In a competitive admissions market, differentiating the needs of first-year students and transfer students is a growing topic of interest for administrators, practitioners, and policy makers in higher education. Yet, the transfer population remains least understood and widely undervalued on campuses across the country. Nearly half of all undergraduates in America today begin postsecondary education at a two-year college, totaling over seven million students at 1,123 institutions (Handel & Strumpel 2016). According to Fann (2013), approximately 80% of those entering two-year institutions indicate aspirations of completing a baccalaureate degree, yet only 25–30% successfully transfer to a four-year college or university. Another study, tracking 720,000 degree-seeking students who started at a community college in Fall 2007 alone, found just 14% transferred and earned a bachelor’s degree within six years (Jenkins & Fink, 2016). Although the transfer process is a gateway opportunity for millions of students, many of them low income or first generation, it still fails to work well for most (Wyner, Deane, Jenkins & Fink, 2016).

At TCU, we want to tell a different story. Research indicates that academic affairs and student affairs, both at two- and four-year institutions, play an instrumental role in higher levels of degree attainment (Marling, 2013). When the transfer process proves to be a promising choice, a critical means for upward mobility across the United States remains possible.

For TCU specifically, the transfer population includes more than 1,400 students on campus with approximately 500 new incoming transfer students in Fall of 2017. Each with their own unique story, transfer students are a growing and dynamic community embodying a complex subpopulation of undergraduate education. Whether from a two- or four-year institution, many of these students commute, are nontraditional in age, have served in the military (approximately 10% of the total TCU transfer population), and/or work part- or full-time. How we teach, serve, and understand their needs is instrumental to their success and sense of belonging.

The Spring 2017 Teaching and Learning Conversation entitled “Understanding the TCU Transfer Student” was presented in collaboration with Institutional Research, Transfer Admission, and the TCU Transfer Center. As we continue to enhance necessary resources for these students, it is paramount that faculty and staff dialogue in order to better understand this emerging demographic. The following key topics offer more detail:

Setting the Context

Provided by Institutional Research, these graphs specific to the TCU transfer population [no longer available] are available for you to explore. Data includes, but is not limited to: Gender Distribution, Ethnicity, Age, Geographic Origin, Percent with Federal Need, GPA, Retention and Graduation by Veteran Status, Retention and Graduation by College Type, and Success Rate by College Type. For questions about this data, please contact the Director of Institutional Research, Cathan Coghlan, at

Transfer Admission

Transfer admission is a holistic process. If a student has attended another college or university for one semester or more and meets necessary requirements, they are eligible for transfer admission into TCU. This is not a competition for a limited number of spots: admission and scholarships are individually reviewed and selected.

Admission and Advising

  • Transfer students are admitted year-round for summer, fall, and spring semesters.
  • Transfer students are required to be individually advised by their department (anyone on staff can help a first-time transfer advisee), as no advisor is officially “assigned” until after the student’s first semester.
  • Transfer students sometimes use their advising appointment to determine if TCU is the right fit; an enrollment deposit is not required beforehand. Their advising experience is especially helpful when estimating how long it will take to graduate, if they are pursuing the right degree program, and more.
  • Fall class registration for incoming transfer students begins the first Wednesday in June. For spring, it opens the first Wednesday in December.

Key Takeaways Regarding Transfer Credit Articulation

  • The Admissions Office is responsible for the determination of transferrable credit and assignment of TCU Core or elective credit.
  • Academic departments (through the Deans’ Offices) approve transfer credit for their majors; some courses are pre-approved through the Texas Common Core.
  • Students can appeal the TCU Core course decisions by providing a syllabus to the department.
  • Tarrant County College and TCU have signed a formal Articulation Agreement.

For any questions regarding transfer admission or related topics, please contact the Director of Transfer Admission, Amanda Nickerson, at More information is also available on the Office of Admission website.

Transfer Center, Resources & Support Efforts

Students experience profound differences as they shift from high school to college. But, transfer students face even greater social and academic challenges when shifting to
a new institution (Berger & Maleney, 2003). Schlossberg’s Transition Theory suggests four major factors impact a student or adult’s ability to cope with transition: situation, self, support, and strategies, also known as the “4 S’s” (Evans, Forney & Guido-DiBrito, 1998). At TCU, it is important to us to serve these students in and outside of the classroom. To assist with this process, the TCU Transfer Center is available to help.

Located in Student Development Services (BLUU, Suite 2003), the Transfer Center has professional staff and a team of student leaders for one-on-one consultations, campus resources, and intentional programming. Within the First Year Experience, Transfer Tracks are now available for Orientation, Frog Camp, Frogs First, and the Connections Leadership Program. In addition, there is a Transfer Connection Space located in the North Tower of the GrandMarc. Study rooms, computers, free printing, and a mini-fridge and microwave makes this a great space for students to connect, study, and meet. For more information about these and other transfer-related programming efforts, please visit the Transfer Center website or email the Assistant Director of the Sophomore and Junior Year Experience, Rachael Capua, at r.capua@


Berger, J. B., & Malaney, G. D. (2003). “Assessing the transition of transfer students from community college to a university.” NASPA Journal 40(4), 1–23.

Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fann, A. (2013). Campus administrator and student perspectives for improving transfer policy and practice. In Collegiate transfer: Navigating the new normal (Vol. 162, pp. 27–38). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Handel, S. J., & Strumpel, E. (2016). Transition and transformation: Fostering transfer student success. Dahlonega, GA: University of North Georgia Press.

Jenkins, D. & Fink, J. E. (2016). Tracking transfer: New measures of institutional and state effectiveness in helping community college students attain bachelor’s degrees. New York: NY: Community College Research Center, The Aspen Institute, & National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Marling, J. L. (2013). Navigating the new normal: Transfer trends, issues and recommendations. In Collegiate transfer: Navigating the new normal (Vol. 162, pp. 77–87). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wyner, J., Deane, K., Jenkins, D., & Fink, J. (2016 May). The Transfer playbook: Essential practices for two- and four-year colleges. In Community College Resource Center.


Rachael Capua

Cathan CoghlanAmanda NickersonThis article was written by Rachael Capua, Assistant Director of the Sophomore and Junior Year Experience, Cathan Coghlan, Director of Institutional Research, and Amanda Nickerson, Director of Transfer Admission for the Fall 2017 Issue of Insights Magazine.