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There is a reason we refer to transfer admission staff as specialists. They serve as the vital link for students between institutions, often planning with a student years ahead of receiving any transfer application. The recruiting cycle spreads across multiple terms in a year and includes last-minute enrollments. The unique circumstances every transfer student brings to the conversation require individual meetings in place of larger group presentations. It’s no wonder that transfer specialists are busy year-round.

In addition to the more traditional admission skills used in recruiting, transfer professionals must have an array of knowledge and gifts to be effective in their position. At the 2024 National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) conference a group of transfer specialists shared the essential characteristics of successful transfer admissions staff:

  • They must have a comprehensive understanding of their institution’s transfer policies, including transfer credit, course equivalencies, graduation and major requirements.
  • They must possess empathy and deep listening skills. Students at community colleges are trying to navigate a complex transition, resulting in many questions. They often need encouragement to keep moving forward with their education plans. Specialists must respond with suggestions and guidance while prioritizing the best interests of the student.
  • They function as academic advisors as they work with students to develop a degree plan prior to transfer. The academic advice provided must be accurate and reflect the current requirements of the community college program as well as the four-year institution. Transfer specialists are experts at explaining complicated policies in simple, everyday language.
  • They build relationships across campus and institutions. They interact with student support services, faculty, program directors, registrars, advisors, coaches and financial aid staff at their home institutions and at multiple community colleges. A transfer specialist’s professional network is vast in order to have detailed answers to the many questions they receive from potential transfer students.
  • They often initiate, develop and maintain transfer pathway agreements. Pathways are a key tool in the recruiting process, providing transparency about how courses will transfer for specific major requirements. Specialists often function as translators for faculty between institutions.
  • They must be advocates for their students. Working directly with students and multiple institutions, they possess first-hand knowledge of challenging issues and potential solutions. They often lead institutional change regarding transfer policies and best practices at their home institutions, facilitating transfer-receptive cultures that welcome and support students through to degree attainment. 

Let’s recognize the complexity of skills these professionals must develop to be successful and encourage them in their work on behalf of the transfer student.

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