Fostering Student Success: The Significance of Transition Points in Higher Education Programs

Transition Points


In the dynamic landscape of higher education, successful program completion involves more than just attending classes and earning credits. It requires a structured and purposeful journey through well-defined transition points or milestones. These markers delineate specific phases of progress that students must navigate to ensure they are well-prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. This is especially crucial in licensure-based programs like nursing and teacher education, where the sequential mastery of skills is paramount.

The Protective Structure of Transition Points

Transition points are not arbitrary hurdles; they are a safeguard, ensuring that students progress through a program in a planned and thoughtful manner. The structure serves to protect students and foster their success. It prevents them from signing up for an advanced level course before they have successfully completed foundational level work. Moreover, these gateways provide them with a chance to build their developing skills in key areas before engaging in field experiences. And, by adhering to established transition points, students are much more likely to graduate on time, pass licensure examinations, and get hired for a job in their chosen profession after graduation.

Key Criteria for Identifying Transition Points

Department chairs and faculty should carefully consider various criteria when determining the right transition points. For example:

Transition Points Checklist


A Transition Points Framework

To guide educators in implementing effective transition points, a customizable framework can be immensely beneficial. For instance, in educator preparation programs, a five-point model might include:

Transition Points


This framework acts as a roadmap, offering a detailed depiction of a student’s progression from matriculation to program completion. Each transition point represents a crucial phase, ensuring that students are adequately prepared before advancing to the next stage. As long as a student meets the stated expectations, the journey continues and they move ahead toward graduation. If the student fails to meet one or more expectations in a given stage, the institution implements a plan for remediation, additional support, or in some case, counseling out of the program.


Transition points are the linchpin of a successful higher education program, providing a structured path for students to navigate. Through careful consideration of key criteria and the implementation of a tailored framework, educators can guide students toward timely graduation, licensure success, and a seamless transition into their chosen professions. By prioritizing these markers, institutions not only protect the interests of their students but also contribute to the overall success and reputation of their programs.



About the Author: A former public school teacher and college administrator, Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher provides consultative support to colleges and universities in quality assurance, accreditation, educator preparation and competency-based education. Specialty: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).  She can be reached at:


Top Photo Credit: Clay Banks on Unsplash 

Transition Points & Gateways: Stop Gaps Universities Should Consider

Each higher education institution’s program of study, regardless of major, contains specific phases of progression that each student must successfully complete before being allowed to graduate. In other words, there is a planned, purposeful order to completing a program or earning a college degree—an individual does not just apply for admission and have complete autonomy over the courses taken, the sequence of coursework, when/where/if practica or internships are completed, and so on. The institution makes those decisions after carefully designing each given program of study. They decide things such as:

  • Admission and enrollment criteria
  • General education requirements
  • # of semester hours required for graduation
  • Minimum GPA required to pass each course
  • Clinical experiences, internships, practica
  • Exit examinations required for graduation (or state licensure, depending on the program)

Transition points are sometimes referred to as “gateways”—they are specific points at which a student passes from one stage in his or her program to the next. As long as a student meets the stated expectations, the journey continues and he or she moves ahead toward graduation. If the student fails to meet one or more expectations in a given stage, the institution implements a plan for remediation, additional support, or in some case, counseling out of the program.

I have created a Transition Points framework that may be useful to some educator preparation programs. Of course, Transition Points must be tailored to fit each unique program but could include gateways such as:

  • Transition Point I: Applicant to Pre-Candidate Status 
    • Admission to the program
  • Transition Point II: Pre-Candidate to Candidate Status
    • Completion of Block #1 Coursework & Preparation for Formative Field Experiences
  • Transition Point III: Candidate to Pre-Graduate Status
    • Completion of Block #2 Coursework & Formative Field Experiences 
  • Transition Point IV: Pre-Graduate to Graduate Status
    • Completion of Block #3 Coursework & Culminating Clinical Experiences
  • Transition Point V: Graduate to Program Completer Status
    • Pass Required Licensure/Certification Examination(s)

Do you see the progression? When detailed out, a complete Transitions Points or Gateway table should paint a portrait of a student’s journey from matriculation to program completion; the sequence should represent a logical flow with at least some detail relative to minimum expectations.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Need more ideas? Want to collaborate on a project? Feel free to reach out to me.



Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in educator preparation, accreditation, online learning, and academic quality assurance. An accomplished presenter, writer, and educator, she currently supports higher education and P-12 schools in areas such as competency-based education, teacher preparation, distance learning, and accreditation through her company, Global Educational Consulting, LLC. She can be reached at: