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Amherst College Makes Efforts To Promote Smooth Community College Transfer

Posted on Wednesday May 19th 2010

I was at Amherst College last week for a ‘wrap up’ session for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Community College Transfer Initiative.  This was a four year grant funded program.

In the spring of 2006, Amherst College received $585,142 award from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation—part of a larger, $6.78-million grant to eight partner institutions—to allow the college to more effectively reach out to high-achieving community college students interested in completing their undergraduate education at a selective institution.

Last week, Transfer Representatives from Western Mass Community Colleges and Monroe Community College (upstate New York) along with a student panel comprised of students who transferred from various community colleges, came together to reflect about the Community College Transfer Initiative, the evolution of the project and where we are today at the conclusion of the grant period.

What I learned!


Support for Community College Transfer:

Amherst College has worked hard to make changes that would assist and support students to make successful transition from their community colleges. Today, they have in place various support services including adding two student peer mentors/counselors/liaisons to facilitate admissions and transition for community college transfers.  Their role is to help develop community building activities and ongoing support. 

Orientation is now strengthened with various programs and activities, led by fellow transfer students and admissions staff to help CC transfer students get started and to ease into their transition.

Transfer students now host a Student Transfer Blog to better assist community college transfer students

Check out left side bar in particular, including Useful Information For New Students


And, Amherst College has helped to facilitate faculty co-teaching/guest lecture initiatives, either on the Amherst campus or on the Community College Campus, which have proved to be very successful.

Brining Amherst faculty to the CC campus has proven to help create relationships while at the same time, helping to make transfer to Amherst a ‘real’ part of the Community College culture, like Smith and Mount Holyoke College are now for our GCC students.

Amherst hoped to enroll 20 students their first year when they began in 2006.  Today, they have a cohort of 34 community college students enrolled at Amherst College, (here in Western Mass: 7 from HCC; 2 from Berkshire CC; 2 from Mt. Wachusett CC) with the Amherst faculty and administration wholeheartedly backing the continuation of this grant’s progress.


So…..Towards this end, I have a few thoughts to share:

(1) Community College faculty really need to be involved

The need for GCC to identify high potential students, early on, and to encourage these students to explore Amherst and selective school transfer via Open House opportunities, or, sitting in on classes, and, connecting with student mentors.  Students on the panel at last week’s session talked about connecting with a particular faculty mentor at their CC who provided ongoing encouragement to explore Amherst.  I think this kind of partnership between faculty and student is essential if we hope to have a student transfer to Amherst College in the future – a student who may never on their own ever think about Amherst College nor pursue the possibility without this essential support.

(2)  Collaboration!!  Amherst would like to promote more collaborative efforts between community college and Amherst faculty.   CC Faculty could choose to sit in on a class if they like, to begin developing a partnership with a particular faculty member, and then, to engage with a faculty member from Amherst to come to the CC campus to co-teach or guest lecture. 

These types of collaborative efforts have already begun with HCC and Amherst faculty.  I think our students would begin to gain a definite interest in Amherst if they are engaging with Amherst professors on our campus.  With the help of our faculty we could identify a class or group of students who could make the most of this approach.

(3) Students who get into Amherst do so, in part, from the strength of their essay, as well as the financial need they present.  This essay needs to convey the student’s ability to reinvent and reimagine themselves.  We need to encourage students to meet with faculty members who can provide guidance and support in the writing of this type of essay, providing the necessary feedback in helping students to look into their lives and fully express who they are and where they envision going.

So…we have come to a conclusion of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation transfer initiative.  I think GCC can continue to be part of what Amherst College is now ready to continue.   We here at GCC can identify students who need to know about Amherst College and the great advantages such an education can provide for their future, and, to let students know that Amherst College is looking for community college students as well.

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