Students who transfer to a university from a two-year college can be overwhelmed by a complex admissions process, different academic culture and plain old confusion about how a university works.

A fledgling University of Central Florida program designed to ease that transition and ensure the success of transfer students has already earned national recognition.

UCF has had success with the DirectConnect to UCF program, which guarantees admittance to students who earn an associate’s degree from one of four partner institutions: Eastern Florida State College, Lake Sumter State College, Seminole State College and Valencia College.

Now, nearly seven years after DirectConnect was established, it’s been enhanced by the “Pathway,” a support tool designed to work closely with students as they prepare to transfer to UCF. It provides students at two-year colleges with everything from online chats with specialized advisors to virtual campus tours.

“This is an attempt to engage students in the transitional process at an earlier stage,” said Jeff Jones, UCF’s vice provost for regional campuses. “The sooner a student can become engaged with an institution, the better their chance of success.”

The Pathway program went live during a pilot phase just two weeks ago, and though there hasn’t been any official announcement or marketing, 33 students at two-year colleges have signed up already. It has also already earned a gold award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, which Jones’ team will accept at a conference in New Orleans next month.

Among other things, the Pathway program provides:

  • Guided support from a particular team of advisors from both state college and UCF.
  • Career exploration and academic preparation.
  • Information about prerequisites and other requirements of majors.
  • Integration with UCF even before students arrive.
  • At the center of the program is an online portal that provides 24/7 access to information and access to Pathway Team members. Students can use the portal to obtain advising through live chats, web-conferencing and hosted workshops. They’ll also find videos and other resources.

    DirectConnect students can take advantage of the program from the beginning of their college career. As they progress through the Pathway, they earn virtual badges and rank up, climbing from Page to Squire to Knight and, finally, Golden Knight.

    The Platform has the potential to help a large number of students succeed. More than 10,000 students transferred to UCF from other institutions in the 2014 academic year, and more than two-thirds of them came through DirectConnect.

    It’s also good for UCF, because the university’s departments, including its 12 colleges, want transfer students to understand program and major requirements before they arrive.

    “The more individual students we can help succeed, the better we are as a whole,” Jones said.

    Visit here for more information about DirectConnect to UCF.