Newswise — Every CSU student's path to college looks a little different. For the 2019-20 school year, that path included time at a community college before transferring to a CSU for 67,145 new students, with more than 28,000 of them enrolling with an Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT).
With so much of its student body composed of transfer students, the CSU ensures it is providing potential and current transfer students with the support they need to succeed—from planning their pathway to the CSU to their CSU graduation. While that support may look different across the 23 campuses, these students will find help no matter which one they choose.
“It is important to remember that transfer students are first-year students, and they need additional support in order to make a successful transition to their new university experience," says Duan Jackson, interim systemwide director, Student Advising Initiatives at the CSU Office of the Chancellor. “Transfer support centers and coordinated services help students meet their academic goals and find their place on campus."
In honor of National Transfer Student Week, October 18-22, explore some examples of how the CSU supports its transfer students.
From the Beginning
Before potential transfer students even apply to the CSU, campuses begin building connections with them through partnerships with local community colleges.
At California State University, Fresno, this effort includes pre-admission advising for these community college students. “We look at their majors; we're making sure they're taking the proper transfer classes and that they transfer on time," says Phong Yang, Fresno State director of admissions. “And we talk about other support services they may need, like financial aid and scholarships. We work all of that out before they even apply."
Potential transfer students who are particularly committed to attending Fresno State receive additional perks, like a Fresno State student ID that includes library access. “That's so they feel part of the Bulldog family already," Yang says. “They're getting the advising they need, they're getting to see the campus and they're getting to meet with staff."
With the opening of application season, campuses will also hold presentations, workshops or one-on-one appointments—depending on the campus—to help prospective students fill out their Cal State application. These may be offered on the CSU campus, the community college campus or online—with many transitioning to the virtual option during the pandemic.
California State University, Long Beach, for example, holds a transfer admission workshop that covers the application process, applicant eligibility and timelines as well as student panels during which transfer students share their experience with the application process. Other events, like the College Inclusion Summit specifically targeting historically underserved communities, provide help with Cal State Apply and financial aid applications for students and parents.
“It's really important that we have outreach services that provide very distinct pathways and strategies that work for our campus so students and counselors can strategize for the breadth of their opportunities," says Evelyn Daliwan, CSULB senior director of University Outreach and School Relations.
Upon being accepted to a campus, new transfer students will receive various communications from the outreach offices or their departments with reminders and help to complete enrollment, register for classes, submit necessary paperwork, develop a path to graduation and sign up for orientation.
“At our campus, once students are admitted, we are ensuring they enroll, turn in their intent and have the information to common questions. Then they sign up for orientation," Daliwan says. “Orientation ensures the student transitions from what it's like at the community college to how advising is done and what is required of you here—and gets them acclimated to the campus and connects them to the advisors they have in their college."
Many campuses offer an orientation experience specially tailored for transfer students that helps them transition to life at their CSU campus.
California State University, San Bernardino—which recently won CollegeSource's Innovation in Degree Achievement Solutions award and where about 70 percent of upper division students are transfers—has a three-phased orientation program.
“It creates a transfer accelerator environment," says Rachel Beech, Ed.D., CSUSB associate vice president, Enrollment Management. “We want our transfer students to feel that when they walk onto our campuses, they can come in and lead because of their previous experiences. They have the ability to step into greater levels of leadership earlier in their CSUSB career than their traditional first-year peers. Owning, recognizing and honoring that difference has made us an environment where students want to come as a transfer student and feel that we are trying our best to support and serve them."
The first phase is an online orientation tool that provides introductory information. This is followed by a mandatory transfer student orientation program that covers financial aid, paying tuition, enrolling in courses, advising, campus systems and the calendar.
Then, CSUSB's Transfer Tuesday series introduces new transfer students to services, resources and the Transfer Student Success Center, and includes talks led by fellow transfer students. The sessions occur weekly before the beginning of each semester, but continue periodically throughout.
“[The series] starts to introduce them to those folks who can help them get involved in clubs, join programs like model UN and get an internship or campus job," Dr. Beech says. “We're trying to make these connections before they step on campus so they're not looking to start that process on the first day of the term."
Fresno State similarly holds a mandatory new transfer student orientation to acquaint new students with its Transfer Success Center—though the admissions office also holds webinars on campus tools, scheduling classes and more before orientation. “We have to provide those kinds of support webinars for students so they're comfortable coming here, and when they come to the orientation, they feel empowered," Yang says.
A Place to Go
Support for transfer students also continues once they arrive on campus—in the form of these on-campus transfer centers for a number of CSU campuses.
“The students are here for such a short amount of time that we want to make sure we can help them mitigate transfer shock and get them connected to campus resources right away," says Kerilyn Counter, CSULB senior academic advisor. “That's one of the things we really look at and try to help with at the transfer center."
CSULB's Beach Transfer Transition Center (BTTC) connects these students with other campus resources and departments—such as the University Writing Center, Career Development Center, Graduate Center and Leadership Academy—through workshops and other communications. However, it also helps transfer students connect with each other through social events and the recently launched BTTC Ambassador Program, which pairs new transfer students with older transfers.
“They can have someone to connect with who can be a friend, go to events with them, answer questions, help direct them to different parts of campus and share their experiences as peers," Counter says.
Lastly, these centers also provide students with a physical space where they can study, meet with staff and connect with each other. “They find a place where they can connect with their transfer identity in addition to their broader identities on the campus and as a Coyote," Beech says. “Transfer students know, if they don't know where else to go, that the Transfer Student Success Center is there for them."
“Even though we try to dismantle the stigma around transfer, I think there is still a perception that transfer is not as valuable an experience as coming direct from high school to the university," she continues. “This causes the students to be nervous about identifying themselves as transfer students. So, creating a safe space for them to be in that identity and to connect with other students who are slightly older, students who've gone through the experience and maybe even students they had seen at their previous institution … is a powerful experience. It helps them find the community at CSUSB that will help them be successful."
A Smoother Transfer Pathway
With Governor Gavin Newson's recent approval of Assembly Bill 928, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act of 2021, community college students will have an even smoother path to the CSU. The bill creates a single general education pathway for students to transfer from a community college to the CSU or the University of California.
It also opens opportunities for students to enroll in more major preparation courses in STEM and business—as well as allows for the development of more STEM ADT pathways to high unit fields like engineering, computer science, chemistry, biology, physics and business. “Currently, many transfer students are challenged to fit those courses into the 60-unit lower- and upper-division requirements established by the Associate Degree for Transfer," Chancellor Joseph I. Castro wrote in a CalMatters op-ed. … “AB 928 corrects that and will lead to additional graduates in other critical fields such as computer science, physics and business, with many students coming from traditionally underserved communities."