Dear Expert: I am currently completing my first year at a local community college. I'm considering transferring to a four-year college next year. Will my community college credits transfer? Please say yes! —– Chasing That Dream
Community colleges play a vital role in the lives of many students in the United States. We have over 8.2 million students enrolled at the community college level, so naturally the question of transfer credits comes up a lot.
With all the hard work put into completing general education courses to prepare to transfer to a bachelor's degree program, maximizing your transfer credits is essential. By asking yourself these five questions, you can set the stage for transfer into your next program on your educational journey.
1. Who is my academic advisor at the community college?
Most community colleges have academic advisors on campus who can help you navigate transfer into a four-year university. Make an appointment with your advisor. Prepare questions in advance regarding your current class schedule, articulation agreements with state universities, and general education requirements. Your school may participate in guaranteed admission agreements with universities in your state. Your academic advisor can help you understand what is required and provide you with a plan to ensure you are on track to meet those requirements.
2. Which program is right for me?
Starting with the end in mind, think of the career you want and work backwards. Onetonline.org is an excellent online resource. It provides snapshots of job types, common tasks, and technical skills required.
Additionally, checking job sites for open positions will give you an idea of what employers look for in potential candidates. Make a list of the common skills or qualities among job postings and keep them handy while researching programs. This will help guide your research into four-year degree programs, which can teach you the skills to make you marketable to employers.
3. Which school is right for me?
While many students feel that prestige and reputation matter to employers, research suggests otherwise. Employers are more interested in your qualities as a potential employee—not where you graduated. They value problem-solving skills, communication, the ability to work on a team, and leadership.
Attending a school that offers enriching (and, for the time being, socially distant) activities or clubs can enhance the learning occurring in the classroom. Additionally, career services and alumni networks can help you when it comes to life after graduation by highlighting the new skills you are developing in the program, providing you with potential job postings, and exposing you to potential employers among their alumni.
4. Can I juggle school with work and my life?
Many students returning to school have serious concerns regarding work-life balance. With the COVID pandemic hitting all 50 states, online education has become an increasingly attractive option to students across the country. Know how you work best as there are online programs offering interactive faculty-led sessions and "virtual classroom time" as well as self-paced programs that provide ultimate flexibility. Which is a better fit for you?
Additionally, make sure to identify your support network. Whether they are your family members, friends, co-workers, bosses, or even other students, you do not have to do it alone.
5. Taking the next step and applying
By this point in the process, you will hopefully have a short list of top schools. The key is to have the school review your transcripts for potential transfer of credits. You need to ask questions around the maximum number of transfer credits accepted, typical time to completion for the degree, and financial aid options. Some schools, such as the University of Virginia's School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS), may even offer pre-admission advising for its online Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program. This can provide you with an academic roadmap that lets you know exactly how many credits will transfer. Ascertain that before you apply to avoid any unpleasant surprises later.
The application process itself can seem like a mountain to climb; stick with it, though. The sweetest air is at the top of the mountain.
Community colleges are a great place to start and afford many students a low-cost option when entering or re-entering higher education. Transferring doesn't need to be a hassle; it is just the next rung on your ladder to success.
Best of luck, Omar
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Omar Torrens is a Senior Education Advisor with Education Dynamics, Inc. With over 15 years of experience in higher education, assisting students in finding their next steps on their educational journey has been a passion and continues to be a driving force in helping others. A PhD candidate at Florida Atlantic University, Omar strives to find ways to improve college outcomes for marginalized communities through mentoring programs, community involvement, and awareness of social issues facing students of color. In his free time, Omar enjoys outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, and working on his butterfly garden.