Transfer Advantages for Community College Graduates
By Mary Ann Davis
Starting at a community college and then transferring to a four year institution is a common strategy for students looking to earn a bachelor's degree. And, there is growing evidence of more and more students considering the transfer route for its many advantages.
Ease into the College Experience
With dedicated faculty and smaller class sizes, community colleges are better at easing students into the college experience with more individualized attention.
Community college faculty tends to focus more on teaching and generally have less competing interests - like research projects, project funding or getting work published - that would distract from teaching introductory college courses. There's also opportunity for more individualized attention to help struggling students directly and increasing their chances of success.
Many community college class sizes for general education and major preparation courses are smaller than those at four-year institutions. Smaller class sizes allow for better access to the teacher and also more individualized attention, which again translates into better learning and potential student success. At Carroll, the average class size is 20 students.
To further assist with easing students into the college experience, some community colleges offer first year programs. Carroll offers a First-Year Success Program, First-Year Interest Groups and First-Year Blackboard site to help students adjust academically and socially.
The First-Year Success Program provides opportunities for first-year students to become active integrated members of the college and develop skills needed for academic and personal success. It involves students in activities that complement academic learning. Upon successful completion of the program, students qualify for a $100 - $200 scholarship.
In conjunction with the program, Carroll offers a College Success course where students clarify values and set academic and personal goals. The course also helps students develop critical thinking, time management, communication, organizational and study skills.
First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs) are comprised of popular course combinations that provide opportunities for students to interact and study with the same group of students in three classes, and have the benefit of three or more faculty members working together to guide successful learning.
Carroll offers six FIGs each fall - Deciding on Business, Exploring Elementary Education, Examining Health Careers, Problem Solved: An Integrated Approach to Reading, English and Math 097, The Write Answer: Connecting Reading, Writing and Math 099 and Pathways to Success.
Carroll's first-year students are automatically enrolled in the First-Year Student Blackboard site, Carroll's e-learning system. The site provides weekly updates about upcoming campus events and forums to discuss questions or concerns about the college.
In addition to these first-year opportunities, Carroll provides other activities that encourage involvement including getting aquatinted with college at its New Student Orientation, joining an Academic Community based on career interests or program of study, and taking part in various other student activities.
Attending a community college can provide substantial savings. For starters, tuition and fees are often less than four-year institutions - as is the case with Carroll being less than half the cost of the University of Maryland. By starting and staying at a community college through completion of the Associate's degree, students may save enough to cover the tuition costs of their junior year at the university.
Campuses tend to be conveniently local, saving students commuting costs and dorm expenses by living at home.
Another important, yet often overlooked, benefit is scholarship opportunities. "Most people do not realize the scholarships that are available by starting at a community college," said Kristine Dewitt, director of transfer and articulation at Carroll. When students start at a community college, they start building their college transcript, and their academic achievements there can lead to scholarship opportunities not just at the community college, but at a four-year institution as well.
Complete the Basic Requirements
Bachelor programs require that students fulfill a set of general education courses, and community colleges are good places to earn these credits. Carroll students can take these courses and be guaranteed they will transfer to all four year public institutions and many private institutions in Maryland.
"We consistently review program curricula and work very closely with public and private colleges and universities, in- and out-of-state, to make sure our students are well prepared and their courses are transferable," said DeWitt.
To assist even further, the University of Maryland maintains an online database that shows the transferability of coursework. The database, ARTSYS , indicates whether a course is transferable and, if so, the four-year institution's equivalent course number. It also indicates the general education area(s), at both the sending and receiving institutions, applicable to the course, and recommends courses for transfer to specific programs of study at the participating four-year institutions.
As a result of these efforts, graduating students from Carroll are automatically accepted into the University of Maryland system, and while transferring to an out-of-state college or university many not be automatic, graduates of Carroll transfer just as well.
Assistance with Transferring
Most community colleges, like Carroll, offer dedicated assistance to help students with the transfer process. Carroll also provides students with online transfer resources like its Guide to Transfer and information on transfer agreements, application deadlines, scholarships and more.
Many four-year institutions hire personnel specifically to assist and recruit students from community colleges. Throughout the semesters, many of these representatives visit Carroll to speak with students about transferring to their college/university. Additionally, Carroll hosts fall and spring Transfer Fairs for students to learn about transfer opportunities at many different four-year institutions at one time.
More Time to Define a Major
Students who do not know what to major in after graduating high school, find community colleges the best place to start. Community colleges are good places to explore career fields of interest before committing to a major. It's an opportunity to take time exploring options while paying less per credit than a four-year institution.
Boost Grade Point Average
Taking classes at a community college can help improve a student's grade point average (GPA). Unlike most four-year institutions, community colleges, like Carroll, have an open-door admissions policy allowing all students to be accepted regardless of past academic performance. Students who improve their academic record show four-year institutions they are serious about their education and permits them to meet the four-year's minimum admissions requirements.
Transferring from a community college is the smart way to start college, save money and achieve academic goals. And, by utilizing the expertise of dedicated professionals and resources, the process provides a smooth transition to a four-year institution, especially for graduates with an Associate's degree.