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Understanding the transition experience of community college transfer students to a 4-year university: Incorporating Schlossberg's Transition Theory into higher education

Tony Alan Lazarowicz, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


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.

Subject Area

Community college education|School administration|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Lazarowicz, Tony Alan, "Understanding the transition experience of community college transfer students to a 4-year university: Incorporating Schlossberg's Transition Theory into higher education" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3688491.