Veteran wisdom for transfer admissions professionals

4 min read

Practical tips to new increase transfer enrollment

Transfer students have very different perspectives than first-year students. First-year students are often trying to figure out who they want to become and where they want to do so. Transfer students are much more discerning and have already had concrete experiences. They want to know what they will become and how they can go about accomplishing it.  The role of the transfer advisor is to help them to unlock that process.

1) Finding out key decision makers.

Ask whether or not they have siblings. This can lead to an interesting discussion of where their brother or sister attends college - or if they are the oldest or first in their family to attend. Ask if their parents are supported them in transferring. These questions help you better understand your students and who supports them - and what possible objections they may encounter.

2) Understand their needs and make the expectations clear.

  • Do you have my major?
  • How many credits will transfer?
  • Will I still graduate when I am supposed to?

Transparency is key. Be upfront that you will do your best - but not everything is going to transfer. Explain that there could be some things they could do to expedite the process. This may include taking summer courses at the local community college. Ensure they know to work with their transfer advisor to discuss transfer credits going forward and the impact of any changes.

3) Ensure your website speaks to the transfer audience.

Ensure your website has a "Transfer" section and that it spells out the process for transferring, and gives them any referrals they may need to other important folks on your campus. Include blogs or spotlight stories of successful transfer students.

4) Drop the label.

Transfer students only want to be considered "transfer students" until they are enrolled. After that, they want to be a regular college student.

5) Poor transcripts = opportunity.

For some students this upcoming semester might not be their semester - and that’s okay. When a student shows a poor transcript – be upfront with them. Perhaps recommend they spend some time at a community college and take a mix of general education requirements, e.g. English, Math and two other courses of interest.  If they find success - that’s a great start.

6) Empathy required.

This just in - transfer students are humans. Be it the death of parents or loved ones, to friends (or students themselves) who suffered from addiction, to assault, to persecution, break-ups, heartache, or crisis of identity. Keep Kleenex stocked and listen. Be compassionate and authentic.
(Important: This cannot be faked. If you truly do not care - you are not in the right profession.)

7) Be there when they need you.

Who knows why students procrastinate until the last day to register at the community college. They’ll call you urgently requesting you remind them which classes you recommended. It happens. Be there for them.

8) Family matters.

Invite student's parent/grandparent/aunt or uncle to call with questions. Many times they are the real buyer/influencer. Do not let important information get lost in translation.

9) Be a squeaky wheel with colleagues.

Often (sadly) transfer students can be an afterthought on campus. When policies or programs are proposed/created - always pose the question - "How will this impact transfer students".

10) Network with two-year transfer counselors.

Community colleges help students transfer to other institutions. Befriend the transfer counselors. Ask about events. If you have done a good job of networking – they will think of you and recommend you to their students.

11) "No." today, "Yes." tomorrow.

Frequently students who were admitted a year or two previously don’t enroll but may come back to reapply. Let them know they can re-open their application and regain their admission. If they take you up on it - make it easy for them!

12) Encourage walk-in's.

Being accessible is key. Welcoming walk-ins is a great way to meet students on their terms and drive interest. [aside] For me - working in Burlington, Vermont (often a tourist-destination) this was especially true. Often students were in town for other reasons or even evaluating other institutions.

13) Have a tour guide/student ambassador who was a transfer.

Students are comforted by connecting with someone else who transferred. Did they have trouble getting their credits to transfer? What was their experience? If possible, provide them contact information of successful transfer students.

14) It takes a village.

Establish rapport with colleagues around campus. Foster goodwill with colleagues who will house, award credit, bill, register for classes, award financial aid to and provide counseling and other support services for your students.


Amber Rich, Ed.D. is the Director of Client Relations at Mongoose.

For the past 15 years, Amber has been helping college students reach their goals of higher education.  She worked for 12 years in Admissions at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont and spent the majority of her time specializing in counseling/recruiting transfer students. During Amber's tenure at Champlain, she more than tripled the number of transfer students.  A few of the initiatives Amber created was the Summer Bridge Program, a summer program awarding students transfer credits for their general education curriculum from their transferring institution, instant admit days for transfer students, where prospective transfers could instantly find out if admitted and how many transfer credits would apply, as well scholarships for new American and Phi Theta Kappa students, (high achieving community college students). Amber wrote her dissertation on how to guide transfer students towards meaning, while finding her own, using the scholarly personal narrative methodology, under Dr. Robert Nash, (University Scholar 2003). 

Amber’s dissertation:

Helping Students Find Meaning While Finding My Own
A Scholarly Personal Narrative Navigating Single-Motherhood and a Career in Admissions