More than a third of college students will transfer at least once within six years, according to data from National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
In other words, transfer students matter in higher education.
That’s especially true at SUNY Cortland, which recently became the only SUNY institution named to Phi Theta Kappa’s 2018 Transfer Honor Roll. The international honor society for two-year college students recognized 112 institutions for their success in developing community college transfer pathways.
To be considered for the award, four-year colleges and universities submitted a detailed application outlining their commitment to transfer student support services, financial aid, admissions outreach and campus life opportunities.
“Transfers aren’t an afterthought at SUNY Cortland,” said Greg Diller ’07, the College’s transfer mobility advisor in Advisement and Transition. “They’re not just grouped in with everyone else. There are transfer-specific resources and opportunities — everything from our transfer buddy program to the physical lounge space that exists for non-traditional students.”
Approximately 925 transfer students came to SUNY Cortland in 2017 across the spring and fall semesters. Undergraduates must carry a minimum 2.5 grade point average to be considered for transfer admission, although 3.2 is the average.
Still, the transfer process can be complicated for even the highest achievers, given that students come from various institutions at different stages in their academic careers. Diller said the two of the most common questions he receives from transfer students relate to coursework and timeline. Students want to know how their earned credits will transfer to a new institution and the important deadlines they need to meet.
“The biggest thing I always stress with students is planning ahead,” said Diller, who works primarily with students from nearby Tompkins Cortland Community College and SUNY Broome through an ambitious Completion Path Collaborative program. “Transferring could be a year or two years away. The more that you know ahead of time, the better off you’ll be down the road.”
Successful institutions rely on programs, resources and support systems that are developed with the unique needs of transfer students in mind. Highlights at SUNY Cortland include:
Advisement and Transition: Housed on the first floor of Memorial Library, this 11-person team is well-prepared in meeting the academic advising needs of all students, especially transfers. Carol Costell Corbin serves as associate director for transfer credit and degree completion and Emily Quinlan serves as coordinator of transfer student services.
Transfer Planning Sheets and Transfer Equivalency Charts: These online tools help students map out a clear path to SUNY Cortland. The planning sheets outline recommended coursework prior to transferring and the equivalency charts show how credits from various institutions will count at the College.
Transfer Buddy: This program links a new transfer student with someone who previously transferred to the College in an effort to answer questions and ease the transition to SUNY Cortland.
National Transfer Student Week: This week of activities in the fall aims to raise awareness of SUNY Cortland transfer students and celebrate their many contributions to campus. Students enjoy events such as “Transfer Trivia” and faculty and staff members can treat transfer students to lunch.
COR 201: Modeled after COR 101 for first-year students, this one-credit course introduces new transfer students to academic life and the many ways to create a successful SUNY Cortland experience.
Honors societies and awards: Phi Theta Kappa members from two-year institutions who carry a minimum 3.5 grade point average can earn a $1,000 scholarship upon entering SUNY Cortland. Most transfer students also may join SUNY Cortland’s chapter of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society, which offers additional scholarship opportunities.
Faculty Transfer Symposium: This new event brought together faculty and staff members from SUNY Cortland, Tompkins Cortland Community College and SUNY Broome to introduce colleagues and better understand curriculums across partner institutions.
Reverse transfer degrees: Transfer students who come from community colleges without completing their associate’s degree may earn it while working towards their bachelor’s degree at SUNY Cortland. The College continues to raise awareness about this process.
SUNY Cortland’s application for the Phi Theta Kappa Transfer Honor Roll received support and contributions from many offices across campus, including Academic Support and Achievement Program (ASAP), Advisement and Transition, Campus Activities and Corey Union and the Admissions, Registrar’s and Residence Life and Housing offices.
The application also included letters of support from SUNY Broome as a partner two-year institution and Taylor Lynch ’17, who transferred to SUNY Cortland from Herkimer County Community College in 2014.
Lynch commuted to campus at Herkimer, so Cortland brought her first experience living away from home. She said that she worried about making friends, balancing difficult courses and living with a roommate for the first time.
But her earliest experiences at Orientation in the summer and Transfer Take-off events in the fall changed Lynch’s outlook. She met Quinlan, the coordinator of transfer student services. Their bond transformed her college experience.
“I was really, really nervous,” said Lynch, a former communication studies major who now works as SUNY Cortland’s interim assistant director of alumni engagement. “As soon as I met Emily and I understood all of the services that Advisement and Transition offers, the adjustment became easier every single day.”
Lynch eventually served as a transfer buddy to countless new students, she helped reshape programs aimed at transfers and last year earned a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.
She insists that her experience isn’t an anomaly. It’s a reminder of all the good things that can come to SUNY Cortland transfer students who embrace opportunity.
Visit the Phi Theta Kappa website for more information on the SUNY Cortland’s recent recognition, including a full list of all 2018 Transfer Honor Roll members.