When it’s time to transfer

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Christine Barton
Campus News. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . … . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . … . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..
Community colleges play a fundamental role in the educational system in the United States.  Almost half of the undergraduate students attending college in the country have been serviced in some way by the community college system.  Affordability, quality education and open access are longstanding cornerstones of community colleges.  It goes without saying that millions of individuals would be without access to education if it weren’t for community colleges.  It is estimated that the majority of new job development in the next few years will require some level of advanced education.  Community colleges not only provide opportunities for individuals but also serve to fill the demand of the enhanced requirements necessary to stimulate economic development.  According to statistics gathered by American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), 11.5 million students are enrolled community colleges across the country.  For many students, community college is a stepping stone for future goals.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
To transfer or not to transfer becomes the question for many students that attend community colleges. Just a short few semesters after starting the journey to higher education, students are once making significant decisions about the next chapter in their educational career.  The typical community college is diverse with students from different backgrounds who have chosen community colleges as a starting point for their future career plans. For some this may be the first college experience, for others, a stepping stone to a career change. Regardless of the reason, there comes a time that each student
must decide their next step. Transferring to a university is a common option among students.  Karen Akukew, Transfer Counselor at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Massachutes, said she has noticed a marked increase in students who go on to a four year university as opposed to stopping their education with a two year degree.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Community colleges today, more than ever before, are faced with many unique challenges.  Looming budget cuts, issues of understaffing and the need to provide creative class offerings that meet the needs of a diverse group of students are among a few of these challenges. Community colleges are also required to educate and assist students with planning and preparing for their future, all in a short two years.  Graduation from a community college may mean immediate employment for some graduates, for others transferring is the next logical step. Transfer students require additional assistance from their advisors to prepare for their entrance into a four year school of their choice.  This adds to the responsibility of the community college faculty to help each transfer student determine a comprehensive plan for his future.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Nashville State Community College is one example of the many community colleges across the country that looks to not only educate their students but assist them with a strategic plan for their future.  According to a recent press release, Nashville State Community College (NSCC) offers more than 80 programs of study.  The school prides itself on high quality education which prepares its 9,300 students to either enter the workforce following graduation or transfer to a four-year school.  Articulation agreements between colleges often bridge the gap for transfer students. Through a recent partnership, Nashville State Community College will now be teaming up with Ashford University through an articulation agreement.  Participating students will be able to transfer up to 90 of their credits earned towards a bachelor’s degree program either on-line or on-campus.  According to Dr. Ellen Weed, vice president of NSCC, “Nashville State offers many associate of applied science degrees, and the Ashford agreement allows them to transfer their career/technical courses as well as their general education.  These students will be grateful to have this additional choice.”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Empire State College is a unique and popular choice for many transfer students. It is part of the State University of New York system. The degree programs offered at Empire State focus on flexible individualized programs that allow students to design their own program with the guidance of an academic advisor or mentor.  The administrative office is located in Saratoga Springs, New York, however the campuses cross multiple locations to allow students to choose from on-line courses, distance learning or traditional classroom settings. Empire State College offers programs for associates, bachelors and masters degrees. The college is well known for being geared to adult learners and working people who require flexibility beyond the traditional classroom setting. Students can apply life credits, independent study experiences, and extensive transfer credits from other universities and combine these with course offerings to design a degree program that is unique to them as a learner.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Transferring from one college to another is just like starting the first day of school all over again. It opens the floodgates for worry and stress for many students. Preparing as much as possible for a transfer can help eliminate some of stress of the change.  Having a general idea about what to expect can minimize some of the unknowns of a new college. The process of transferring happens in three very general steps: Before transfer, during transfer and after transfer. It sounds simple but the process for each step can be very complex.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Plan Ahead. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Realistically, students should be thinking about their next step at the time they enroll in community college. Planning early allows time for error and correction.  Two years fly by when you are in the midst of classes, books, papers and real life responsibilities.  Before students realize it, they find that are faced with deciding what to do after community college is over.  Hopefully, the planning process began long before graduation day. Keeping in mind a plan of action can help keep the transfer process smooth and organized.  Don’t wait until the last minute and control the things you can.  It is not uncommon that things go wrong, paperwork gets lost and applications get delayed.  Plan well and always remain a step ahead of the process.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Choosing a School. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Deciding on what university to attend after community college is a major piece of the transfer puzzle. There are so many factors that go into deciding on a university.  Money, location, type of degree program, having the necessary number and the countable credits, all can factor into the success or failure of the transfer to the school of your choice. Research the schools you aspire to attend and talk to transfer and advisory staff about your goals. Waiting until the last minute to decide where you will be transferring could result in spending extra time and money and prolong earning your degree.  Knowing the school you will be transferring to and the degree program you wish to enroll in arms you with the ability to know what is expected of you in terms of credits and classes.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Workshops and transfer fairs are offered during the school year at most community colleges.  These forums are a way for students to look at prospective four year colleges.   It is a great way to talk with college representatives face to face, ask questions and gather information about programs that are offered.  It is highly recommended that students attend these workshops and fairs as they are offered, especially if they have not yet chosen a transfer school.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Work With Your Advisor and Transfer Counselor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Many community colleges including Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy, New York, and Bunker Hill Community College in Massachutes offer the assistance of a transfer counselor to students. The role of a transfer counselor is to work with incoming and outgoing transfer students. This person answers questions and assists with all aspects of the transfer process. Transfer counselors and advisors are a key resource for transfer students.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
