According to both the Department of Education and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, nearly 60% of college students will start and end their college careers at different schools. That is a lot of transfer students. If your student is one of these transfer students, he may need your support more than ever.
Some college students have no choice but to transfer. They attend a 2-year institution and then move on to complete their degree at another school. Other students make the decision to transfer to another school on their own. Your transfer student is making another transition and is, in some ways, much like a new first-year student only wiser. Your transfer student has learned something from their experience in college and can take advantage of that knowledge while still experiencing a clean slate at a new school.
The college transfer process may not be easy. It takes time and energy, requires adjustments, requires understanding of the transfer process and may require extra time from your student to complete their degree. Your student will be most successful if they knows themselves well, understands their strengths, challenges and passions, and evaluates their reasons for the transfer. According to the 2009 National Survey of Student Engagement, transfer students may be less “engaged” in high impact activities such as study abroad, internships, research, or capstone experiences, so your student may need you to remind them to seek out these opportunities.
Transfer students need to be prepared for differences in campus culture, academic expectations, and levels of formality at different institutions. They should also be prepared for a phenomenon often dubbed “transfer shock”. This accounts for a possible dip in GPA in the first semester at a new institution. Helping your student be prepared may help them to avoid it. Your student may look to you for reinforcement of their decision. Two of the most important things that you can do as a parent of a college transfer student is to support your student’s decision and share their excitement.
In addition to generally supporting your transfer student, here are a few suggestions that you may want to keep in mind and pass on to your student to help the transition go smoothly. It is important that your student think beyond the actual transfer process itself and give thought and attention to what comes next as they settle in at their new school.
- Determine whether there is a designated person at the school who assists transfer students. Take advantage of this person’s expertise in helping new transfer students adjust.
- Attend any special orientations or programs for transfer students. Don’t assume that you know and understand the uniqueness of your new institution.
- Ask questions about anything that doesn’t seem clear or is confusing. Don’t pretend that you understand new routines and policies.
- Find a mentor. This person may help you with your major or help you learn about and gain access to programs such as study abroad or honors programs.
- Make connections. Take every advantage that you can of networking opportunities. Create your own on-campus support network.
- Don’t fall into the “familiarity trap.” Just because you know how something worked at your old school, don’t assume that it is the same. Deadlines and policies may be significantly different.
- Make use of the “college knowledge” that you do have. You’ve learned some important lessons so far. Make use of them.
- Remember that the nature of the transfer process is that it is stressful. Accept the stress for a while and work to deal with it. It will get better.
- Remember that your experience is going to be what you make of it. Create your own sense of community; take advantage of advice from faculty members and students. Be engaged on campus. Ask about requirements. Anticipate how your experiences may be similar or different from your previous experiences.
As a college transfer parent, you may feel like a veteran, or you may feel that you are beginning the college process all over again. Your student probably feels the same way. Experience this transition together as you support and celebrate your student’s next step.