The Transfer Student Experience at the University:

Alexander, S., Ellis, D., & Mendoza-Denton, R. (2008). Transfer student experiences and success at Berkeley. Retrieved from University of California Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education Web site:

This study examined the experience of community college transfer students an Berkeley. The research found that some transfer students concealed their status as a transfer student and even more experiences transfer rejection at the four-year institution. However, these students still seemed to succeed during the adjustment period.

Dennis, J. M., Calvillo, E., & Gonzalez, A. (2008). The role of psychosocial variables in understanding the achievement and retention of transfer students at an ethnically diverse urban university. Journal of College Student Development, 49(6), 535-550.

Duggan, M. H. & Pickering, J. W. (2008). Barriers to transfer student academic success and retention. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, & Practice, 9(4), 437-459.

Easley, H. (2008). The transfer student: Using parents as partners. Esource for College Transitions, 5(6), 11.

Freeman, M. L., Conley, V. M., & Brooks, G. P. (2006). Successful vertical transitions: What separates community college transfers who earn the baccalaureate from those who don't? Journal of Applied Research in the Community College, 13(2), 141-150.

Glass Jr, J., & Harrington, A. (2002). Academic performance of community college transfer students and 'native' students at a large state university. Community College Journal of Research & Practice, 26(5), 415-430. doi:10.1080/02776770290041774.

The research in this article compared GPA of transfer students and native students at the end of the sophomore year of work and at the end of their first semester in upper division work. As a result of the study, the authors found that at the end of the sophomore year, generally corresponding with general education work, transfer students had a higher GPA. Once entering their upper level coursework, though, their GPA dropped, although most students recovered from this. The most interesting information, though, is that transfer students were not retained at the same rate as the native students through the GPA drop.

Handel, S.J. (2009). Transfer and the part-time student. Change, 144(4), 49- 53.

In the article the author explores the possible institutional partnership between four- year and two-year institutions, specifically in the California system. The question that the article seeks to answer is the value of allowing part-time transfers, particularly at highly selective institutions. Reviewing data from the Department of Education, he indicates that only between 18- 21 percent of students are part time at a university level, whereas over 60 percent is part-time in a community college. He notes that the community college and the four-year institution, particularly selective institutions, have different missions to meet different needs. Although they are different, he acknowledges that these institutions need one another to survive. By shifting understanding, a bridge can be created to help students cross the varying academic cultures, so both part-time and full-time students can achieve the bachelor's degree.

Ishitani, T. 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.

Jacobs, B. (2004). Today's transfer students: Trends and challenges. In B. C. Jacobs, B. Lauren, M. T. Miller, & D. P. Nadler (Eds.), The college transfer student in America: The forgotten student (pp. 87-108). Washington, DC: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

This book, and particularly this section of the book is frequently referenced in articles regarding transfer students.

Kerr, T. J., King, M. C., Grites, T. J. (Eds.). (2004). Monograph #12: Advising Transfer Students: Issues and Strategies. KS: National Academic Advising Association.

Kirk-Kuwaye, C., & Kirk-Kuwaye, M. (2007). A study of engagement patterns of lateral and vertical transfer students during their first semester at a public research university. Journal of the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, 19(2), 9-27.

Koring, H. & Pfister, C. (2008). Transfer transition: Combating social isolation through residential options. Esource for College Transitions, 5(3), 5-6.

Laanan, F. S. (2004). Studying transfer students: Part I: Instrument design and implications. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 28(4), 331-351.

Laanan, F. S. (2007). Studying transfers students: Part II: Dimensions of transfer students' adjustment. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 31(1), 37-59.

Lipka, S. (2008). Survey finds transfer students disengaged, but some colleges are working to change that. Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(12), A31.

Luo, M., Williams, J. E., Vieweg, B. (2007). Transitioning transfer students: Interactive factors that influence first-year retention. College & University, 83(2), 8-19.

