Activating strengths during the transition from community college to university: a phenomenological study of vulnerable transfer students
The transition experience for students who are transferring from community college to university can be an overwhelming experience for any typical student, but can be even greater for students with vulnerable backgrounds. This phenomenological action research study followed the five-month community college to the university transition experience of five students in a scholarship program. The students participated in a three-part intervention in support of their transition experience. Three theoretical perspectives framed the study: community cultural wealth, transition theory, and transfer student capital. This framework enabled me to first identify the strengths the students possessed, despite their vulnerable backgrounds, through participation in individual interviews. The students then participated in pre- and post-focus groups and completed pre- and post-questionnaires. Through these, they identified which transition coping skills were their strongest and which transfer capital they possessed from their community college experience. They also shared how they applied those prior learned skills and capital at the university. This study revealed how these students utilized their strengths at moments when they lacked certain coping skills and transfer capital during their transition experience. One particular strength was how the students accessed the resources of the scholarship program at the center of this study to help them with their sense of the ability to succeed at the university.