Three steps to becoming a transfer-friendly school

Of the 2.5 million high school graduates enrolling in college this year, around 30 percent will transfer and complete their studies at a different institution. One in three college students have transferred at least once, and almost half of these students have attended three or more institutions, according to a National Student Clearinghouse report.

While the reasons for transferring may vary, it’s clear the transfer student population is increasing every year, which means it is in higher education institutions’ best interest to be as transfer friendly as possible. Some universities, for example, might invest time and resources into helping transfer students adjust to a new school.

But for the biggest impact in the race to secure best-fit students, this begins with the admissions process.

For a transfer student, navigating the complex and confusing maze of credit transfer is disheartening enough, and it’s made worse by manual processes in the admissions department. Manual transcript evaluation can overwhelm staff and stretch out the decision period, forcing students to wait weeks — or even months — for an update. By the time your institution can provide answers to crucial questions like their admission, credit transfer and financial aid status, qualified applicants may already be looking at other schools.

Here are three steps to making admissions a faster, more agile process — which may be the deciding factor in securing best-fit applicants ahead of the competition.

Step 1: Focus on review, not data entry

Although the most common transfer pathway is from two-year to four-year schools, students are also transferring between four-year institutions, from military colleges and out of state, as well as from four-year to two-year institutions. The sheer volume of applications that arrive at your institution can be daunting — especially during peak periods in the intake cycle.

Each application arrives with at least one academic transcript averaging three pages long — mostly on paper, although PDF transcripts are becoming more popular. Manually extracting information from these transcripts, even for a simple document, takes time. Even if institutions are scanning these transcripts to digitize them, employees still need to manually key in the data to route the application for review.

Multiply this by the hundreds of transcripts that institutions need to review each cycle, and it’s clear where the bottlenecks are. Automating this process with a transcript capture solution removes the need for manual data entry, freeing staff time and allowing them to focus on the actual decisions. Besides the ability to respond to students faster, an automated solution also allows institutions to process more applications without additional bandwidth.

Step 2: Remove the waiting game

Transferring institutions is a huge decision for a student, and one of the biggest factors influencing that decision is credit transfer. Providing clear answers on how their courses will fit into their chosen academic programs is a clear signal that your institution is transfer friendly.

But when evaluation processes revolve around paper, reviewing transcripts by hand is the norm. This takes valuable time way from higher-value tasks like competing for students and runs the risk of containing errors, especially when courses are reviewed on a case-by-case basis in the absence of articulation agreements with the external school.

With a transcript capture and evaluation solution, data from transcripts — including course information and GPA — is extracted and verified without human intervention. Leveraging optical character recognition (OCR) and a database of articulation rules for each external institution, the solution automatically identifies which credits can transfer to the new program.

You can generate course equivalency reports in seconds, allowing you to efficiently answer students’ questions that arise and provide faster credit transfer decisions.

Step 3: Illuminate the path to graduation

By integrating seamlessly with student information systems (SIS), an automated transcript capture and evaluation solution serves as a central repository of information that ensures staff has a complete picture of the student. This not only allows better collaboration and information sharing between departments — without requiring time from admissions and registration specialists — it equips course advisors with the most current information to guide and encourage students to register for the right courses from the beginning.

There’s nothing more frustrating for students than finding out their hard-earned credits don’t contribute to their degree, and one way to prevent this is to help them determine the most efficient and cost-effective path to completion. Providing clear answers on students’ routes to graduation goes a long way in their decisions to transfer to your institution over others.

Faster course equivalency decisions mean more accurate guidance, as well as improved student satisfaction — a crucial factor to keep students from transferring elsewhere.

A win-win solution

Automating transcript capture and evaluation is a win-win for both students and institutions. Transferring students get faster answers on admission status, credit transfer and course equivalency — in plenty of time to make the huge decision of switching schools.

Meanwhile, freed of tedious paperwork and filing, institution staff can focus more on providing excellent student service instead of data input and verification.

To learn more, download the ebook Winning the race for best-fit students.

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Michele Allen

Michele Allen is Hyland's global programs specialist for higher education.

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