A GCDF Final Project Turned Call to Action: Supporting Transfer Students at Four Year Institutions
By Amanda C. Sargent
In Fall 2015, I was working toward the completion of my Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) credential and decided to examine ways to support the career development needs of transfer students as my final project. My goal was to identify methods of addressing the specific career development needs of students post-transfer at four-year institutions. According to a recent report released by the National College Student Research Center (2015), nearly half of all students who completed a degree at a four-year institution in the United States from 2013 to 2014 had attended a two-year institution at some point in the previous 10 years. Despite the reported massive number of transfer students in higher education, I found a concerning lack of research examining this population. What literature does exist predominantly consists of research and commentary related to academic advising rather than career development services. There was a huge gap and I began to see this GCDF project as a call to action for university career services professionals.
Transfer students have needs in higher education which are unique from students not classified as transfer (Allen, Smith, & Muehleck, 2013; Blaylock & Bresciani, 2011; Credé & Niehorster, 2012; Rodriguez-Kiino, 2013; Townsend & Wilson, 2006). The revealing of these unique needs through the current literature concerning academic advising may imply that transfer students have unique career development needs as well. The literature also suggested that less time to meet requirements and make academic plans is a major factor impacting transfer student success and satisfaction with services (Allen, Smith, & Muehleck, 2013; Rodriguez-Kiino,2013; Grites,2013). Furthermore, researchers have identified the existence of a significant struggle for transfers to establish community at their new institutions (Allen, Smith, & Muehleck, 2014; Allen, Smith, and Muehleck, 2013; Blaylock and Bresciani, 2011; Credé & Niehorster, 2012). As both time for planning and establishing meaningful personal connections (both at and outside the university) are essential to effective career development for college students, it may be concluded that career services centers should explore the possibility of tailoring support services and materials to address these barriers and needs for transfer students.
In addition to reviewing the literature, I looked at the websites of and surveyed 26 top-ranked U.S. public 4-year institutions as well as institutions in my home state to see how transfer students were being addressed online and in practice. All 26 institutions had some kind of transfer student website, but these were generally confined to admissions or orientation-related content. Only one institution had a portion of the career center’s website dedicated to transfer students, one had a blog with some first-year experience content, and one institution referred to a small group experience for first years that designated a section for transfer students. Thirteen institutions responded to my survey. Less than half of the respondents reported having tailored print resources available for transfer students; however, 77% reported participating in some kind of targeted programming for transfer students and 100% of respondents reported participating in institution-wide transfer programming. Some innovative programming initiatives at participating institutions included small-group experiences, transfer-specific career workshops, transfer-only etiquette events, and career courses specifically for transfer students.
I believe my GCDF final project has identified a significant gap in services to support students post-transfer at 4-year institutions. Transfer students are a significant sub-group of the U.S. college student population and there is evidently a glaring need for career centers to be thinking of ways to better support their unique career development situations. Below are a few suggestions for how career centers might do this based on my findings:
Designate an Area of Your Career Center’s Website to Acknowledge Transfer Students
The addition of one tailored section of a center’s website targeted at transfer students may help them feel more supported in their career development. Posting online content related to transfer-specific career planning also addresses the findings in the literature that most transfer students report getting the majority of their information about transfer institutions via the Internet (Townsend & Wilson, 2006) and may help transfer students feel that they are seen as part of a population with unique needs.
Create a Two-Year Career Plan Handout
University Career Centers may already have many resources available that can be used with transfer students. However, the literature and findings from the benchmarking survey support creating tailored materials such as a transfer-specific career plan (Rodriguez-Kiino, 2013). This handout would visually and textually depict a sample of career-related activities and milestones for effective career development to help transfer students see quality two-year career planning as feasible.
Modify Existing Career Center Programs to Target Transfer Students
Conducting transfer-tailored versions of current career center workshops would meet the need for customized programming for transfer students while simultaneously creating a space for community to be established among transfer students themselves.
Create Special Transfer Student Sections of a Career Planning Class
Perhaps your institution already has a career planning class or first year experience course that could restrict access to transfer students only and have a substantial career development focus. Instructors should be able to tailor class discussions and activities that encourage exploration of and application to unique career planning experiences of transfer students at your institution. This course would provide an opportunity for transfer students to build community and offer an incentive (academic credit) for students while they familiarize themselves with their career center and the career development/career decision making process.
If not for my participation in the GCDF training, I would not have noticed the gap in research and service delivery for transfer students. It is experiences like mine that highlight how the GCDF training can inspire and facilitate real change in the field of career development and planning.
Allen, J. M., Smith, C. L., & Muehleck, J. K. (2014). Pre- and post-transfer academic advising: What students say are the similarities and differences. Journal of College Student Development, 55(4), 353-367. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1545106530?accountid=4840
Allen, J. M., Smith, C. L., & Muehleck, J. K. (2013). What kinds of advising are important to community college pre- and post-transfer students? Community College Review, 41(4), 330-345. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1462776958?accountid=4840
Blaylock, R. S., & Bresciani, M. J. (2011). Exploring the success of transfer programs for community college students. Research & Practice in Assessment, 6. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1505322132?accountid=4840
Credé, M., & Niehorster, S. (2012). Adjustment to college as measured by the student adaptation to college questionnaire: A quantitative review of its structure and relationships with correlates and consequences. Educational Psychology Review, 24(1), 133-165. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10648-011-9184-5
D'amico, M., Dika, S. L., Elling, T. W., Algozzine, B., & Ginn, D. J. (2014). Early integration and other outcomes for community college transfer students. Research in Higher Education, 55(4), 370-399. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11162-013-9316-5
National College Student Research Center. (2015). REPORT: Snapshot report – contribution of two-year institutions to four-year completions. Retrieved from: http://nscresearchcenter.org/snapshotreport-twoyearcontributionfouryearcompletions17/
Rodriguez-Kiino, D. (2013). Supporting students in transition: Perspectives and experiences of community college transfer students. Journal of Applied Research in the Community College, 20(2), 5-14. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1640488156?accountid=4840
Townsend, B. K. (2008). “Feeling like a freshman again”: The transfer student transition. New Directions for Higher Education, 2008(144), 69-77. doi:10.1002/he.327
Townsend, B. K., & Wilson, K. (2006). "A hand hold for a little bit": Factors facilitating the success of community college transfer students to a large research university. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), 439-456. doi:10.1353/csd.2006.0052
Amanda C. Sargent serves as Assistant Director of Career Advising and Counseling at Florida State University. She holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Marymount University and is a National Certified Counselor, Distance Credentialed Counselor, and Job and Career Development Coach. Amanda has previously held counseling, administrative, and faculty roles at Marymount University, George Mason University, and Northern Virginia Community College. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org