Dear Expert, I currently attend community college and plan to transfer to a four-year institution. I know my credits will transfer to a state university degree program in my home state, but what if I attend school in another state? How can I find out whether my credit hours will transfer to my new school? —Credit Where Credit is Due
College hopefuls face increasingly complex challenges in their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. According to a study of 3.6 million students by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, about 37 percent of students transferred at least once in the six years between 2008 and 2014. Among the transfer students, 45 percent transferred more than once. These students can attest that the transfer process is not always a simple or easy one. If you transfer to a new school, know that you are not alone and there are more resources than ever to help you earn your degree.
Many students attempting to transfer schools understandably wonder about transfer of credits. Many states have articulation agreements between their community colleges and state college systems. These can ease the burden of transferring credits by providing clear policy guidelines on which community college courses transfer, the maximum number of credits that transfer, and the minimum GPA required to transfer credits.
These agreements do not apply, however, to the out-of-state transfer of credits. Community college students should be aware of several key considerations before they attempt to make the switch. That’s true even for those transferring after only one year.
So, what should you do? If you follow these three easy steps, you can (re)start your educational journey on the right foot.
When transferring credits from one school to another, it is important to know each institution’s accreditation type to ensure transferability. Accreditation is a process by which independent associations establish educational standards for an academic field. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) list seven different regional accreditation bodies:
Community colleges typically hold regional accreditation based on geographic location. As a first step, you can look up your school’s accreditation on the CHEA website. Typically, regionally accredited institutions accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions; however, to ensure your credits will transfer, you need to get your transcripts evaluated.
Transcripts evaluations are the surest way to find out how many of your credits will transfer. Here’s a list of just a few of the schools that offer this service:
Programs such as UVA’s Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program (BIS) will provide a free evaluation before application through a pre-admission form, which gives you a clear understanding of how many of your credits will transfer to UVA’s program. Because this occurs before you submit your application, it could save you a lot of time, effort, and potential heartache. You can also read this article on ways to maximize your potential transfer credits.
One important reminder: the receiving institution always has the final say on the acceptance of transfer credits. Depending on the type of program, certain college courses may or may not transfer due to coursework relevancy. Most schools accept general education courses (e.g., English composition, sociology, humanities)more than specific courses (e.g., courses in nursing, cyber security, criminal justice, etc.). It is also a good idea to consider the type of program into which you hope to transfer. Like UVA’s BIS program, programs that lean towards the liberal arts cast a much wider net when accepting transfer credits. In contrast, programs that are more focused on specific disciplines have more stringent transfer credit policies.
The pathway from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree is different for each person. By getting educated about higher education, you can ensure that your path from a two-year college to a four-year degree program is as seamless and smooth as possible.
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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.