Article By Ramon Jiang
Students all over the United States choose to attend community colleges for a variety of reasons. These reasons include cheaper tuition rates compared to a four-year institution, smaller class sizes for a more high school-like classroom setting, proximity to one’s family and home, or insufficient grades or merit to attend a four-year institution. While a student may have their dream set on attending a four-year university, having bad high school grades, a difficult financial situation, or family obligations can force qualified and driven students to attend community colleges instead. Across the nation, it is common for college students to graduate with a portion of their education from a community college. The University of California school system reports that “30 percent of UC graduates attended a community college before transferring to the UC” system (Chen, 2008, pg. 1).
In the 2013-14 academic year across our nation, “46 percent of students who completed a degree at a four-year institution were enrolled at a two-year institution at some point in the previous 10 years” (Research Center, 2015, pg. 1). During the same time period, “36% of students completing degrees at four-year institutions” where previously enrolled at two-year institutions in the state of Washington (Research Center, 2015, pg. 1). The enrollment at a two-year institution ranged in length from one course to the full two-years. Community College transfer students may not be the typical or traditional college student on the University of Washington’s campus, but they are a sizable student population that needs to be appropriately represented. Additionally, while First Year Programs holds meaningful and impactful programs for our incoming freshman each year, First Year Programs must tailor and adapt their programs to adequately address the needs and expectations of community college transfer students.
Before applying to the University of Washington, students should have already reviewed the articulation agreement between the University of Washington and their Community College. Articulation agreements “define the detailed policies that govern [one’s] transfer from a community college to a four-year institution (Chen, 2008, pg. 1). The articulation agreement discusses “what classes are required of the proposed transfer students, and which courses from the community college will transfer with full credit to the four-year institution” (Chen, 2008, pg. 1).
Typically, “most transfer programs anticipate that [students] complete [their] first two years at a community college, then transfer to a four-year institution as a junior” (Chen, 2008, pg. 1). Though many or most community college transfer students will know which of their credits have transferred to the University of Washington, many will still have questions and need assistance on mapping out a two-year plan to graduate. For community college transfer students not in their major, students will want to immediately talk to an academic advisor to establish the requirements the student needs to meet in order to be admitted into their desired major.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that for the 2013-2014 academic school year, “45% of students spent 4-10 years between degree completion at a four-year institution” and their most recent prior enrollment at a two-year institution. Community college transfer students are on average older than the entire student body. Community college transfer students are less focused on the transition into an independent lifestyle that traditional freshman college students are experiencing. Often times, “students that attend community colleges are balancing classes with other demanding responsibilities, such as work and family obligations” (Boyington, 2014, pg. 1). These responsibilities often times follow students as they transfer to a four-year institution. Community college transfer students are more likely to lead independent and self-sustaining lifestyles, and need less help and resources as compared to the freshman on campus. Alternatively, community college transfer students are interested in obtaining their degrees as quickly as possible to complete their education and enter the workplace.
From personal stories and opinions of community college transfer students on Dawg Daze events, transfer students do not experience the same community bonding experience as the incoming freshman body. To adequately prepare community college transfer students for the expected two years that they need to graduate, First Year Programs should tailor their programs to prioritize academic needs. First Year Programs primary goal for incoming freshman students is to help them find their community on campus and build on their Husky Experience. First Year Programs should keep community building opportunities as a secondary goal for community college transfer students.
First Year Programs does a great job of creating small Transfer Advising and Orientation sessions during the summer so that Transfer students are able to work more closely with academic advisors representing their majors or intended majors to get the classes they need to graduate on time. To continue to support community college transfer students with their academic success at the University of Washington, First Year Programs should create more opportunities for transfer students to be paired one-on-one with academic advisors of their majors throughout their shorter time at the University of Washington. Hearing anecdotes from current transfer students, transfer students as a population often times do not take the first step to reach out to resources that can guide them throughout school because they are unaware of resource availability and do not know where to find help, as opposed to other student populations. While it may be hard to pair each community college transfer student with an academic advisor from their major because of the large number of students and time issues, First Year Programs should develop a method to pair incoming community college transfer students with upperclassmen students of their intended or declared major. This way, peer mentors can assist transfer students in obtaining their degree on time, and provide personal feedback and opinion on classes and student organizations that they found helpful. Furthermore, this peer mentorship would also be a great opportunity to introduce transfer students with students on campus, and introduce students to each other that are taking the same classes and share the same interests. Research has found that “when inexperienced college students become connected with role models, they are supplied with a source of peer power that’s repeatedly been found to propel them to higher levels of academic performance and personal development” (Cuseo, 2010, pg 3).
While many community college transfer students are focused on academics, there are also just as many transfer students that want to experience the social atmosphere of attending a large public university such as the University of Washington. Especially since many community college transfer students become disconnected from their community college friends, transfer students can feel lost, lonely, and ostracized on a campus of over 40,000 students. For this reason, students want to be adequately educated and introduced to the over 900 RSO’s (Registered Student Organizations) on campus. Furthermore, community college transfer students want the home-feeling of being a student on campus. While this may vary drastically between transfer students, First Year Programs should integrate educating transfer students on the various communities available on campus, such as the Commuter and Transfer Commons (CTC).
Another concern that many community college transfer students face is financial aid. It is common that finances originally barred a student from attending a four-year institution coming out of high school, and still acts as a hindrance to a transfer student in obtaining their education. Across all sized colleges in the nation, “Seventy-seven percent of colleges reported that they provide merit scholarships to transfer students” (O'Shaughnessy, 2010, pg. 1). Furthermore in 2010, it was found that “67 percent of large schools offer merit awards” for transfer students (O'Shaughnessy, 2010, pg. 1). While a preconceived notion may be that large schools such as the University of Washington do not have the resources to accommodate for a majority of their student body, scholarships and awards are available for specific populations that seek them out. Community College transfer students will likely want to obtain scholarships as soon as possible to alleviate the financial burden of the two expected years they spend at the University of Washington. One way to assist all community college transfer students in getting the opportunity to apply for University of Washington’s transfer merit awards is by providing them with the application site during their Advising and Orientation session over the summer. This way, transfer students are able to apply for scholarships as soon as they are becoming accustomed to the University of Washington campus. If students apply early enough during the summer, they may be able to receive their scholarship money as soon as the start of their first quarter as a student. Should students run in to questions about scholarship applications, they would still have time over the summer to reach out to campus resources and mentors to fix their applications. A workshop that First Year Programs could host for community college transfer students is a scholarship application workshop, to assist community college transfer students in writing quality essays that are deserving of scholarships.
Boyington, Briana. "Make the Leap From Community College to a 4-Year University." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 15 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 June 2016.
Chen, Grace. "Transferring from Community College to a 4-year Institution | CommunityCollegeReview.com." CommunityCollegeReview.com. Community College Review, 29 Feb. 2008. Web. 12 June 2016.
Metz, Gregory, Joseph Cuseo B., and Aaron Thompson. Peer-to-peer Leadership: Transforming Student Culture. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
O'Shaughnessy, Lynn. "Transfer Students: 8 Things You Need to Know." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 16 Nov. 2010. Web. 12 June 2016.
"Percentage of Students Completing Degrees at Four-Year Institutions Who Previously Enrolled at Two-Year Institutions | National Student Clearinghouse Research Center." National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 June 2016.
First Year Programs fosters a successful undergraduate student experience through strategic programming that focuses on positive academic transitions and the development of learning communities. Through partnerships with faculty, staff, alumni, and student leaders our programs create the space for students to define how they will engage, learn, and thrive at the University of Washington.