Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

Jan M. Ignash, Ph.D.


Case study, Pathways, Persistence, Phenomenology, Symbolic interactionism


Today's mobile student population follows diverse paths. This research presents findings from a qualitative study investigating the perceptions of transfer students while they were actively engaged in the transfer process. Fifty-seven incoming community college transfer students (n=57) were interviewed, in a large metropolitan area, through e-journaling during fall 2006 (while students were still attending community colleges) and during spring 2007 (students' first semester of admission to the university).

The following research questions guided the study: What do transfer students perceive as a successful transfer process? From the transfer student's perspective, what supports are needed to accommodate a successful transfer process? From the transfer student's perspective, what barriers inhibit successful transfer? The study sought to identify transfer student retention policies and practices that offer the most promising outcomes, as substantiated by the transfer students. Their experiences and perceptions might have implications for improving programs and policies at either the sending or receiving institution. The necessity to determine the challenges faced by students when entering a four-year institution is key to understanding student persistence and success in attaining the baccalaureate. The Urban Transfer Research Network (UTRN) is a project funded through Lumina Foundation for Education.

The purpose of this collaborative project is to chart the pathways and success of transfer students who begin their college careers at community colleges. The research conducted in this study served as the pilot study for UTRN's qualitative research. The findings suggest three first stage transfer adjustment themes. The first stage includes: students' expectations prior to entering the university, students' initial experiences of marginality, complications from the need for guidance combined with feelings of entitlement, and students learning to navigate the university system. The second stage of the transfer students' adjustment identified the support systems needed by students: personal attention, academic integration, social interaction, and technology. Barriers to successful transfer involved the lack of communication students perceived among and within the community college and the university. The third and final stage of the transfer adjustment process offered student recommendations for change supporting reflections of self-reliance, and balance of academic rigor and personal identity.