Quality Student Advising at the Heart of a Transfer Student’s Success
Written by Lisa Darnell, Benedictine University, Transfer Coordinator
How long will it take me to graduate? How much will it cost?
Someone once said that “time is money” and college is certainly no exception. It is important to make the most of hours spent inside and outside of the classroom at community college. Potential transfer students should work with community college advisors and admissions staff at four-year schools to keep educational goals and graduation on track. As a transfer admissions counselor at a private university, I recommend potential transfers focus on the following:
If you can’t decide between business and science, attending a community college is a very cost effective endeavor. The wonderful thing about your early college career is that general education classes can help you explore your interests. It isn’t a bad idea to take a “Business 101” or “Principles of Biology” class to see if the subject material really interests you. Even if you change your mind about a major after taking an introductory class, at least you know now instead of wasting time and money deeper into the program. Also, at the very least the class may transfer as elective credit toward graduation.
Students who require assistance beyond introduction classes to help decide a major should seek out career counseling. Typical services offered are career assessment tests, one-on-one counseling sessions, job shadowing, job fairs, resume and cover letter writing assistance and internship resources. All students, undecided or not, really should utilize what career development offices have to offer because early preparation makes you more competitive once you enter the workforce.
Talk to admissions staff at four-year schools.
It is also advisable to look around at different four-year schools you would consider applying for admission and find out their requirements. Some schools may want specific classes to be completed prior to transfer, while others do not. Once you know the criteria you can find common denominators between schools and take classes that could transfer across the board. Safe, basic classes are usually the required English/writing courses, speech communications and a skills level math like college algebra or finite mathematics.
You will also want to know if the schools you are applying to require you to declare your major right away, and if there are specific admissions requirements housed in different academic colleges. If you have narrowed your search down to one or two schools it is a good plan to tailor your community college education to meet the degree requirements of your future program. Check to see if the admissions staff your prospective schools are willing to provide you with unofficial transfer credit evaluations while you are plugging away at your courses, and to see if they will help you select classes that will transfer. I will typically meet with my potential students one semester to two years in advance to help them plan their time efficiently.
Most four-year schools may offer merit scholarships to transfer students based on their cumulative transfer GPA. Doing well in your classes can translate directly into money, so be sure to study hard, or retake a class you may not have done as well in to ensure a strong GPA.
Demystifying Financial Aid.
Applying for financial aid through the federal government can be an overwhelming process, especially for first time filers. Some transfer students who attend community colleges opt not to apply for financial aid to help pay for their education because they think it is unnecessary due to the lower costs of attendance. If you have not filed for financial aid in your previous terms or you are considering transferring to a four-year school for the next school year, I offer this advice:
File the FAFSA Early.
Certain types of state and federal aid are on a first come, first serve basis. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available January 1 of every year through the Department of Education’s main website www.FAFSA.gov. Students applying for financial aid for the upcoming fall 2012 term will be filing the 2012-2013 FAFSA using 2011 tax information. If 2011 taxes are not filed yet, it’s not a problem. There is a “will file taxes” option available so you can complete the form with estimated information in the meantime.
There are several different types of financial aid available to students, such as loans, grants and federal work study. Typically applicants qualify for at least federal student loans, while the other forms of aid depend on demonstrated financial need. Once the FAFSA is filed, it provides students with a number referred to as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Score. Financial aid offices use this number to determine aid eligibility.
If you want to compare your out-of-pocket costs between four-year colleges and universities, you need to be admitted first. Your official financial aid package comes after you are accepted and usually with other helpful information to help make a final decision between schools – such as the coveted transfer credit evaluation and your scholarship award letter. Additionally, be sure to add each institution of interest to the FAFSA. •