Transfer students. Every campus has them, and given the economy, demographics, and national completion goals, many institutions are seeking to enroll more. But how much do you know about transfer students? And, more importantly, what are you doing to make their transfer to your campus a success?
Few institutions currently examine the retention of their transfer students and often miss the opportunity to increase retention by improving services aimed at this cohort. The key, as with retaining native students, is to develop student success programs based on the specific needs of transfer students. But what do these students need?
A new research report from Noel-Levitz, Transfer Students: The Attitudes of Second-Year College Students (an addendum to The Attitudes of Second-Year Students report), provides insights into the attitudes and receptivity of this unique student cohort. This report is based on survey results from transfer students nationwide. The data also illustrate strategies you can take to improve the success of transfer students and help them continue toward completion.
To start, the transition to your campus is not always easy. Compared to native students, fewer transfer students agree that they feel at home at their new campuses and that it has been easy to make friends. These types of connections are crucial to student retention. Consider orientation programs tailored specifically for transfer students and other programs to connect transfer students to native students, faculty, and staff within academic or co-curricular interest areas.
Our findings indicate that transfer students are as committed to college and engaged in their learning as native students. In our study, 87 percent of the transfer students at four-year private and two-year institutions and 79 percent of transfer students at four-year public campuses intended to stick with the majors they had chosen; overall, 81 percent of all second-year students expressed that intention.
Keep in mind that undecided transfer students have less time to research and explore their majors. Even so, having them adhere to the major declaration timeline for native students is beneficial. Therefore, immediately assigning students to an advisor and providing a major fair or means for decision for those still settling on a major is important. This should pay dividends. Our data show that students transferring into four-year institutions are even more receptive to help developing an academic plan than native students. Also, students who transfer in order to enroll in a major or program in which they are interested have a greater likelihood of success.
While transfer students across all institution types expressed satisfaction with academic activities, including frequency of interactions with instructors, and the variety of majors and degree of academic challenge in class, they are less likely than native students to have received academic assistance the prior year and are more receptive then native students to those services in their second year. Further, they are even more eager than native students to connect their major to a career, particularly through internships and work experiences related to their major.
Along with native students, transfer students reported low levels of satisfaction with the frequency of communication with their academic advisors. They also expressed a desire to discuss the impact of grades on their major as well as questions and issues related to transferring. This highlights the need to have prospective transfer students complete a transfer credit evaluation and degree audit prior to the student making an enrollment commitment. Make sure this information is available on your Web site. The last thing you want to do is encourage students to transfer to your campus when it will not be a good fit for them.
Transfer students have even greater concerns about financing than native students, with 55-57 percent saying they have financial problems that will interfere with their studies and only 45-48 percent saying they have the financial resources to finish college. As with connecting transfer students with advisors immediately, be sure to have transfer students connect with your financial aid office, and have awarding and work plans in place to meet the financial needs of transfer students.
Transfer students can be a wonderful addition to your campus. Our research shows they are capable and motivated to complete their degrees and bring diversity to your campus. The key to retaining them is understanding and responding to their needs. This report provides some much needed benchmarks, but given the many types of transfer students (vertical, lateral, reverse, etc.) consider surveying your transfer students so you can understand the needs of your specific transfer cohort.
If you have any questions about retaining or surveying your transfer students, please feel free to e-mail me. Good luck with helping those students feel at home, persist, and graduate.
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