McGowan, R.A. & Gawley, T. (2006). The university side of the college transfer experience: Insights from university staff. College Quarterly 9(3)

This study gives tremendous insight into some of the institutional aspects of the transition. The study focuses on the "experiences and perceptions of the university staff who implement articulation agreements on behalf of their institution and who advise, process, counsel, and support college transfer students" (p 1). In this research, several themes emerged. One of the most prominent themes is the transfer credit process. The authors determined that many students view community college and university courses as equivalent, even though the content is not necessarily the same, even if the name of the course is the same. Also, students do not seem to be aware of agreements made between two- and four- year institutions to establish equivalency. The authors also determined that often students use their previous institution as the framework for their understanding, whereas the new institution is quite different. Another transfer issue that this case study indicates is a student identity. Transfer students often have a strong sense of direction, with a clear career plan in mind. I particularly love that this article comes from a different perspective.

Mouton, M. (2005). Aiding transfer students through the transition process. Esource for College Transitions, 2(4), 5.

Moseman, J. (2006). E-mail newsletter connects with transfer students. Esource for College Transitions, 3(4), 6-8.

Owens, K.R. (2008). Transfer transitions: Through the eyes of students. Esource for College Transitions, 5(4), 6-7.

Thurmond, K.C. (2007). Transfer shock: Why is a term forty years old still relevant? Retrieved from

First, this article was originally intended for an audience of academic advisors, but I think the information is useful to anyone interested in the transfer experience. In this article, the author reviews the historical literature about the idea of "transfer shock." Beginning with Hill's original definition of the concept through more recent research, Thurmond draws the conclusion that not much information has shifted the terminology or idea. She does make recommendations for academic advisors to ease the transition to a new institution, particularly citing the individualized attention that transfer students can receive in this capacity.

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.

Townsend, B.K. (2008). "Feeling like a freshman again": The transfer student transition. New Directions for Higher Education, 144(4), 69-77.

The article is based on case studies at large four-year institutions. Townsend divides the transfer experience into two parts, the application process and the process of becoming a student. In the first part of the transition, transfer students often focus on their transfer credits. After the student has applied and been accepted to an institution, their transition shifts to becoming a new student. It is in this part of the transition that transfer students can begin to feel like freshman. Students must learn a new academic environment and policies. Transfer students are challenged to find friend groups when they enter a new institution.

Wang, X., & Wharton, B. I. (2010). The Differential Patterns of College Involvement Between Transfer and Native Students. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 22(1), 49-66.

Guided by a conceptual model of student involvement, this study examined the patterns of undergraduate student involvement in academic and social activities and student services, focusing on a comparison between transfer and native students at a large, Midwestern public research university. The results indicated that compared to native students, transfer students did not seem to differ much in academic involvement; however, transfers were less involved socially, used fewer student support services, and participated less in campus events and student organizations.

Wawrzynski, M. R. & Sedlacek, W. E. (2003). Race and gender differences in the transfer student experience. Journal of College Student Development, 44(4), 489-501.

Zamani, E. M. (2001). Institutional responses to barriers to the transfer process. New Directions for Community Colleges, 114, pp. 15-24.

In this article, Zamani examines how institutions react to their transfer students' needs. He reviews several transfer centers at various universities as well as the services they provide. He also investigates the programs that have been proven to increase success. One of these programs is a summer institute involving several institutions in the Los Angeles area that allows underrepresented students to make a successful transition from the local community colleges to Santa Ana College or UC Irvine. Other programs that facilitate success include College Transfer Days, Transfer fairs, or transfer centers at the community college level. The author also notes that although community colleges often are blamed for under prepared students, all institutions in the transfer process have a responsibility to help students succeed.

Zeller, W. J. (Ed.). (2008). Monograph #5: Residence life programs and the new student Experience (3rd ed.). Columbia, SC: First Year Experiences and Students in Transition.

  • Refer to Chapter 12 for information on Transfer Students.

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Updated May 2011