Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version



Lazarowicz, T. A. (2015). Understanding the transition experience of community college transfer students to a 4-year university: Incorporating Schlossberg’s transition theory into higher education. PhD dissertation, University of Nebraska.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Brent Cejda. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Tony A. Lazarowicz


With over 60% of college graduates attending multiple institutions (United States Department of Education, 2006), many starting at community colleges, the importance of understanding community college transfer students’ stories is critical to retention and graduation agendas at colleges and universities nationwide. Schlossberg’s Transition Theory has recently been introduced into higher education literature as a conceptual framework for working with various student populations such as student veterans (Wheeler, 2012; Rumann, 2010); student athletes (Henderson, 2013); and students on academic probation (Tovar & Simon, 2006) among others. Minimal work has incorporated Schlossberg’s Transition Theory into studies of community college transfer students; thus this study was developed to help fill that gap of understanding their transition through that lens. The central question to the study was “how do community college transfer students perceive their transition into a large research, land-grant institution.” This phenomenological qualitative study incorporated journaling and interviews with 12 full-time community college transfer students (21-41 years old) at three points during their first semester (fall 2014) at a large Midwestern research institution. Using open, axial, and selective coding, the following five themes emerged: funding the college experience; transition takes time; support is critical; maturity; and personal responsibility. These participants transition experience, as indicated by the emergent themes, fit well within the context of Schlossberg’s Transition Theory. Overall, these participants’ transition meant an opportunity to move forward, start a new chapter, and expand one’s opportunities. Consistent with other studies that have used Schlossberg’s Transition Theory, there is value in considering this theoretical framework when working with community college transfer students. When universities create policies and procedures that are geared toward increasing student’s assets in Schlossberg’s 4-S coping resources and are mindful of the full transition (moving in, moving through, and moving out), administrators, staff, and policy makers can assist in the transition for community college transfer students and provide support to a growing portion of the student population in higher education.

Adviser: Brent Cejda