What you should know about moving from a community college – US News & World Report | Team Cansler

For many students, the adult education center is only the first stop on their educational path.

Bachelor’s degrees are not typically offered at community colleges, so a transfer to a four-year institution is often required depending on a student’s intended career path. But while 80% of community college students are interested in a bachelor’s degree, only 14% actually achieve one within six years of entering community college, according to a recent report by the American Talent Initiative, a philanthropy-backed organization Organization dedicated to improving college access and graduation for low- and middle-income students.

“There’s this big gap between aspiration and outcome,” says Tania LaViolet, director of undergraduate portfolios at the Aspen College Excellence Program and one of the study’s authors. Often, obstacles — including credit transfers, cost of participation, and lack of support — hamper students’ ability to apply.

Experts say it’s important for students to find someone to help them navigate the transfer process, do some research, and choose a school that meets their financial aid needs. Here’s what community college students need to know about transferring to a four-year college or university.

Process of transition to a four-year school

Although the requirements at each institution are different, the application processes for transfer and freshman students are often similar.

For example, some schools will accept the joint application for transfer students, while others may have their own application. Document requirements typically include an essay, high school or community college transcript, letters of recommendation, and test scores, if applicable.

“All of these pieces come together to really tell a story of all of their accomplishments and all of the exciting ways they could continue that work and those interests at their next institution,” says Alex DiAddezio, Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Williams College in Massachusetts.

In some cases, community college students are guaranteed admission to select institutions under an articulation agreement — a partnership between multiple colleges and universities to facilitate the transfer process. Some articulation agreements focus solely on course equivalencies to ensure student coursework is transferrable.

Unlike freshmen in college, transfer students typically have a deadline or rolling admissions, DiAddezio says. Some schools require students to be enrolled in college for a specified amount of time before qualifying as transfer students.

What is a reassignment?

Many students transfer from a community college to a four-year school before completing an associate degree. However, there is still the possibility of acquiring this qualification, the so-called return transfer.

Once a student has earned all of the credits required for an associate degree at their four-year institution, they can return their transcript to the community college to obtain that credential. It is not mandatory to have a bachelor’s degree.

Several states, such as Illinois, have statutory reassignment policies. For example, transfer students from an Illinois public community college may participate in a reverse transfer program. To qualify, students must have completed at least 15 semester hours at a state public community college and have earned 60 semester hours of college credit.

“Some students want it personally because they’ve done the work to earn it and they want to go through the process to reach that particular educational milestone,” says Brian Troyer, dean of undergraduate admissions at Marquette University in Wisconsin . “And then for some students, their goal all along was to get a bachelor’s degree, so they’re not that interested or don’t feel that compelled to go through the process.”

Transfer tips for community college students

1. Immerse yourself in the campus

Capitalize on all the community college experience, both in and out of the classroom, DiAddezio says, “because that’s going to make for a stronger application.” For example, students may join clubs or other organizations when their schedules allow.

Also find courses that are academically challenging, interesting and exciting. Take the time to develop relationships with professors as they can often be a resource during the transfer process.

2. Find a mentor

According to a report by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association and StraighterLine, a platform that works with colleges to support student enrollment and graduation, 30 percent of students lose at least a quarter of their existing academic credit during the transfer process.

Figuring out credit transfers can be confusing, so experts advise community college students to find a mentor — like a faculty member or academic advisor — during their freshman semester to help them understand the process and courses that typically transfer.

“Try to have a good faculty mentor, someone you can talk to about what those next steps are, and then maybe that mentor can bridge an opportunity with a faculty member at the receiving institution,” says Jerrett Phillips, vice president of enrollment management and Academic success at Cameron University in Oklahoma. “So often I think that students overlook the time that faculty and staff can devote to helping them connect, stay connected, and perform well.”

3. Do your research

Before narrowing down a list of schools to transfer to, students should understand their career, academic, and life goals.

“Try to map backwards from there the academic path you need to take to achieve those goals,” says LaViolet. “Do this work first so your advisor can provide guidance as you talk to these goals.”

Visiting the campus in person or virtually can help students determine if a college is right for them. Community college students can also connect with current students to learn more about a school.

4. Find a financial fit

An adult education center is often the cheaper option. The average tuition at a community college is about $3,800 annually for the 2022-2023 school year, while the average annual cost at four-year institutions ranges from about $10,000 for state tuition at public schools to nearly $40,000 at private nonprofit universities. according to the university council.

Students should look past the sticker price, however, as they often pay less than advertised, experts say.

Transfer students can, in most cases, apply for financial aid by completing the Free Student Aid Application or the FAFSA. Although not common, some schools offer scholarships specifically for transfer students. For example, the University of Maryland offers several transfer scholarships ranging from $5,000 to full tuition.

“Students shouldn’t hesitate to dream big about finding a space that truly meets their needs and not putting them in a place where they might feel risky or financially uncomfortable,” says DiAddezio. “I really encourage them to check their resources and look at all the different types of financial support that are out there. Know that there are institutions that offer really exciting financial support.”

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