SIKESTON -- Ben Wrather of Sikeston would like to graduate from Mississippi State University with a degree in horticulture, but before he can do that, he has to be admitted to the university.
Wrather began taking college courses at Three Rivers Community College and the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center (SAHEC) in 1999. Since then, he has also taken courses from Southeast Missouri State University.
Whether for financial reasons or just mere convenience, many high school graduates begin their secondary education at community colleges. At the same time, they're also hoping to save a little money before transferring to a university to finish out their education.
What Wrather is finding out, is that transferring to Mississippi State isn't as easy as it sounds.
"It's a pain," Wrather said. "The other day I had to run over to Poplar Bluff to get a transcript. I also had to get my high school transcripts. It's (transferring process) hard because I have to depend on so many different people at different places."
Judy Buck, SAHEC director, said she could understand how students could experience complications when transferring to a different school.
Sometimes courses don't always carry over to another institution and when that happens a semester's worth of hard work (and tuition), can count for absolutely nothing.
"It's different at each university," Buck said. "A university has a description for each course. If the course description from another institution fits, the universities are pretty good at accepting them."
Wrather is a little worried that his courses won't transfer when he switches schools. He predicted that some of his classes won't be credited when he makes the "big move."
Debbie Howey, Southeast Missouri State University transfer and articulation officer, doesn't think Wrather, and other transfers for that matter, have as much to worry about as they think -- as long as they plan ahead.
"A lot of the students don't check with us (Southeast) before actually transferring," Howey stated. "If they know they're going to be transferring in the future and which school they want to transfer to, students can check out things in advance."
Howey said Southeast offers transfer handbooks and guides for 11 different community colleges in the area which lists a schedule of classes, that if followed correctly, guarantees a less complicated transfer and a timely graduation.
For example, students with a particular major in mind will follow a printed program for the first and second years of community college, Howey explained. Then once they transfer to Southeast, they just need to follow the remainder of courses listed, she said.
A lot of universities do have transfer handouts and guides, Howey said. "If nothing else, I know that Southwest (Missouri State University) has an online transfer guide Web site," she said. "There's a section where you can enter the name of the school you want to transfer to and the class you want credited. It will tell you if your class is transferable."
Overall, Howey said transferring to another institution is a fairly smooth process. The only time big problems may occur is when specialized majors like education and business are involved, she said. Specialized majors require structured courses so it's possible students may get behind if they transfer in the middle of their education.
Vocational programs can also serve as problems because they aren't designed to transfer to a four-year institution, Howey said. Some students are hurt when they find out their vocational courses don't transfer, she said. Academic and transfer-type courses are the only courses that meet transfer requirements.
"Don't be afraid to ask questions," Howey advised. "You can always ask questions about why something wasn't transferred. We can double check the problem."
Wrather admits he's still in the early stages of transferring, and he hasn't gotten his heart broken yet. It's still going pretty good, he said, but the process is a slow one.
For those who plan to get a college degree, Wrather offers another suggestion. "Start sooner," he advised. "Get stuff decided before you start school. Know what you want to do."