Book Review: Community College Transfer Guide by Don Silver

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Guide Book Reviewer:

Gabriela Borcoman

Gabriela is Senior Program Director for Planning and Accountability at Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). She was affiliated with several colleges in the Dallas County Community College District. She holds a PhD in Higher Education Administration with a cognate in Community College Leadership from the University of North Texas, a MS in Human Development/Childhood Disorders from the  University of Texas at Dallas, and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the Institute of Medicine and Pharmacy, Targu Mures, Romania. She is a presenter at annual conferences of professional organizations, including Association for Institutional Research (AIR) and its affiliates, Texas Association for Institutional Research (TAIR) and Southern Association for Institutional Research (SAIR), and Texas Distance Learning Association.

Author: Dr. Don Silver

Dr. Don Silver is an educational consultant for The Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition Teacher Guide and has taught at USC. Both his undergraduate and doctoral degrees are from UCLA. He is the author of 12 highly acclaimed books. Dr. Silver also has personal and practical experience with the transfer process as a father. Silver's son was accepted at every university he applied to as a transfer student including one program that accepts only four percent of applicants.


The Community College Transfer Guide by Don Silver is an easy to read and easy to understand “manual” for community college students who intend to transfer to a four-year institution. Topics like choosing the institutions, a major, taking the right courses, and the importance of knowing policies governing the process are presented in the book. The importance of planning and counseling is emphasized in every chapter. The potential transfer students can follow the step-by-step format and go through the process at a faster pace than otherwise possible. The author provides worksheets to be used by the students, making it easier to keep on track. This is a book that every student with the intention of transferring should read.


As more and more students enroll in postsecondary education it is extremely important for them to be well informed about the different opportunities available. For somebody not familiar with the educational system, choosing a college, choosing courses, and ultimately deciding on what they want to do for the rest of their life can be a daunting task. Community college students may be eighteen year olds who graduated from high school and due to lack of finances, lack of preparedness, or family problems decide to start at a two-year institution and make their way toward a Bachelor’s degree; or they can be older students who realized the benefit of education in the quest for a better life. Don Silver’s book addresses their concerns. The Community College Transfer Guide is a hands-on book, a manual easy to read and easy to understand. Starting with choosing a community college and ending with the acceptance letter to a four-year institution, the book describes step by step the complicated process of moving between two types of postsecondary institutions, with different missions but with the ultimate goal of serving students.
One of the common threads throughout the chapters is “planning”. Over and over again, the author cautions the reader about how easy it is to get lost in the system, or spend more time and money than originally planned due to poor planning and/or lack of knowledge. Chapters 4 and 11 give good advice in how to select a college: get information about the community college that fits you, about the university you want to transfer to, and of course, how they relate and work with each other.
Don Silver gives very sound and easy to follow advice on how to choose a four-year institution. The first thing to keep in mind is that those institutions are not mandated to accept transfer students. If they do, the academic performance in community college courses is very important. Planning means informing oneself of the policies that govern the institutions the student is interested in. Chapters 6, 10, and 12 describe the right questions to ask regarding transfer requirements, admission policies, and graduation rates. The main purpose is to graduate fast, in the right major, and with the minimum financial investment. The knowledge provided in this book about transferable and articulated courses, automated admission, and availability of courses in the major will save a lot of time and grief to the student in the long run. 
Since not all universities have all the majors, the time in community college should be used as an exploration time for finding the right major. A decision regarding a major along with the right list of courses to take can be facilitated by the counselors, who are experts in guiding a student in these important decisions. Counseling is another thread found in almost all chapters. Talk with transfer counselors in community colleges, but also with advisors from institutions considered for transfer. Chapter 8 explores ways in which a student may decide on a major and the benefits of taking courses that apply to the major before actually transferring (Chapter 14). A counselor can help point out the courses that are articulated and/or transferable. Even though it is good to have knowledge in a number of areas, it is not desirable to end up with a lot of courses in the elective category. Planning and counseling go together and a student who intends to transfer should begin planning and seeking advice from the first day of classes. 
The financial aspect of the education is very important. Chapters 9 and 15 not only provide information about cost, including tuition, housing, and other expenses, but these chapters also provide ways to decrease the costs through financial aid. Mr. Silver does a good job explaining FAFSA and giving a list of resources for finding scholarships and other types of “free money”.
The book is rich in resources that the students and counselors can use for finding the information needed. All through the chapters and again in the appendix, website addresses are provided. The majority of them are websites containing information about each state (for example, College Navigator on Department of Education website), but one can also find state specific websites. Worksheets that are easy to use are also provided, even though the author suggests creating an electronic spreadsheet would be a better idea for today’s students.
Community college students can be young or old; they can start college immediately after high school or twenty years later. They may be prepared to take college level courses or need developmental education. Many of them may intend to transfer to a four-year institution and earn a Bachelor’s degree. However, The Community College Transfer Guide seems to address more the concerns of young, fresh out of high school students. More advice may be needed for this category of individuals who may get lost in the system otherwise. For example, qualifying for financial aid is based on family income, term that may mean different things for the two categories of students: for a working adult married with dependents, family income means his and maybe his spouse earnings; for a younger than 24 years old, maybe working unmarried adult, family income may still mean parents’ salaries. It is important that students understand the law and how they can qualify. 
Good advice would be for the student to find out as much as possible about the state laws that govern the postsecondary education of the state in which the college they may wish to transfer to is located. The American education system is highly decentralized and each state has its own governance structure. A student who intends to move from one state to another should not assume that what worked in one state will work in other. In addition, such information would help the student to be aware of potential benefits or flaws of actions that he/she may intend to take. For example, there are states (for example, Texas) which, by law, limit the number of hours at 120 for a Bachelor’s degree. An excess of hours beyond this limit will put the student in the situation of paying out-of-state tuition as the university will not get the state reimbursement for that student. In this case the student is better advised to transfer as soon as possible, avoid completing an associate degree unless all of it applies toward the next level, and only take the required courses. 
Higher education agencies may also offer on their websites a wealth of data not found on national, much advertised, college sites.  Sometimes information about employment and wages for a certain major may help the student with choosing his future occupation. In choosing a major, the student should search how professional associations or industry are ranking programs, based on feedback from the employers.
Last, but not least, it is very good advice for students to continuously meet and talk with counselors. However, students should keep in mind that community colleges and universities may have conflicting interests that may not benefit the students. For example, community college may allow the student to stay longer whereas the university counselors recommend transferring as soon as possible. Any advice is welcome but the students need to ultimately think of what is good for them.
Don Silver’s book offers a wealth of information, in an easy to read, easy to understand format, at a time when more and more students will prefer the community college, less traditional way of earning a degree. This book should be part of every educational institution library, career center, and/or counseling center.
Book availability: Adams-Hall Publishing: