Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Fine-Tuning Advice to Transfer Students

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

Many students made some quick changes to their college plans last spring, and many of those changes were centered around a two-college strategy—start a local community college, transfer once COVID’s over. This approach saved time and money, and kept students from going stir crazy with nothing else to do.

Those students are starting to put their transfer plans in motion, and the early returns are anything but reassuring. Despite our best intentions as counselors, many students didn’t understand the ins and outs of transferring colleges, and now they have credits that don’t “count” towards anything. Did we tell them? Sure. Did they listen? Well…

COVID may appear to be on the wane, but there will be enough students in this year’s class employing a two-college strategy to make sure they know what they’re getting into. Publish this information early and often to all families.

Get a transfer guide Four-year colleges know about the two-college strategy, and the smart ones have planned for it with the development of transfer guides, a step-by-step explanation of what classes to take locally that will keep them on schedule for a degree. If your student is going to Bloom County Community College with the goal of transferring to State U for a Business degree, State U likely has a transfer guide with the exact course numbers for the student to take at BCCC. As long as the student follows that guide, the courses will count towards a degree, and they’ll stay on track.

Talk to the advisers at the college where you’re going to finish, not where you’re starting The counselors and advisers at community colleges are caring, helpful professionals—I was one for six years. Still, if State U is thinking about changing their transfer requirements, the advisers in the transfer office at State U are going to know this before anyone else does. That’s why students should touch base with the advisers at their destination college at least once every semester/quarter. This is especially true if State U doesn’t have a transfer guide for the degree the student is pursuing, where changes can occur quickly.

Not all credits transfer, and some don’t transfer to a degree This is the single most confusing point about college credits, so it’s important students get this. A student can take a community college class—say, Algebra II—that State U will accept for credit. That’s great, unless State U requires the student to pass College Algebra to earn the degree the student’s interested in. If that’s the case, the student is earning transfer credit that really has no purpose. They may need to take Algebra II to have the knowledge needed to pass College Algebra, but that would happen if the student was going to State U right away. Either way, the student ends up with elective credits—and there’s only so many of those they need in any given degree, so they want to keep a close eye on those.

Calling Tom Cruise If it sounds like the two-college strategy has a little more risk, it does. This is especially true for students who don’t know what they want to major in, or what their four-year college will be. If that’s the case, they should stick with the basics—English, History, Science—which are usually required for most four-year degrees. There’s no guarantee, but it’s their best bet.

Publish these tips and send them home often Too many students change to a two-college strategy in the summer, so make sure this advice is handy to all families, not just the ones who ask about it.

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