Initial Publication Date: June 14, 2016

Minimize Transfer Shock

The phrase "transfer shock" refers to the academic and social disorientation experienced by students following a transfer from one institution to another, whether that was between 4-year institutions or from a 2-year to a 4-year institution. New ways of doing things and new expectations can take their toll if students aren't prepared for them. And having already spent two post-secondary years (or more) at a community college, transfer students can also feel pressure to finish their upper-division major work in as short a time as possible. Putting systems in place that reduce the amount of shock these students face during the transfer process will help them be successful and it will also make it easier for two-year colleges to create a stable pipeline to their four-year institution partners.

Connect 2YC Students to 4YC Faculty and Students

Create collaborative research opportunities

Undergraduate Research is a great way for students to learn what it's like to do geoscience. It also provides a great opportunity to get two-year college students connected with faculty, staff, and students at a four-year college. 2YCs often don't have the resources or facilities to have students conducting cutting edge research, but reaching out to four-year institutions can provide opportunities for students to work on important research in close company with 4YC faculty and peers. Getting to know how things work from the inside can help students find their niche and establish a comfort level in the new environment.

Work directly with 4YC faculty

Even if you don't have a research collaboration with faculty at your local 4-year institution, you can create a partnership with one or more of them to help keep an eye on students transferring between the two schools. The 2YC faculty member will have information and background that can help 4YC faculty understand where their transfer students are coming from. In situations where a student is taking courses at both institutions simultaneously, this communication can also help both educators provide continuous and consistent guidance.

Joint GeoClub Activities

If there is a GeoClub at your 2YC and at the local 4YC, get them working and meeting together. Run joint field trips. Have them collaborate to bring in a speaker. Getting to know their peers from the 4YC can give 2YC students a sense for what it's like to be a student at a four-year institution and see themselves being successful there.

Get students on campus

Students who know their way around are going to be more comfortable in new surroundings. Reach out to faculty and staff at the local 4YC and take students on a short field trip to get a tour of the department and witness the research going on there. This can be the beginning or a continuation of a valuable 2YC-4YC Collaboration.

Also encourage your students to take advantage of things like departmental seminars and orientation programs for transfer students. Getting comfortable on the new campus is as much about being known as it is about getting to know.

Provide Students with Information and Contacts

Good advising at the 2YC and 4YC are critical for transfer students to be successful. There are a number of things that 2YC faculty can do to help ensure their students are getting the advising that will prepare them for transfer. Thinking beyond what the students need to complete their A.S., establish connections in the academic advising and transfer offices of your institution and the major 4YCs in your area to familiarize yourself with degree and transfer requirements. Again, personal connections are key for 2YC students, so provide contact information for specific individuals in advising offices for both campuses and encourage your students to make use of them. Connecting them with faculty and staff in the department they want to transfer into is also extremely valuable.

Be able to provide students with a clear sense of financial, time and academic commitments to degree completion. Particularly, many 2YC students are caught off guard by the intensity of study at the transfer institution. The number of students, the harder upper-division coursework, and higher faculty expectations can all throw students for a loop if they aren't expecting the higher stakes.

Stay Connected with Students who Transfer

Students who move on to 4YC from 2YC often note the lack of community, and sense of isolation as part of their transfer shock (Reyes, 2011). Staying connected to 2YC students who transfer to 4YC programs can help to them adjust to their new coursework and community. Maintaining strong relationships can also provide an opportunity for assessment of how well 2YC geoscience programs are preparing their students for transfer success. 2YC faculty can check in with alums of their programs, and encourage alums to stay in touch with them via a departmental listserves, social media sites, or newsletters. 2YC instructors can also invite alums back to campus to talk about their experiences, in regards to transferring to a 4YC but also beyond that into their careers.

The City College of San Francisco Earth Science Department newsletter provides a number of ideas for staying in touch with alumni and providing opportunities for them stay involved in the life of the department.


Ozarks Technical Community College: Avoiding Transfer Shock

Davies, T.G. (1999). Transfer Student Experiences: Comparing Their Academic And Social Lives At The Community College And University. College Student Journal.

Reyes, M.-E. 2011. Unique challenges for women of color in STEM transferring from community colleges to universities. Harvard Educational Review, v. 81, 241-262.

Thurmond, K.C. (2007). Transfer Shock: Why is a Term Forty Years Old Still Relevant? Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site (April 2014)

Youmans, R.J., I.J. Figueora, J.T. Ramsburg, and O. Kramarova (2010). Promoting Transfer Students' Success via Faculty-Student Research Collaborations. Center for Southern California Studies, California State University-Northridge.