Jennifer “Jen” Cook has spent her career working with transfer students. As an admissions representative first and then a transfer counselor — and a PTK chapter advisor — at Mercer County Community College in New Jersey, she would often watch as students there received less financial aid and fewer scholarships from four-year colleges than freshmen.
It was disheartening, but it inspired her, too.
“Leaving my job at Mercer and my role as a PTK advisor was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, but I knew that I could do more to improve access and equity in higher education,” she said. “My career has always been driven by a belief that access to higher education and equity in funding are so important.”
Jen left Mercer in 2017 to work as the senior assistant director of transfer admissions at Rider University, a private college also in New Jersey. As soon as she got there, she set a goal to ensure that transfer students received opportunities equal to those offered to freshmen.
The result is the Transfer Trustee Scholarship, which provides two PTK members with free tuition for two years.
“Although it took some time to finalize everything, the idea was met with instant support from the administration, and everyone is really excited to expand this opportunity to transfer students at Rider,” Jen said.
We asked Jen to share details about the new Transfer Trustee Scholarship and Rider University, as well as some of her best transfer advice. Her responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Describe the new scholarship for PTK members.
Rider has always had great scholarships for PTK members, but this new Transfer Trustee Scholarship is extra special because it provides free tuition for two years of full-time study. It’s not solely based on GPA, and that is the part that is really important to me. It is more holistic because we are also requiring recommendation letters, an essay, and an interview. We are really looking for those members who are not just great academically but who are truly passionate about making an impact on campus and in their communities.
Students have to be graduating from their community college to apply for this scholarship, which is available in the fall semesters only. They (must) apply to Rider and also complete the Transfer Trustee application by February 1 to be considered. If selected as a finalist, students will be invited to campus for a mandatory interview, and from there we will select the two students who will be our Transfer Trustee recipients. This scholarship is open to all students who meet the criteria, domestic and international.
What other scholarship opportunities are available for transfer students at Rider?
Rider’s transfer scholarships are extremely generous, and what I love most is that all transfer students who want to study at Rider full-time qualify for them and there is no separate application for the general academic scholarships. Students with a 3.0-3.49 will come in with $22,000 off automatically, and students with a 3.5 or higher will get $25,000 off. PTK members get an additional $1,000 off on top of that amount.
These scholarships are renewable each year up to three years. We also offer housing grants to all students from New Jersey community colleges. These scholarships cannot be stacked with the Transfer Trustee.
What do you want transfer students to know about Rider?
Rider is really like a big family and a place that I think embodies what it means to be a member of PTK. I really do see the hallmarks of PTK represented on campus daily. We are an incredibly service-oriented campus, and everyone gets involved — staff, faculty, and students!
Additionally, students are required to complete credits in Engaged Learning in order to graduate. These requirements can be met through research, service, a global educational experience, and more; and when I see those things taking place, I have flashbacks of my chapter working on its (Honors in Action Project) or I think, “Wow, what a great College Project!”
We’re also extremely transfer-friendly in terms of credits, and we are located in a beautiful and peaceful part of New Jersey, nestled between Philadelphia and New York for easy access to jobs, internships, and plenty of public transportation.
What should transfer students look for in a four-year college?
(T)here is no right answer that applies to everyone. My initial response is to look for a place where you can really be you and be happy. Personally, though, I love to know outcome statistics. What are their graduates doing, where are they working, what kind of internships have they had?
What are the top questions transfer students should ask when meeting with an admissions counselor?
I think the most important questions to ask will vary depending on what a student considers valuable to them. I think the most common questions center around credit transfer, scholarships, and outcomes of graduates. But, I always challenge students to consider what is valuable to them and to prioritize those items because a meeting may only last 30 minutes, and you want to make sure to ask your critical questions first.
If leadership is valuable to you, ask about that. If you’re interested in learning more about diversity and inclusion and how the college supports LGBTQ+ students, ask away! If cost is your biggest concern, don’t leave until you are sure you’ve asked about scholarships, internships, and opportunities to work on or near campus AND know how to reach someone in the financial aid office.
What is your best advice for transfer students?
If students have ever heard me speak at a conference or if they follow me on Facebook, they’ll know I am very passionate in my belief that, in most cases, where you go does not really matter. As I have gotten older, I have become more of a “data person.” The data really suggest that where you go to school, be it an elite college, a private college, or a state public college, has little to do with your future earnings or your level of happiness or satisfaction with your life after graduation.
I believe that what matters is that you complete it, that you do it well, that you network with others, and that you take advantage of every single opportunity that comes your way. If you choose to squeeze every last opportunity out of Rider, that’s awesome and we’d love to have you! But, if not, I am sure you will do great things wherever you go.
Explore more transfer scholarships exclusively for PTK members at PTK Connect.