Transfer Student Success

This list of peer-reviewed articles is available to members of our University community and beyond as a resource on the national literature on retention. We are committed to maintaining this list and adding to it in the future. Please send recommendations of articles to include to For additional articles on encouraging student success, please visit Literature on Student Sucess.

The information below comes directly from the referenced book or article unless acknowledged otherwise.

Abstract/Points of Interest

Wood, J.L. and Moore, C.S. Engaging Community College Transfer Students. In S.R. Harper & S.J. Quaye (Eds.), Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations. New York, NY: Routledge.

This book provides a comprehensive review of literature and practices. In this chapter, the authors discuss research on transfer students, focusing on their academic and social experiences at four-year institutions. The thematic elements in literature on transfer students are (a) differences in community college and university culture, (b) challenges in academic and social adjustment, (c) feelings of academic inadequacy, and (d) the effect of external pressures on university success. The primary challenges faced by transfer students are (a) transfer shock, (b) college adjustment, (c) student persistence and attainment, (d) credit acceptance and articulation issues, and (e) work-life-school balance concerns. The theoretical framework takes an anti-deficit perspective, viewing transfer students as valued additions to university settings. This framework articulates five elements that are essential for sending and receiving institutions to employ in supporting the successful transition, expeditious progress, and baccalaureate attainment of transfer students. The elements are: (a) placing a high institutional priority on transfer (acknowledge transfer students' diverse demographic characteristics and experiences as an asset), (b) providing information and resources focused on the specific needs of transfer students (Pre-transfer advising), (c) offer financial and academic support, acknowledge the lived experiences that students bring to campus (institutions must foster environments where transfer students and their families are welcomed and honored), and (d) transfer programming should be a reflective and analytical process (benchmarks and outcomes coupled with assessment).

Lester, J., Brown, J., Mathias, L., & Mathias, D. (2013). Transfer Student Engagement: Blurring of Social and Academic Engagement. Community College Review, 41(3), 202-222.

"Drawing on interviews with a cross-sectional sample of transfer students at George Mason University(GMU), this study focused on the ways transfer students perceived their social and academic engagement, on the ways they engaged academically and socially at GMU, and on the ways in which their perceptions of engagement and their actual patterns of engagement affected their sense of belonging at GMU. Most notably, transfer students viewed social engagement in the context of family and community rather than college life. The findings have implications for how campuses support transfer students and question assumptions about some engagement theories."

Tobolowsky, B. & Cox, B. (2012). Rationalizing Neglect: An Institutional Response to Transfer Students. The Journal of Higher Education, Volume 83, 389-410.

"This qualitative study focuses on institutional efforts affecting the transfer student experience at a single research institution. Findings based on interviews with institutional representatives, both faculty and staff, using the rational, natural, and open system perspectives of organizational theory, provide insights into the institutional perception of this at-risk population."

Ishitani, T. (2008). How Do Transfers Survive after Transfer Shock? A Longitudinal Study of Transfer Student Departure at a Four-Year Institution. Research in Higher Education, 49(5), 403-419.

"Prompted by the notion of Transfer Shock, numerous studies examined academic performance of transfer students at senior institutions. However, few studies are found that examine how the varying nature of semester GPAs impact subsequent persistence behavior of transfer students after the initial drop in their college GPAs. Using an institutional data set, this study longitudinally investigated departure behavior of transfer students at a senior institution. Particular attention was given to how entry at different times and semester GPAs affected transfer student departure. Results indicate that during their first semester, sophomore and junior transfer students were 73% less likely to depart than freshman transfer students. After controlling for explanatory variables, higher semester GPAs were positively associated with higher persistence rates throughout the observation period."

Townsend, B.K., & Wilson, K.B. (2006). A hand hold for a little bit: Factors facilitating the success of community college transfer students at a large research university. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), 439-456.

"We inquired about the transfer process, efforts of the university to orient and assist them, and perceptions of the university versus the community college. Findings indicate that community college transfer students may need more assistance initially than they are given, partly because of the large size of the university. In addition, transfers from community colleges need to understand how a research institution's institutional mission affects faculty and student behavior. Student affairs staff may need to lead the way in fulfilling four-year institutions' responsibility for integrating community college transfers into the fabric of the institution."

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