It all starts with a vision … a dream of one day earning a bachelor's degree. For many students, that very dream begins within the classrooms of a community college, then comes true after transferring to a university of their choice.
Transfer students have long comprised a significant portion of the learning population at universities across Texas and the U.S. These students begin their higher education journeys at community colleges for myriad reasons, including cost, class sizes, or simply to gain clarity in their career goals.
During the week of Oct. 16 – 20, transfers across the nation will be celebrated during National Transfer Student Week. The initiative is coordinated annually by the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students to spotlight those students matriculating from two-year colleges to four-year universities.
In Houston alone, there are many transfer success stories made possible by Houston Guided Pathways to Success (Houston GPS).
Houston GPS aligns the efforts of 13 top colleges and universities to ensure students can seamlessly transfer from a community college to a university and ultimately, complete their bachelor's degrees on time without excess credit hours or additional debt.
Houston GPS colleges and universities include Alvin Community College, College of the Mainland, Galveston College, Houston Community College, Lone Star College, San Jacinto College, Wharton County Junior College, Prairie View A&M University, University of Houston, University of Houston-Clear Lake, University of Houston-Downtown (UHD), University of Houston-Victoria and Texas Southern University.
“Students transitioning from a community college to a university are making quite a leap,” said UHD President and Houston GPS Governing Council Chair Loren J. Blanchard. “When they begin the process of transferring, we want them to feel welcome … to feel comfortable … and most importantly, to know they are supported.”
Among the students benefitting from Houston GPS’ transfer support is Jaxon Raye, who was recently a student at Lone Star College-Kingwood’s Honors College. This fall, he transferred to UHD as a political science major and was selected as a Merit Scholar due to his outstanding academic performance at Lone Star College.
He credits Lone Star for helping him pinpoint his academic passions and is grateful to UHD for a seamless transfer process. His advice to students making the transition from a community college to a university is simply to welcome all challenges.
“You will encounter obstacles that will make you question your path,” said Raye, who plans to attend law school after earning his bachelor’s degree. “Embrace those obstacles. They often lead to new and exciting adventures that you wouldn’t have imagined initially.”
Among the Houston GPS strategies supporting transfer students like Raye is proactive advising. Academic advisers at each of the institutions work in coordination to make sure students stay on the right path and avoid any detours that would lead to courses that won’t transfer or are not required for a field of study.
UH student and business major Christian Avalos is one of the students who credits his advisers for their guidance. He transferred from Houston Community College (HCC) and said advisers at both the college and UH (specifically, its C. T. Bauer College of Business) provided him with helpful advice when transitioning between institutions.
“They (advisers) made sure I had access to the classes that fit my desired career path,” he said. “While enrolling and adjusting to the University of Houston, an academic adviser encouraged me to join college programs and student organizations. Intuitively, I joined the Emerging Leaders Academic Success Program for transfer students and others to create an initial sense of community and belonging.”
Avalos also has served as president for one of the University’s largest student organizations, the Hispanic Business Student Association, and was recently selected as National Student of the Year by the Association for Latino Professionals for America.
In addition to advising, Houston GPS also supports students through academic maps that outline the courses that apply to lower-level requirements in specified degrees across Houston GPS institutions without resulting in excess credit upon transfer.
During National Transfer Week, Houston GPS institutions will celebrate students like Raye, Avalos and countless others who are excelling academically. Houstonians also are encouraged to salute friends and family members who are embarking on higher education journeys on social media with the hashtag #TransferStudentWeek.
“We are proud to provide transfer students with pathways to complete a bachelor’s degree,” said UH Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Diane Z. Chase. “Through Houston GPS, we are committed to providing smooth transitions from community colleges and removing barriers to success.”