Understanding the needs of today’s transfer student

June 15, 2021
  • Re-Envisioning Transfer
  • Transfer Summit
  • AACRAO Research Insights
Transfer Student Connect

By Dr. Wendy Kilgore, Director, AACRAO Research

The 2021 AACRAO Transfer Practice Summit coming this July 8-9 will explore specific best practices and what higher education professionals need to know to put those best practices into action. With over a million transfer students enrolled in 2018 and 31.5% of community college students transferring to four-year institutions in the next six years, there is no better time to collaborate and learn the latest in Transfer. 

There is often a disconnect between what institutions expect from transfer students and what occurs on the ground. A recent report from AACRAO found that 43% of transfer students did not know why their credits did not transfer. This response is troubling and shows the clear gap in communication and how institutions approach the transfer process. 

Adapting Advising and Degree Pathway Models

The AACRAO report above also found that academic advising is an area students identified as needing significant improvement. This aligns with the following statistical data found in the report:

  • 13% of institutions never require a transfer student to meet with an academic advisor
  • 5% require students to meet with an advisor only before registering for their second term
  • Only 4% require a meeting sometime during their first semester of enrollment
  • Nearly 25% of students are not required to meet with an advisor before they register for classes

Most current pathway models support requiring students to meet with an academic advisor regularly. For Transfer students, this approach is especially important. Both anecdotal and qualitative data support that consistent, well-informed, academic advising plays a strong role in the courses students take. Another AACRAO case study found that "transfer students are often ignored or are given individualized attention only after "things settle down" in the semester." This supports the qualitative data collected by AACRAO on transfer student advising practice and reflects some students' perceptions of the transfer experience. 

Effectively Serving Transfer Students

It should be noted that while some of the data points highlight areas in need of improvement in the transfer process, more than half of students reported that all their credits transferred successfully. Additionally, among students who were not able to transfer all their credits, most were not displeased with the fact and understood the rationale for why their credits were not able to transfer. 

There is, however, a strong need for both quantitative data and updated policy and best practices for higher education institutions. This lack often leaves institutions in the position of making policy and decisions based almost entirely on anecdotal information. 

AACRAO's 2021 Transfer Practice Summit on July 8 and 9 will examine many of the above concerns, providing best practice policies, how to implement them, and provide AACRAO members with the opportunity to guide the transfer conversation for their institutions moving forward. 

Visit the Transfer Practice Summit page to learn more, join the list for updates, and register to attend.