Transfer students are an important contribution to the University ecosystem. They bring different experiences and perspectives to the campus environment and have a unique set of needs for life on campus. Ensuring that transfer students receive a convenient, safe, and personalized experience is vital to driving continued transfer student enrollment and retention. More importantly, it is every education institution’s responsibility to support this subset of students and prepare them for success.
There are many ways that students can transfer from college to college. For example, many students begin their academic career at a community college before transferring to a four-year institution. In other cases, a student will start at a four-year institution and transfer to a community college before attending a different four-year college. A study from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reveals that 37.2 percent of students transfer at least once throughout their educational experience.
Due to their unique circumstances, transfer students face hurdles that are less common for traditional students. For instance, admission is slightly more difficult. “The overall acceptance rate for transfer students (64 percent), according to NACAC, is slightly lower than the acceptance rate of first-year students (69 percent),” The Washington Post reported. And at some schools it’s especially difficult: Harvard University, for example, admits approximately 12 transfer students a year from a pool of 1,600 hopefuls. Additionally, not all schools are transfer-friendly, making the process difficult and frustrating at times. Contributing to these intense admissions processes is the fact that some schools simply do not have the room for transfer students.
In the most recent chapter of the President to President series, Dr. Ángel Cabrera, president of George Mason University, reinforces the need to accommodate transfer students primarily by streamlining the transfer admissions process. George Mason University solidified a partnership with the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) to attract and enroll transfer students and help them successfully earn a degree from the four-year university.
Universities have a long way to go to improve and simplify the admissions process for transfer students. However, subtle changes can improve the quality of life for these students and enhance their educational experiences. The strategic management and optimization of campus assets can create spaces in which students can thrive by learning and connecting with the campus community.
Additionally, administrators must be mindful of diversifying campus housing to accommodate a large range of transfer students, including those coming from community college and those transferring from other institutions. Special housing communities designated specifically for transfer students could help make the transition easier and enable students to immediately feel a sense of belonging on campus. In short, we must create a welcoming campus community that makes it easier for all students to adjust to campus life, regardless of the path they have taken to get there.
As students navigate their academic journeys, it is our job to personalize their experience, and not just for the sake of retention and enrollment. By customizing the entire transfer process, from pre-arrival to living to departure, we are creating convenience and improving the quality of life for these students during their college career and beyond.
Jim Jenkins is CEO of Universities East for Sodexo North America where he oversees more than 400 college and university partnerships. With $9.3 billion in annual revenues in the U.S. and Canada, Sodexo’s 133,000 employees provide more than 100 unique services that increase performance at 9,000 client sites and improve Quality of Life for 15 million consumers every day.