What Can a Summer Bridge Program Do for Transfer Students?

by Makeda Turner / Jan 22, 2018

In what ways can a summer bridge program (SBP) help community college students transition to a 4-year institution? Over years of researching SBPs, I have wondered how transfer students could benefit from a SBP experience. SBPs are traditionally designed for first-year students who are often are underprepared, underrepresented, and/or first-generation (Kallison & Stader, 2012; Sablan, 2014). SBPs help level the playing field by assisting students’ transition to college and helping to strengthen students’ academic preparation (Kezar, 2000). Traditionally participants in SBPs engage in both academic and social elements within the program that aid students’ transition to a college setting. Participants are immersed in an environment in which students live together within the residence hall, take courses, and participate in social activities designed to build community.

SBPs have been known to enhance overall persistence. Evans (1999) conducted research on an SBP for underrepresented students within a Florida-based community college. Evans found that participation in the program enhanced academic self-efficacy and persistence (Evans, 1999). Two 4-year intuitions and six community college in Texas facilitated a SBP, and Wathington, Barnett, Weissman, Teres, Pretlow, and Nakanishi (2011) found that participation in these transition programs in Texas increased participants’ academic confidence. This demonstrates that SBPs play a role in the success of program participants.

SBPs create a sense of community in a supportive context for students and are key factors in the transition to college. Participants in one SBP expressed that interactions with program faculty, academic advisors, peer advisors, and other cohort members contributed to an environment that built confidence, community, diverse relationships, and support among SBP participants (Turner, 2017). It is the confluence of these components which increases academic self-efficacy and in turn influences academic success throughout college. Positive interactions with forms of social support promote college student retention (Baxter & Jack, 2008). 

There are multiple components of an SBP all students can utilize to enhance their educational outcomes. Evans (1999) and Wathington et al. (2011) illustrate that community college students can benefit from participating in a transition program such as SBPs. I would encourage community college and 4-year institution administrators to design an SBP program that creates a pipeline to support transfer students. This collaborative program would focus on key elements that foster a seamless transition into the 4-year college setting. Aspects of the program should allow participants to engage in university norms and develop academic socialization skills in a supportive community. Participation in such a program could contribute to retention and completion rates of students in community college students who transfer to 4-year institutions.


  • Baxter, P., & Jack, S. (2008). Qulitative case study methdology: Study design and implementation for novice researchers. The Qualitative Report, 13(4), 544 -559.
  • Evans, R. (1999). A comparision of success indications for program and nonprogram participants in a community college summer bridge program for minority students. Visions: The Journal of Applied Research for the Florida Association of Community Colleges,(2)2, 6-14.
  • Kallison, J. M., & Stader, D. L. (2012). Effectiveness of summer bridge programs in enhancing college readiness. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 36, 340–357.
  • Kezar, A. (2000). Summer bridge programs: Supporting all students. Eric Digest. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
  • Sablan, J. (2014). The challenge of summer bridge programs. American Behavioral Scientist, 58(8),1035-1050.
  • Turner, M. K. (2017). The Essence of a College Summer Bridge Program: Voices of Students Who Completed College. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (10257977).
  • Wathington, H. D., Barnett, E. A., Weissman, E., Teres, J., Pretlow, J., & Nakanishi, A. (2011). Getting ready for college: An implementation and early impacts study of eight Texas developmental summer bridge programs. New York, NY: National Center for Postsecondary Research. NCPR Brief.

Dr. Turner is the Coordinator of Bridge Programs & Summer Initiatives, University of Michigan - LSA, Comprehensive Studies Program and can be reached at mkturner@umich.edu.