Transferring Your College Credits to Another University Guide

Transfer Guide

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What are the reasons you might transfer?


Getting into college takes time and effort. Entering college is also a huge financial demand for most families. Transferring after entering a college may require you to go through the difficult admission process over again. In the US, about 38% of students transfer and, of that number, about one half will transfer more than once. The reasons are varied but student goals are a common thread. It may also be that students think differently about transferring now than in previous eras.

Some transfers are planned, such as students that attend a local community college with an intention to transfer credits to a four-year school. More than 64% of bachelor’s degree earners attended more than one college. Some students study online because attending on-campus is inconvenient or for other reasons not preferable. The move from online or community college to a four-year school is more a transition than a transfer. The issue is whether the credits can transfer, and how many will the four-year school accept.

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Resources for Before and After College


What to Be Aware of Before Starting School


  • Accreditation

    What is Accreditation? Accreditation is an assessment by an independent professional body that evaluates the educational system of a college or university. The US Department of Education divided the US into regions and appointed accreditation agencies to cover the schools in each region. A region is a multi-state area with many millions in population and thousands of schools, colleges, and universities. This powerful type of accreditation is called regional accreditation. The accreditors examine faculty, facilities, retention, graduation rates, resources, class size, and other important variables. They award accreditation status to schools that meet or exceed the standards based on schools in the region.

  • What is the importance of accreditation to transferring students?

    Accreditation is important for many reasons. It ensures that students will receive a high-quality education and often guarantees that other educational institutions will accept any credits earned. Employers and other educational institutions rely on accreditation when making employment or admission decisions. If the school has accreditation from national agencies, some of which may not be approved by the DOE, then there is a chance that the next school will not accept them.

  • Transferable Credits

    Regional accreditation is the best guarantee that credits will transfer and have acceptance at other educational institutions. If the first school had regional accreditation, then nearly every other school with regional accreditation will accept them. When the first school does not have regional accreditation, then students must check and hope the second school will accept the transferred credits.

    National accreditation may still work. Some regionally accredited schools accept credits from some nationally accredited schools. When attempting to transfer from a nationally accredited school, students must make a specific inquiry about the transfer of credits. Students can plan when selecting courses to take those that show up on articulation lists and published transferable credits lists from nearby public four-year schools.

  • Articulation Agreements

    Articulation agreements are also called transfer agreements. They are a type of partnership between schools to connect their academic programs. The typical situation is a community college and a nearby four-year college. The two schools can agree on the pathway that community college students must take to get maximum transfer credits. The two schools then publish the agreement so that community college students can follow it and move from a two-year program to a four-year program seamlessly.

How Do I Transfer?


Discuss with Academic Advisor


Students should decide to transfer for one or more reasons. A good first step is to assess the reasons for leaving a school and attending a new one. Students can transfer for good reasons or no reason at all. If the reasons are good reasons, then that information can guide the selection of a new school. Once you have decided the reasons for transfer, then it would be a good time to have a discussion with your academic advisor. If you have begun the search for a new school, then you can discuss the initial results of that search. From the outset, students must have a good idea of the transfer of credits, financial aid status, and time for transfer and discussing your plans with your academic advisor can help you get that information.

Application Deadlines


Transfers typically have a different set of application deadlines and requirements than entering first-year students. Some schools only accept transfers in the spring semester. Each school sets these procedures and students must contact the new school and review its application information. Transfers involve an acceptance that is tied to an admission period. Students that need financial aid must update their FAFSA. If it’s the end of the school year, then students must file a new FAFSA and list the new school as a receiving institution.

Confirm Transferable Credits


Once you have narrowed the choices for a new school to one or a few, then students must confirm transfer of credits. If the new school accepts no credits, then you must decide whether you are ready to start again from scratch. The typical way to determine the level of credit transfer is to send a transcript of the old college work to the new college. The new college can quickly review and determine the transferable hours. When transferring between schools with an articulation agreement, the process is simpler. The new school simply needs to confirm that the student has completed the courses in the pathway. Students can confirm their courses by looking up the titles on the articulation lists. The lists recognize the course number in the old school’s catalog system and indicate the equivalent course in the new school’s catalog or system.

Admissions Process


Typical Admissions Requirements for Transfer Students

The transfer is like the first-year admission in the elements of transcripts, test scores, and a reasonable GPA. The student’s character is always an issue, and transferring students should be in good standing at their original schools. Most transfer applications consist of an application form, recommendations, transcripts of high school and college work, and standard test scores. Most schools ask for an interview and students should also ask for an interview. There are questions and answers best conveyed in a face-to-face setting.

The transfer procedure is not the same as the first-year entering class in that transferring students must meet special deadlines and requirements for filing their application, supporting documents, and FAFSA.

Talk to an Admissions Counselor at New School to Enroll

Once you’ve narrowed your school selection down to one or two options of schools to transfer to, you should take an in-depth look at the new school, schedule a visit, and meet with an admission official. The visit should include a discussion of financial aid and a meeting with a financial aid advisor at the new school.

Students that have selected a possible major should investigate the potential benefits of the selection of a new school. The faculty and course selection in the major course of study should also offer the types of courses for a preferred specialization or concentration.

