As demographic shifts point to smaller applicant pools and an overall drop in direct-entry undergraduate students, colleges and universities will increasingly be competing for students to keep their enrollment numbers up. Making it easier for students to transfer opens up an avenue to increase enrollment with students who did not consider your school as freshmen. But competing to get students to transfer to your institution requires that you take steps to make your marketing, programs, and support more enticing to transfer students from community colleges and other higher education institutions. Here are some suggestions:
- Market Clearly and Target Transfer Students
Clarify transfer policies on your website. Although this seems obvious, improving the website transfer section is one reason some schools saw double-digit increases in transfer students rather than the declines that most universities saw during the pandemic. Many schools have complex instructions for transferring to their institution, so make your text as straightforward as possible to cut through the noise.
In addition to making your website crystal clear on transfer issues, you can target transfer students in your marketing. As marketing is now more personalized, identify and then target students at community colleges who may need encouragement to consider getting their bachelor’s degree. With a higher percentage of underserved students attending community college, they may be less familiar with the possibilities you offer in your transfer programs.
- Make Transferring Credits Easy and Transparent
One of the biggest problems for transfer students is transferring credits from their completed classes. One study found that less than 60 percent of community college students could transfer most of their credits, and 15 percent transferred almost no credits. This is a considerable loss of time and money for students. Encouraging students to transfer credits will make them more likely to complete their degrees. Dedicate staff time and care so transfer credit evaluations will be easier, and you will attract more students and see higher graduation rates.
- Offer a Bridge Program for Transfer Students
Bridge programs that take place before the start of a semester can help orient transfer students, give them a sense of community, and smooth the adjustment to the expectations of a 4-year degree program. Special orientation groups for transfer students can address the specific hurdles they face while also helping to lay a foundation for their success.
- Increase Ongoing Student Support Services for Transfers
All students need support services, but transfer students may have more learning gaps or academic weaknesses than students who started with you as freshmen. Writing and tutoring programs are useful, as are ongoing social and financial support. Transfers can be from lower-income backgrounds and need more logistical support to arrange transportation, healthcare, and other life needs. In addition, social events and programming that help transfers become part of the campus community are a great way to increase a sense of belonging, affecting academic success and persistence.
- Streamline the Process to Get into Popular Majors
Along with making sure transfer students get all the credit they deserve for previous courses, they may need extra assistance to get accepted into specific majors. They might be missing certain courses required as prerequisites, but maybe they can take these as corequisites to let them quickly start the major. Supporting the academic goals of transfer students may require some adjustment and special planning to make it possible for them to stay on the path toward their dream careers.
- Create or Expand Transfer Scholarships
In addition to making current scholarships available to transfer students, you might consider adding extra financial support just for this group. Many will be moving from less expensive community colleges into 4-year schools, so helping to bridge the financial gap will bolster their ability to succeed. Additionally, some students may need to take extra classes or time to complete their degree, so offering to lighten the financial burden will be appreciated.
- Form Alliances with Regional Community Colleges
Forming academic and administrative alliances with local and regional community colleges can give you access to a large pool of potential transfer students. With cooperation and communication, you may be able to align some of your programs with their offerings to smooth the transition for students moving into your bachelor’s degree programs. Don’t look at community colleges as competition but as a helpful partner in providing the highest level of education to the largest number of students, especially those traditionally underserved by higher education. These students were not considering your school until they had some success at a community college, so you can help them expand the horizons of their dreams to encompass a 4-year degree and new career and life prospects.
Attracting transfer students is one way to bolster your enrollment. However, transfer students have needs that are different from the students who start as freshmen, so you will need to make sure your institution is prepared to address these needs to help this group of students reach their potential. Additional benefits to increasing the number of transfer students at your institution include added diversity. Many of your transfer students will come from community colleges with higher percentages of Black, Latinx, low-income, and first-generation college students. Preparing underserved student populations to succeed is challenging, yet this is a priority for higher education overall. Adding transfer students to the campus community can only enrich the campus experience for all your students. It helps higher education fulfill its ideals to bring education to as many people as possible.
Contact us today to find out how we can help level up your education marketing strategy.