Transferring to a 4-year college: One student’s story

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Meet Dan Morey, age 29, married, and a recent transfer from a two-year college to a four-year college.

In this issue of Campus News, we spoke with a lot of experts and a few students and Dan’s story is typical – getting a two-year degree is great, but it’s the easier half of getting a four-year degree. While the two-year college will definitely get a student up to speed and ready for a junior year elsewhere, that support system will not be the same at the four-year college, and the classes – being 300 and 400 level – will be more intensive, as well.

Dan attended Harper (community) College in Palatine, Illinois, and graduated in May 2012. He transferred to University of Illinois at Chicago that fall, where he still is.

“My first piece of advice to transferring students would be to meet with multiple guidance counselors at both current and transfer schools to iron out the credits that are transferring and the credits still to be acquired,” he said. “I ran into quite a few snags when trying to bring credits over and needed to take on an additional class at the Harper College outside of the normal schedule. … [But] this made it very clear that additional credits can be taken for much cheaper and easier than taking those classes at a university.”

But Dan is finding that A grades are a lot less plentiful at the university. “I’m struggling to keep that 2.7ish GPA. I went from an A-B student to a B-C student,” he said. “My community college program was heavy on independent homework and not so much on exams. At UIC, I am assigned a significant amount of homework with a very heavy weighting on exams. The course load matches the life of an 18-22 year old, not so much a married and working 30 year old. The material itself is only slightly more challenging in context, but there is a lot more quantity.”

But he has his eye on the prize. “I’m less concerned with my grades as an adult student, which factors into my lower GPA. With 10 years of work experience, I know that when I return to the working world full time, my resume will be more important than my GPA, as my degree is really just filling in the gaps. My main objective here is to simply get out quickly with a decent grade. I’ve talked with several other adult students, and they have the same objective.”

He finds that the university has much more resources than his community college had. “There is an infinite amount to help you succeed [at the four-year institution]. If you struggled to find counseling, tech resources, even a space to study at community college, that will not be a problem at a university. I have only explored about 30 percent of campus, and I’ve rarely had trouble finding a spare computer or desk to work at.”

He continued: “Classes will be much more difficult and time to complete the work will be more limited. Most transfers knocked out their gen eds at the community college, so now, most of your time will be spent focusing on your majors. Be prepared to feel overwhelmed from day one. Even a few gen eds I’ve taken at a university are far more intense than the gen eds I took at community college. The workload is much more significant and much more of your grade depends on exams than at community college. I now take classes regularly, where my entire grade depends on two or three exams and require no homework or smaller quizzes”

It’s also easy to feel left out at the new school, as most of the students had already been there two years. “A campus culture will have already developed among many students, especially within a major or college within the university. So you’ll have to work harder to make network within the student body,” Dan said.

But don’t expect much hand-holding at the new college. “Teachers at a community college are far more inclined to help you succeed at the personal level. At a university, the only help you’ll get is from the curve on an exam. Professors are quick to refer you to a TA or the writing center if you need help.”

Another concern at the new college – higher prices. “The lower costs of community college are a thing of the past and, after transferring, you’ll be paying a lot more for everything: tuition, food, books, etc.”

But, overall, Dan feels confident he will get his four-year degree in short time, and he has been impressed with the level of the job fairs at the four-year college. He’s sure they will lead to a great job after graduation.

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