Difficult yet rewarding: What students say about navigating the transfer process
Three California students share their transfer experience
- Meeting course requirements and getting help from advising are the biggest challenges facing students as they prepare to transfer
- Completing the paperwork and getting the right classes is the most stressful part of the process for transfer students
- Learning a new system and a new campus can be overwhelming, but overall, students find the transfer process to be rewarding
Guided pathway reforms are helping students successfully complete their academic plans at two-year institutions and continue on toward a four-year degree. But more help is still needed.
In a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. students, one in three students said they did not receive advice from their two-year institution on what courses were eligible for transfer and more than half said they did not get advice about on-campus resources from their four-year institution.
We interviewed three California college students—Devon, Emeka, and Marissa—who transferred from a two-year institution to a four-year institution about their experience before, during, and after the transfer process. They shared the ups and downs of being a transfer student and suggested ways technology could help improve the process.
Centralized resources and virtual advising help students prepare to transfer
In California, transfer students must meet the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum, or IGETC, requirements. Balancing these general education requirements with the prerequisites required of their major is challenging for transfer students.
“It was vital that, as a community college student in the semester system, I planned out all my courses within the time I wanted to transfer,” says Marissa, “because a lot of the science courses had prerequisites I needed to complete. It was very hard to manage the number of units in order to transfer within two years.”
Students often look to their advisors to help them meet all their requirements and navigate the transfer process. But getting face time with an advisor can be difficult, especially for second year students. Virtual appointments or even chatbots would help students whose schedules do not align with their advisor’s availability or who are not able to get to campus for an appointment.
“There are a lot of topics that I need to discuss with my counselor one-on-one, they're personal, but then there are so many other more topics that could be answered by a robot,” says Devon. Online counseling “would save the counselors a lot of headache and it would definitely be helpful to the students.”
Having a central source for the IGETC requirements would also be helpful, says Emeka. “If there was one central location where all this information existed and the only objective became just to do well in your classes, it would alleviate a lot of the pressure from the process.”
Automation would make the transfer process easier for students
Paperwork is one of the biggest hurdles for students transferring from a two-year institution to a four-year institution. It’s tedious and time consuming. Students complete the Transfer Admission Planner, an online tool that helps students track their courses. But they have to manually enter their course information. And if they don’t use the planner, they have to manually enter the information from their transcript to their application. Automation would help alleviate the burden.
“There was a huge fear for me that I was going to put through my application, and they were going to say, ‘Oh, you're missing English credits,’ because they were unable to understand the AP credits that I manually put in,” says Devon. “I feel like that should all be automated.”
Registration is another challenge for transfer students, especially when classes fill up quickly and they don’t have priority registration to get the classes they need.
“Registration is the most important thing when you transfer,” says Marissa. “You want to get the classes that you need to take in order to graduate in the two years that you're there.”
But even though the process is daunting and pressure-filled, it does get easier, says Emeka. “At the beginning and while you're in it, it's pretty difficult preparing to get to that point. But once you're there, you just give the information that you have, and you see who's going to accept you and who's not.”
Mobile access and push notifications help transfer students acclimate to a new campus
Transferring is a time of change. There’s a new and likely much larger campus to navigate; a new advisor to work with; and new classes to take.
For students like Marissa, the most challenging aspect of transferring was adjusting to a new system. She transferred from a community college on the semester system to a four-year institution on the quarter system.
“Everyone tells you at community college, ‘Once you transfer, you better be aware of the quarter system because it comes and goes very fast.’ I did not believe that,” she says. “I didn't think I would have a difficult time, but I actually did.”
Transfer students seek information to help them navigate their new environment. The information that they find on university websites is helpful but is often buried. Having mobile access to their student portal is essential so they can find what they’re looking for at their fingertips—70 percent of students said a virtual one-stop would be very or extremely helpful. Utilizing push notifications for important dates and deadlines would also help transfer student acclimate to their new campus.
“I really feel like that the student portal should be an app that you can download to your phone that comes with push notifications,” says Devon. “That way you're not stressing out logging in every day wondering, ‘Did I get everything? Is there something that popped up?’ It just comes to your phone, tells you what to do, and then you can check it off as you go.”
Technology can help make the transition from two-year to four-year institution easier for both students and staff. It can simplify the transfer process by centralizing information, automating processes, and meeting students where they are at—on their mobile devices.
“So much of the transfer process is really just getting to that university that you want to go to,” says Emeka. “Once you're there, all the skills that you learned at community college really assist you in doing well. Overall, the process is difficult, but extremely rewarding.”