35 hours a week, and taking care of my grandpa on the days my mom has to work. - Natalie F.
Today’s college students are incredibly busy. Yet transfer students, particularly those from a community college, might have more time constraints than others because they are also more likely to identify as first-generation, low income, underrepresented, or adult learners. To serve these students well, schools must take into account their diverse needs and identities and offer programs, services, and support at a variety of times and in multiple formats.
AND YET: Many transfer students have positive transfer experiences.
When students have access to the information, tools, and services they need to plan their transition in advance, transferring between institutions can be relatively seamless. Of course, meaningful contact is important, too, so intentional transfer support should stretch well beyond initial enrollment and start of term activities.
READY TO GET STARTED?
We hope you’ll leverage National Transfer Student Week as an opportunity to connect with your transfer students and demonstrate your commitment to transfer student success. Although individual experiences vary, all transfer students possess a tremendous amount of commitment, determination, and resilience. Show students they belong by sharing their stories, celebrating their accomplishments, and praising their contributions to the campus community.