A Conversation about Transfer with Kevin Byrne, Executive Director, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Mar 24, 2019

A Conversation about Transfer with Kevin Byrne, Executive Director, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Switched schools along your college journey? If so, you’re in good company—transfer students make up 38 percent of all students in higher ed. Even so, they’re often on their own when it comes to navigating the process: from applications, to credit transfers, to financial resources and support.

Recognizing the need to support these students, a number of organizations are evolving to better support them through the transfer process and along the path to graduation. We recently spoke with Kevin Byrne, Managing Director of US Programs at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, about the challenges facing today’s transfer students and how we can help solve them.

What ignited your initial passion for supporting transfer populations?

Transfer students make up a significant number of college students, especially low-income students, and yet they continue to have the most hurdles that make earning a degree even more difficult. We can make the path a lot smoother by focusing on some of the larger barriers, and one of the biggest is lack of time. That’s why we partnered with The Common Application on Scholar Snapp to save students time in completing scholarship applications by reusing their application information from Common App.

How does Scholar Snapp help transfer students?

Scholarships can help make college a reality for countless students who may not otherwise enroll or finish their degree. Through Scholar Snapp, students can save their application details to a profile, which allows them to reuse their information from one application to another. From there, they can complete applications in just a few clicks, saving time and making it easier to find additional financial resources for college. Students transferring from a two-year college can use their Scholar Snapp profile to apply for transfer scholarships through Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for community colleges.

What do you think are the biggest challenges today’s transfer students face?

Even with all of today’s technology, transfer students are constantly in an uncertain world. What credits will transfer? Does their school have existing agreements with other colleges to ease the transfer process? Where are they going to find enough financial aid to pay for school? Transfer students have to juggle multiple deadlines across several schools, all while managing their current course load. It’s a lot to take on.

How can we support transfer students through all phases of their journey to college completion?

Demystify the transfer process. Give students a roadmap of which courses to take and when. Many schools have detailed articulation agreements, which outline how courses align between different colleges, so students will know exactly which courses maximize their credit hours toward a degree. Proactively reach out to transfer students, who are juggling a lot and can’t afford to drop any of the balls in the air. Finally, financial aid is critical. Some schools specifically designate transfer scholarships and grants since historically there has not been enough aid to help transfer students.

What are some important myths about the transfer experience that we should work to debunk?

One of the biggest myths is that transfer students are not successful in their degree goals, and yet recent data has shown that they have similar or better success outcomes than non-transfer students. Another common myth is that transfer students aren’t the “traditional” college student. In truth, more than one-third of students are transfer students of some kind. Going to a four-year university for all of college, taking all their classes there, and even graduating in four years is not the typical journey for most college students today.

And if you’re a low-income student, your path is even more varied. It’s time the system adapted to the new normal.

If you could provide one key piece of advice to a student currently navigating the transfer application process, what would that be?

Stick with it and build a support network. The transfer process can be complex, so get multiple opinions and seek advice from several sources. Don’t just take the first answer you get…especially if you don’t like it! Definitely build a network of peers, but don’t stop there. Reach out to counselors, the financial aid office, and your professors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from this network. You may be surprised how far they will go out of their way to help you be successful.