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What You Need to Know to Be a Successful Transfer Student

College and University Blog - Resources, help, and insight for your college experience

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, community colleges now educate “about 45 percent of undergraduates nationwide.” And for 71 percent of these students, transferring is their primary or secondary academic goal. If you go to a community college, you may already know that if you want to get a bachelor’s degree, you’ll have to transfer to a four-year institution. But in order to get accepted; stay on schedule; and have your credits count, it’s important to know what you’re getting into.

Are you a college student planning to transfer from a two-year college to a four-year college? As a community college student you may not have had many college options. Your options to transfer to a larger institution increase dramatically as you consider becoming a transfer student.

Size, cost, location, program ranking, degrees offered, and admissions requirements are all things you should consider when looking at transfer institutions. Begin by looking at both the geographic location you wish to be along with schools in that area that offer your program of study. For additional information, talk to professors in your field of study for suggestions. Don’t immediately dismiss a school based on cost. Private institutions may offer sizable assistance packages.

If you’re a community college student, and you’re thinking of transferring to a four-year college, get these questions answered:

  • How many transfer students are admitted in any given term?
  • What grade-point average should students earn to have a good shot of being admitted?
  • Should students apply as sophomores or juniors?
  • Are community-college applicants given special admissions consideration?
  • How can a student become minimally eligible to transfer to the school?

Contact the admissions offices of the colleges you are interested in and request information. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to transfer, meet with an advisor at your current school. They may know of transfer agreements with other schools that will help you decide whether it’s best to stay where you are or make the transition right away. Some four year schools have agreements where they will accept a transfer student and automatically award junior status as long as the student has earned an Associate’s degree at a two-year institution.

If you’re no longer in school, you can set up a meeting with an admissions counselor at the school in which you are interested. When you are scheduling the appointment, make sure that you mention that you are interested in transfer. Schools often have admissions counselors specializing in working with transfer students. Review the school’s web site before meeting with an admissions counselor. Take all of your documents with you to the meeting, including your transcripts. Reviewing these will give the counselor insight on your best options for transfer.

After choosing your major and narrowing your college choices, you will want to visit your chosen schools and apply for admission. Even if you take transcripts to a meeting with an admissions counselor, you won’t get an immediate evaluation of which courses will transfer to the new school. Most schools only send an official evaluation of transfer credit once you have applied and been accepted.

Check with the school for application deadlines. Some schools have application deadlines that are different for transfer applicants than for first time students. In addition, some schools accept transfer students only in the fall. Depending on the school, getting in as a transfer student may be extremely competitive. Obtain the best letters of recommendation that you can get from employers, faculty, or others who know your abilities. Make sure that you’ve made arrangements for your official transcripts and test scores. If you don’t receive notice from the school that they have received your application and it is complete, contact the admissions office to check on the status of your application. Don’t miss out on transferring to a new school because of an incomplete application. Once you’ve been accepted, you need to apply for financial aid and make a final decision on selecting a school.

In theory, transferring from one of the state’s community colleges to a public state college or university sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, it is the cause of much wasted time and money. What transfers is determined by each individual college – what transfers at one may not transfer at another. Some courses are counted only as electives, some don’t count at all. Because of this, students end up taking more classes than they should.

Many students who attend community college attend part time due to work or family obligations. The transfer options available may discourage them from completing their degrees. Anything that gets in their way could be the factor that keeps them from continuing. Community college students are disproportionately low-income, minority, and first-generation college students. This makes the transfer process somewhat of an issue of social equity. Students that change their majors will be impacted when it comes to earning credits in a timely manner.

Four-year schools and community colleges have taken steps to simplify the transfer process. UMass-Dartmouth visits community colleges monthly and will tell students on the spot what credits the school accepts. Middlesex Community College has tailored academics programs to match majors at popular transfer destinations. Other students have taken aggressive steps in recent years to simplify transfers. In Texas, lawmakers mandated a core set of classes that were fully transferable to all 2 and 4 year colleges, significantly streamlining the system. California has created a website of transfer details. New Jersey enacted a law calling for collective statewide agreements to promote a smooth transfer of academic credits.


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