Financial Aid Once You Transfer


  • Renew FAFSA
    Students must renew their FAFSA application when transferring. This may not be unusual since the student must update the form once per year to keep it current for all financial aid. The FAFSA process depends on whether the student transfers mid-year or for the new school year. If they transfer at the start of a new school year, then students need only fill out the new year’s FAFSA and use the new school’s information. If transferring mid-year, the student will need to update their form at the FAFSA portal. To update a FAFSA student must log on to the FAFSA portal and select ‘Make FAFSA Corrections.’
  • Loans
    Student loans can be federal, state, or commercial loans. All are tied to the school where the originating disbursements occur. The loans cannot be transferred as a rule and it is the student’s responsibility to notify the lender to stop paying their previous school.

    Here is another catch with commercial loans. As a side-effect of moving on from those loans, even if you reapply for new loans with the same provider, the original loans are considered closed and can begin their “grace period”, which means you could have to pay them back much, much sooner than you planned. If you receive a new loan from the same provider, you’ll want to talk to the loan provider and try to work both loans onto the same loan repayment timeline.

  • Scholarships
    Most scholarships will not transfer because they come from school funds or funds directed to the school for the student’s benefit. There may be awards that follow the student such as prizes, fellowships, and specific scholarships that go with high achievement and merit. The student must examine each scholarship to determine whether or not the funds would transfer with them, but typically whatever has already been disbursed would be gone either way and the rest of the award may not transfer to your new school.

    Transfer students are eligible for financial aid at the new school based on their FAFSA and academic achievement. They can qualify for need-based aid and merit-based scholarships.

  • Grants
    Some grants can transfer because they are based on the student’s overall level of need and achievement. Federal Pell grants can transfer as the student refiles their FAFSA or submit a new one. The FAFSA allows students to choose as many as ten schools to receive their financial information. The FAFSA can qualify students to receive grants, scholarships, and state or federal aid.

    The end of the semester is the best time to transfer, but students should not wait until the end to revise their FAFSA and clearly cancel attendance at one school while opening attendance at a new school. There is the potential for financial aid funds to go to the wrong school and no one wants to deal with that mess while trying to take their college courses.

  • Transfer Student Scholarships
    Some four-year schools offer transfer student scholarships to help students that wish to transfer-in. In these instances, the four-year school seeks to attract top students from community colleges with which it has articulation agreements or other relationships. The transfer awards provide support for this specific class of entering students. They can be merit-based and/or need-based. In most situations, the transfer scholarship has a primary focus on merit and a secondary focus on need.

Other Information


  • Timing
    The best time to transfer is whenever the new school is accepting transfers. Some schools accept transfers during only one period in the yearly cycle. From the point of view of the transferring student, the best time is at the need of a semester so that the cancellation of the old school attendance can follow immediately with entrance into the new school with no break in educational progression.
  • Residency Requirements
    The term “academic residency” or residency is the requirement in each college or university that students must spend a certain amount of time as registered students before earning a degree. When transferring into a new school, you need to be aware of their residency requirements. If they require you to attend for 5 semesters (2.5 years) and you’ve already completed a full two years at your current school while working on a 4-year program, then you will have to complete an extra semester in order to meet residency requirements and graduate from your new school.
    Note: Many schools participate in educational common markets that permit out-of-state residents to get in-state rates. Students that may not qualify for in-state rates as residents may be able to qualify for education common market in-state rates.
  • Credit Transfer Appeals
    When transferring, students present their transcripts and ask the new school to accept them. If the new school accepts all the credits then the student is in a good position. When the new school does not accept all the credits, then the student has essentially worked and earned a grade for nothing. However, there is the possibility that students can appeal the evaluation decision and perhaps win approval for some, if not all, their credits.

    The appeal process works best when the student finds the exact procedure required by the school with whom they are filing the appeal and meets all the filing requirements and deadlines. When making an appeal, students should use facts. They can present the syllabus from the denied courses and sometimes offer an in-person argument to the evaluator to attempt to reverse the initial decision. However, some of these appeals can take a significant amount of time, going through multiple councils or committees, so be prepared to transfer without knowing if those credits are coming with you. You may be able to get an estimate on how long it will take by calling the school for more information.

Additional Questions Transfer Students Should Ask


How Selective are Admissions for Transfer Students?

The new school has the advantage of a sampling of college-level work as opposed to admissions for first-year students that have not yet attended college. Most schools are not more selective when considering transfer students, but they may ask different questions and look at a different set of student information.

Can I transfer and Still Graduate on Time?

Yes, students that transfer can still graduate on time in four years. It may be more difficult to achieve, because students must fit their required courses into less time than non-transfer students. They must also meet residency requirements which sometimes increase the amount of time needed for a degree. The overall trend in graduation rates is towards five to six-year completion of four-year programs. The added time and attendance can add to the costs of education.

What is Transfer Evaluation?

Transfer evaluation is the process that a new school makes when considering the courses taken by a transferring student. The essential theory is to match courses taken at the old school with comparable courses that exist at the new school. When there is a substantial match, the old school course can get full credit at the new school. The transfer that each student makes to a new school has likely been done before by other students, and there may be existing evaluations of the courses from the previous school.

In some schools, the student can view a list of courses and transfer evaluations. A typical display might associate the course number from a junior college with a course number at the four-year school. The equivalence valuation allows transfer of the junior college course credits as if the student had completed the equivalent course at the new school.

Will my grades also transfer?

Typically, grades do not transfer. The college credits earned in courses with a grade C or higher can transfer. The idea is that grades are too subjective to be transferred and simply added to the new school transcript. Students that transfer must usually show the grades that they earned, but the part that the new school accepts is the college credit. A transfer student gets a new GPA and academic record that begins with attendance at the new school.

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