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STEMing the Shock: Examining Transfer Shock and Its Impact on STEM Major and Enrollment Persistence

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Students who transfer between institutions of higher education often experience transfer shock, a temporary decrease in academic performance (GPA) hypothesized to be due to changes in academic expectations between institutions. This study used university institutional records to explore the magnitude of transfer shock; the factors contributing to the GPA effects of transfer shock; and the impact of shock and other student characteristics on important academic outcomes, including persistence in a STEM major and baccalaureate degree. We found that STEM majors and students transferring from two-year institutions experienced the largest degree of transfer shock and that shock was a significant predictor of change of major. Most intriguingly, we found interaction effects where shock had a greater impact on institutional retention for two-year transfers and science or mathematics majors. Implications for future research and academic policies and interventions are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2016

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  • The Journal of The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition is a semiannual refereed journal providing current research on the first college year and other significant student transitions. The primary purpose of the Journal is to disseminate empirical research findings on student transition issues that inform practice in all sectors of postsecondary education, such as explorations into the academic, personal, and social experiences (including outcomes related to success, learning, and development) of students at a range of transition points throughout the college years; transition issues unique to specific populations (e.g., non-traditional, traditional, historically underrepresented students, transfer students, commuters, part-time students); and explorations of faculty development, curriculum, and pedagogical innovations connected to college transitions.
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