Transfer Success Stories: Themes, Patterns and Connections

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Matais Pouncil is Director, EOPS at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. Prior to his work at Foothill, he was Assistant Director and Counselor at California State University, Long Beach; an Associate Director and Counselor with Upward Bound at Long Beach City College, and Adjunct Faculty at the University of California, Irvine. M
He attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA, California State University, Long Beach and he earned an Ed.D. from the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Pouncil has also completed the Management Development Program (MDP) at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

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Matais Pouncil is Director, EOPS at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA.

This article suggest ways in which colleges can institutionalize strategies to ensure transfer success, or ways in which college professionals can interact with and support students who will transfer. The article tells the story of three students at Foothill College, who have successfully transferred, and the factors that contributed to their successful transfer process. The strategies are highlighted and can be generalized to other students, or to other colleges.


Community colleges students have a wealth of information, skills and increased academic responsibility, when they transfer to four-year colleges. Transfer students are typically older, have had more life-experiences; are more familiar navigating the college-going process and are more likely to graduate from a four-year college than first-year freshman. The question, then, is how can community colleges encourage and support the transfer function.

The three student narratives below underscore the importance of establishing important contacts, financial aid, and campus engagement as strategies that influenced their ability to successfully transfer to four- year colleges. The students vary culturally and linguistically different, and they are a diverse socio-economic group of students. Their narratives may inspire, but will certainly provide a glimpse into how some students successfully navigate the transfer process.

Dustin F. is a Journalism major at Foothill, who has been involved in many student organizations, the Extended Opportunities Program and Services (EOPS); a small learning community named Brother to Brother, Associated Students of Foothill College (ASFC), and he established important contacts on the campus. Dustin F. became keenly aware of the importance of cultivating important contacts at Foothill and at the college where to which he would transfer. He is transferring to DePaul University in Chicago and one of his contacts at Foothill connected him to the president of the college, whom he met during professional development training. Dustin F. has scheduled a coffee-meeting with the president prior to start of the spring – this is a great opportunity for the student to begin cultivating similar contacts, at DePaul, in the same way he has at Foothill College. Dustin F. has also said that recording names, email addresses; remembering specific comments and conversations with student service professional at the four-year college, has also proven helpful in establishing contacts. DePaul is very different from Foothill, but Dustin F. plans to do quality work and he looks forward to continuing his education at the university.

Jacqueline F. was a student at Foothill College and is now attending the San Francisco Art Institute. She is the first in her family to attend college and has found that financial aid has been the primary retention tool contributing to her success in transferring to a four-year college. Jacqueline says that she had the motivation and community support to be successful and to transfer; she had the grades and she was able to secure some impressive letters of recommendation, but the determinant, in whether she would transfer or where she would transfer, was based on financial aid – no matter how smart or prepared a student is, many students need financial aid to persist to degree completion and transfer.

Marco F. is a student at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He transferred in 2010 after a becoming very involved with various departments, programs and student leadership roles at Foothill College. Marco F. was the student co-chair of Latino Heritage Month, and he was responsible for event planning and coordination of activities for students, staff, faculty and administrators. In that role, Marco F. met many college employees who mentored him in student leadership, his academic achievement and transferring; his social development, public speaking, and other valuable life skills. Mentors on and off campus, helped him complete applications, answered questions about campus locations and demographics; they shared their own personal stories and college experiences. Mentors assured him that his transition to the four-year university would be OK and he was a more confident student, academically and socially, because of mentors. These mentors were essential to his success at Foothill and ensured that he transferred to a four-year university with few problems. Marco F. credits mentors as one of the primary factors that helped his transfer success.

These students’ experiences with transfer success give us information about which strategies may be helpful for all community college students to achieve transfer success. The stories above may present themes, patterns and connections, for transfer success. The salient points of the narratives above are:

• Cultivating contacts
• Financial Aid
• Mentors

These salient points may be institutionalized, or college professionals may perform them. Either way, when staff, faculty and students remember these strategies as contributing to transfer success, then we will have many more student narratives to share, and we can further and increase the number of students who transfer to the four-year university.