According to Karen Akukew, who works as a Transfer Counselor at Bunker Hill Commu-nity College, most transfer students have many questions about the transfer process.  The common questions students ask of her are about transfer credits, how to choose and declare a major and what scholarship opportunities may be available to them to finance their education.  Her role is to provide them answers to questions as guidance through the cumbersome transfer process.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A transfer counselor and an advisor play two separate roles in higher education.  Advisors do the academic planning, such as helping students pick courses and identify courses that are transferrable.  Transfer counselors focus on the actual process of transferring including the application process, states Akukwe.  Students that work closely with an advisor and a transfer counselor have a planning advantage.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
An advisor can assist with choosing the best school, identifying a degree program and keeping you on track with necessary credits.  Certain courses are good to take at the community college level while other courses may not be transferable, so it is best to wait to take those until later.  The transfer counselor can assist with the nuts and bolts of the process while the advisor assists with the specific requirements.   Maintaining contact with your potential university and their expectations of transfer students can keep you on the right track during your two year curriculum.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Check on Your Aid Package. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Financial aid packages differ from student to student.  Awards, grants and scholarships that you have been awarded for community college may not carry over to a transfer university.  There may be an award application that you need to update or a recertification process for certain pieces of financial aid.  Make an appointment with the financial aid office to review all of your paperwork prior to your transfer date. Taking care of all necessary paperwork early in your last semester allows time to work out any issues.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
After finalizing your plans, make them happen.  Once the grueling process of the decision-making is over, it’s action time. The application process to a transfer school is similar to that of community college.  Know the application deadlines and submit your application according to the timeline given by your transfer school. The application process will include many different pieces, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation and the completed application.  Obtaining copies of your transcripts, degree and financial aid paperwork may not be possible until after you have graduated.  Your community college will have methods for sending these on your behalf.  Whenever possible keep copies of your personal paperwork.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Check on Your Transfer Credits. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ideally you will have met with an advisor before enrolling in classes in your new university. Schedule a follow up appointment either before classes begin or immediately after.  With your adviser, do a final review your transfer credits to determine if they all have transferred suc-
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cessfully.  Review your class schedule and compare it to your degree requirements.  Ensure that your plan still makes sense for you.  If you need to change something, there is usually time to do this in the first week. Dropping or adding classes during the semester can result in a fee or being shut out of a necessary class.  Although your advisors are there to assist, it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to know their educational plan and advocate for themselves.  Advisors have many students with multiple different circumstances to keep track of.  Students should be on top of their own plan and ensure that it meets the requirements to ensure on-time graduation.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Complete Your Paperwork. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The paperwork process can be cumbersome for transfer students. You want to ensure you understand all of the necessary paperwork needed to transfer. Since many community colleges are open access it makes the application process easier for students transferring in to a community college.  “A transfer to a four year college is different,” states Akukwe.  “There is a more intensive process for transfer to a four year university.”  The application process may require an extensive application, transcripts, letters of recommendation and an entrance essay or exam. Your academic advisor can ensure your credits are in order while your transfer counselor works to help you complete all of the required documentation.  Complete all paperwork neatly and ensure that it is submitted by the deadline.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Get Familiar and Get Involved. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Arrange for a tour of the campus or attend transfer student orientation.  Changing schools is stressful. Arm yourself by being familiar with your new environment; this can ease the stress of a new campus.  If you can’t take a tour or visit before classes start, ask if a campus tour can be arranged early after you start classes. Minimally you should be able to get to the campus early to do a self guided tour before classes begin. Familiarizing yourself with your surroundings can help your comfort level.
Getting involved with extracurricular activities, clubs or study groups on your new campus can always help to ease the discomfort of starting all over in a new environment. Finding ways to meet people and develop connections outside of your classes can make a difference in the success of your college experience. You can look into these activities before the first day of classes. Read the bulletin boards, look at the school’s website or talk with your advisor about opportunities to get involved.
It’s never too early to begin the transfer process.  “If you know your intention is to transfer, start declaring your intent to transfer upon entry to community college,” states Akukwe.  She offers an additional piece of advice for transfer students.  “Start planning early so you have a chance to visit different schools and choose one that offers the most beneficial program.”
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