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Finding the Right Fit: Transferring Students Should be Strategic

Before taking their first class on campus, students in the Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP) at Ivy Tech Community College are thinking about transfer opportunities once they complete their associate degree. Students have to think about their transfer plans early because they complete their associate degree at the community college in just 11 months.

Some ASAP students know where they will transfer to and their intended program of study.  Others have narrowed their choices, but have not made definite plans.  Still others are in exploratory stages.  Regardless of which phase students may be in, their planning for transfer is thoughtful and strategic.  An ASAP coordinator, who serves as students’ mentor and confidant, works with students individually to identify their interests and goals for transfer.  In fact, there is a discussion about transferring to a four-year institution during the interview process for ASAP.  To further support students’ intent to transfer, college visits and other activities are embedded in ASAP.

“Many of our students are highly recruited by four-year institutions,” noted Heather McDonald, ASAP coordinator of the Ivy Tech Columbus campus.  “Students who are motivated enough to complete an associate degree in 11 months are likely going to be successful completing their bachelor’s degree once they transfer,” McDonald continued.  Many institutions seeking transferring ASAP students have offered significant incentives, from full scholarships to reduced tuition rates.   

Students desiring a fast track to earning an associate degree, making completion of a bachelor’s degree faster, have found success in ASAP.  Currently, 100% of ASAP graduates who have applied have been accepted into one or more four-year colleges.  After completing their associate degree, students have successfully transferred to public and private four-year institutions in Indiana as well as other states.   

The Ivy Tech Columbus campus began its fourth ASAP cohort in summer 2017.  Joseph Yoder (pictured), a member of this cohort, may only be a few weeks into his first semester, but he already knows his plans for transfer after earning an associate degree.  Yoder intends to transfer to Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary with the goal of becoming an ordained Catholic priest.  A home-schooled student, Yoder was familiar with ASAP because his older sister Jessica was a graduate of the 2015-16 cohort.  Yoder is one of 17 students in the current cohort, all thinking about their transfer plans. 

A graduate from the 2016-17 ASAP cohort, Emily Joyce, was three months into her associate degree studies before she began searching for the right transfer school to complete a bachelor’s degree in athletic training.  Joyce found many options and quickly learned she was coveted by several institutions.  Joyce said her college visits resulted in similar pitches with regard to why she belonged at their institution – each wanting to convince her to choose their school.  Joyce was a savvy self-advocate and ended up asking tough questions during these visits.  Instead of inquiring about the classes she would need to take for her major, Joyce wanted to know the acceptance and completion rates for the program she was interested in.

Joyce identified criteria that was important to her as she reviewed the many options available.  This list helped her remain focused and committed to what mattered most to her. 

“The most important things to me were tuition rates, credits transferring, finding my program, scholarships for the hard work I put in at Ivy Tech, and being able to fit into a new school where the upperclassmen already knew each other,” Joyce said.  After negotiating with two schools for additional scholarships, the final decision was finding the right fit, which was discovered during campus visits.  Joyce said she did not feel welcomed at one college while administrators, professors, and students at the other college genuinely seemed interested in her as a student and an individual.  Joyce will be attending Franklin College in Indiana to begin bachelor’s studies in exercise science.  She plans to continue her education by earning a master’s degree in athletic training.

Looking back on the transfer process, Joyce said the best advice she received was to think about the similarities of college recruiters and car sales persons.  “To get what I wanted from a school, I needed to inform them exactly what I wanted from my school that would make me choose them over another school,” Joyce recalls.  Joyce’s completion of an associate degree in 11 months made her a desirable transfer student.  As a result, she had options that allowed her to find the fit she was seeking.

Although born in Mexico, Nancy Bueno Olivas grew up in Indiana, and is a first generation college graduate.  After earning an associate degree through ASAP in May 2015, Bueno transferred to Indiana University-Purdue University (IUPUI) and will complete a bachelor’s degree in biology at the end of the fall 2017 semester.  Factors important to Bueno as she considered transfer options were location, tuition, and area of study.  In the end, Bueno said tuition support for DACA students at in-state rates instead of out-of-state rates was a deciding factor for her transfer decision.

Although she described the transfer transition as “tough and shocking,” Bueno maintained a positive attitude and felt right at home within a few weeks on the new campus.  In addition to becoming immersed into a new program of study, Bueno was becoming familiar with a new town and campus and meeting new people.

Bueno found resources that supported a smooth transition from the community college to the four-year institution.  “The library and the Biology Resource Center were my sanctuaries.”  Here she met students in her classes to form study groups and she also found quiet space for studying.  Bueno intends to continue her education by earning a doctorate degree in conservation biology.

Based on the transferring success of ASAP students, McDonald suggests students engage in early and thoughtful planning for transfer to a four-year institution.  By being strategic, transferring students can find the right academic, financial and cultural fit. 

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