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How to Attract More Transfer Students to Your University

By collegemktgrp | October 28, 2019 | Universities

A trend that we’ve seen developing over the last few years is the increase of transfer students applying to public universities.

A big cause of this increase is the schools themselves, which are seeking to attract more transfer students to their institutions.

For example, Princeton recently re-opened its transfer program in the fall semester of 2018. In that semester, the university admitted 13 students from community colleges, military families, and low-income households.

Princeton isn’t alone — 64% of admissions departments at American colleges are placing top priority on increasing the number of transfer students that they enroll in each semester. And 90% consider transfer students as important to their school’s goals for enrollment marketing.

For some schools, the reason for prioritizing transfer students is to increase the diversity of their student population. Over 50% of Hispanic and Native American undergrads attend community college, and the same goes for 43% of African American undergrads.

By increasing the number of transfer students, traditional colleges and universities can open their doors to students from all different walks of life, including under-served and marginalized communities.

Beyond diversity, another important driver of the increased focus on transfer students is that community colleges are host to over 40% of all undergrads in the United States, and 40% of those end up transferring to a university.

With close to 20 million students attending college this year, that number is hard to ignore when you’re trying to up your enrollment marketing game. There are millions of students across the U.S. looking to transfer to a 4-year university. If you’re not actively working to attract them to your school, they might end up somewhere else.

Here’s how your school can increase enrollment of transfer students through program overhaul, resource creation, and digital marketing strategies.

Make Credit Transfer Easy

Most transfer students plan to apply credits they earned in community college toward their 4-year degree. But the Department of Education reports that the average transfer student loses over 40% of their earned credits upon transfer. That’s nearly half of all of their hard work down the drain.

The reason is two-fold: First, universities are often failing to clearly communicate transfer information to potential students. The second is that many universities are simply too strict with what counts as a transfer credit.

These are real barriers to transfer students from community colleges. Remember when we said 40% of community college students end up transferring to 4-year schools? That means that a majority of students don’t. Credit transfer issues are a big reason for this.

For students that do transfer, those lost credits mean they have to take more classes, which will cost more money. Transfer students from community colleges spend about $37,000 more on their bachelor’s degree than a student who started at a 4-year college.

A university that wants to attract more transfer students will work to remove these barriers.

Make sure your website and marketing materials clearly communicate how transfer works, which credits are transferable, and what courses/degree credits can be applied to. This way potential transfers can learn everything they need to do in advance to smoothly and successfully transfer to your school when they’re ready.

Keep a keen eye on just how complicated the process appears to students, and look for ways to simplify the process:

  • Are there ways to allow transfer of a wider diversity of credits?
  • Can you create degrees specifically aimed at transfer students?

For example, in California, the state universities and community colleges have teamed up to create A Degree with a Guarantee, a program which allows transfer students in the state to transfer all their credits from a 2-year Associate’s Degree to a 4-year bachelor’s degree.

Set Up Scholarships for Transfer Students

Many students attending community colleges are from lower-income households. Compounded with the fact they might have to spend more money to make their transfer possible (as discussed earlier), paying for college can be a real challenge for many transfer students.

Making college easier to pay for by way of scholarship is another way to increase transfer student enrollment.

Scholarships funds catered specifically to transfer students are an effective way to show potential transfers that you understand their challenges and value what they have to offer your university.

Provide Transition Resources to Transfer Students

Getting more transfer students enrolled is one challenge, but keeping them until graduation is another.

Transfer students can often experience a sort of culture shock when moving to a 4-year school. The work is more demanding, the school is a lot bigger, and they might feel like they don’t fit in with the majority of their peers (who have been on campus since welcome weekend of their freshman year).

A way to combat the fatigue that transfer students might experience is providing transition resources specifically for transfer students.

A few examples include:

  • Mentoring programs with staff and other students to help transfers make a smooth transition, both in class and in campus life
  • Meet-up groups for transfer students to hang out, discuss challenges, and relate to one another
  • Specialized orientations for transfer students that address some of their possible concerns, show them where and how to access the resources you’ve put in place, etc.

Establish a Dedicated Transfer Team

Part of working to increase transfer student enrollment is creating a team who can dedicate the time and attention necessary to helping transfer students succeed.

Your school will want a dedicated transfer team that is made of recruitment advisors that specialize in knowledge of your transfer program, the resources available to transfer students, and who can speak to the needs of potential transfers.

They will also need support in the form of the following:

Market Specifically to Potential Transfer Students on Social Media and Beyond

Once you’ve got all the most important pieces in place, it’s time to tell the world all about it.

You might have the most amazing transfer-friendly university in the country, but you won’t see enrollment go up unless you advertise.

Fortunately, with the expertise of the student-centric marketing pros at College Marketing Group, you can reach potential transfer students and stay on budget.

Some of the key tactics we use in digital marketing to transfer students include:

Mobile-first landing pages

Social Media & Email Targeting


  • Search engine optimization of your website’s content to align it with transfer-friendly search keywords that will increase your ranking in transfer-related searches
  • Search engine marketing to advertise your transfer program to potential students on platforms such as Google



If you want to take advantage of all of these strategies and more, look no further than College Marketing Group. Contact us today to start attracting more transfer students to your university »

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