A couple of weeks ago I had a 3 ½ hour flight back home from a conference and decided to pass the time by watching a movie. As I was skimming through the Delta movie directory, I stumbled upon the movie Adrift. The movie is based on a true story and the description was interesting so I decided to watch.
SPOILER Alert: If you have not seen the movie, you may want to watch it then read this blog.
The movie centers on a couple’s shared love of adventure and sailing. Midway through the movie, they accept an incredible opportunity to sail 4,000 miles to deliver a sailboat. I am not a sailor but do love the water and understand their attraction to the open seas and infinite horizons. As you can guess by the movie title, their trip did not go smoothly and they ultimately encounter one of the worst storms in history. It is a tragic yet true story of hope, perseverance, and strength.
As I was watching this movie, I thought about the college admission process, specifically students who choose to transfer from one college to another. While not a long distance sailing trip, the transfer process is an adventure many students pursue each year. Nearly half of all undergraduate students start at a community college with many pursuing a “vertical” transfer to a four-year institution. Other students discover their first choice institution may not be the right fit and pursue a “lateral” transfer path to another four-year institution.
No matter the reason, the transfer process can be daunting and requires hope, perseverance, and strength on the part of each student. Whether you are a high school student or college student exploring the transfer option, here are three tips to consider on your transfer adventure.
HOPE for the best, but have a backup plan.
You may have plotted the perfect course for your college experience, but you might have to change direction if those plans do not work out. I recommend students always ask colleges about their transfer options, especially if their ultimate goal is to enroll at a highly selective institution.
According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) 81% of colleges have at least one admission officer who works exclusively with prospective transfer students. Many have more than one and place considerable importance on transfer. Asking these four questions can give you a sense of how important transfer students are to an institution:
- How many transfer students do you admit each year?
- Do you offer a transfer information session?
- Do you participate in any guaranteed admission programs or articulation agreements with other colleges?
- Do you reserve dedicated financial aid for transfer students?
College admission is as unpredictable as the weather and there are several factors (and models) institutions use prior to making their decisions. Not receiving admission to a first choice institution can seem like a disaster, but hope is never lost. Preparing a backup plan and including transfer as an option is a positive approach you can control, rather than fixating on one single outcome which lies outside of your control.
PERSIST, even when you feel adrift.
It’s easy to feel lost or confused when exploring the transfer admission process. Transfer applications and credit requirements vary by institution. You may ask the questions above and not like the answers, but don’t give up. You have a right to know your responsibility in the process and how credits transfer. The responsibility of evaluating transfer credit may rest on the admission office, the registrar’s office, and/or within academic colleges and faculty. At the very least, each institution should have a clearly stated transfer credit policy within their course catalog and be able to answer these transfer questions for you:
- What is the process for evaluating transfer coursework?
- What credit will not be accepted, and why?
- Do you accept credit by exam given by another institution?
- Do you have a transfer equivalency table available for students to use?
Persistence can pay off, and time exploring transfer options can help you understand how policies reflect the mission and goals of an institution. These policies also serve as effective recruitment and retention tools by preparing students, limiting credit loss and prioritizing degree completion.
BELIEVE in yourself above all else.
Above all, a college education is an investment in yourself. Before transferring, there are a couple of items you should expect from an institution before paying an enrollment deposit:
- A good faith credit evaluation report, and
- A financial aid award letter (as long as you have submitted all requested documents).
According to NACAC’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices, if an institution is unable to provide these items, you can request an enrollment deposit extension or refund.
No model can fully predict the weather, much less the type of college experience you will have. I’ve worked in higher education for 17 years and the best predictors of college success I’ve seen are sheer strength and determination. You may have to navigate through the rough waters of heartbreak, credit loss, or survival of another math course, but exploring transfer admission is a journey worth the risk and reward.
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