Questions and Answers for Students Attending Community College with Plans to Earn Their Bachelor’s D
Cumberland County College provides students with the first two years of their college career. For some, a Certificate or an Associate Degree will be all they need to start their careers. Others will be using these two years and earning their Associate Degree to mark the half‐way point toward a Bachelor’s Degree. This article was prepared to help transfer students stay on task and assist with the process of finding a four‐year college to transfer to and complete their Bachelor’s Degree.
There are generally eight different kinds of colleges in the United States.
American Community Colleges which enroll about half of all the college students in the country at one time or another are the most abundant colleges in the country. There are about 1,100 two-year colleges across the U.S. Examples are Cayuga County Community College in Auburn, New York, and Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts.
Public State Colleges are often part of a network of other colleges with different names operating within one state. These might be called colleges or universities and the difference would be if they also offer Doctoral Degrees.
Private Liberal Arts Colleges are another category of postsecondary learning environments. Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland, is an example of this kind of school. Although this is a religious (Catholic) school they are open to all denominations and focus on a particular mission they call the Jesuit Tradition.
Land Grant Universities are very large public universities that were originally referred to as Agricultural and Mechanical schools (Texas A&M). They were first established in 1863 through the sale of public lands to create colleges that would help our country expand and grow. Since then, schools like Virginia Tech and Rutgers University in New Jersey have adopted the mission of research universities that address problem solving and enrichment of lives. They tend to have campuses which provide access throughout the state for all to enjoy. Penn State with two-year campuses throughout the state in Pennsylvania is a good example of this. These very large universities are as well known for their football teams as anything else.
Ivy League Universities located in the Northeast New England states have the most prestigious reputations and also own medical, dental, law and other professional schools providing not only elite but also very expensive education. “Harvard Law” has become an iconic vision of power, wealth and authority.
Technical and Vocational Schools are probably the most practical and arguably the most necessary schools of all and tend to be privately owned, often for-profit schools. If you are looking to develop a skill involving tools, machinery, moving parts and good hourly wages then a vocational college might be your best choice for learning after high school. The Maine School of Masonry in Avon is an example of a college that teaches a focused trade and does it well. What would the world be like if you couldn’t find a plumber when you needed one?
Theological Schools are some of the oldest schools in the country. In the early Colonial Days of America the clergy provided the pioneers of our country spiritual comfort, guidance and a sense of reason in an otherwise wild habitat formerly occupied only by our Native Americans. Today Seminaries, Rabbinical Schools and Missionaries provide the same kinds of services scaled up to modern day needs and demands.
Online colleges are the most recent types of colleges to join the party. Unheard of a few decades ago, schools like University of Phoenix and DeVry offer Bachelor’s and graduate degrees after starting out developing online platforms that were originally designed for advanced professional CEU training.
This visual shows the Fall and Spring Model of obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree over the traditional four year period.
It requires 120 credits minimum to be awarded a Bachelor’s Degree. Assuming you take 3-credit courses, you would need 40 courses to complete a Bachelor’s Degree and 20 courses for an Associate’s Degree. Only about 20 percent of students in the entire country actually complete their Bachelor’s degrees in 4 years in the traditional timeline presented here. Students can accelerate their progress by taking advantage of Winter or Summer semesters. Occasionally a student must take a pre-college or developmental course which might then delay their completion date.
Frequently asked questions about transfer from community to four-year colleges
What will my first semester entail? Declare a major. Meet your advisor and discuss your academic plan. Become aware of the courses you need to take to complete your degree program and the prerequisites for these courses. Determine your date of graduation and try to stay on track.
Must I transfer when I graduate? No, but the sooner you do the more likely it is for you to graduate and enter your career.
What is the difference between a public and a private college? Public colleges receive tax dollars from states whereas private colleges depend on tuition dollars to meet their expenses. Public colleges are therefore less expensive to attend if you live in that state. If you transfer out of your home state you will pay a higher tuition as an out‐of‐state resident to a public college. Private colleges have fixed tuition rates for all students from any state. They do not receive public funding.
Are there transfer laws? Some states have passed laws to protect the transfer of credits from community colleges to public colleges within states. In New Jersey for example, the Lampitt Bill Legislation (sponsored by Assembly Woman Pamela Lampitt) ensures that students who transfer from a New Jersey community college into a four‐year public New Jersey college with an AA or AS degree, while perusing the same BA or BS track, will receive Junior standing at the four‐year college. The student is assured that one half of their studies are complete upon transfer. There may be exceptions, but this is the “spirit” of the law which all colleges in the state abide by. New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are examples of states where 2-year and 4-year public colleges work very well together to protect students transfer credits.
What’s the difference between a college and a university? Usually the size of the school and the highest degree it offers determines the difference. They both offer Bachelor’s Degrees. Universities offer Doctorate Degrees and are usually larger than public or private colleges. A College may offer Master Degrees but not necessarily. A University would offer both Master and Doctoral Degrees.
What are Articulation Agreements? These are arrangements colleges make together to detail how students transfer from one college to another. They sometimes cause confusion because students and their parents will interpret these as the only colleges that you can transfer to. Look at them as advertisements for transfer. Sometimes they offer discounts and incentives as well. These agreements also reinforce student transfer options to colleges outside of your state. They sometimes address transfer from AAS Degrees to Bachelor’s degrees. A list of schools that your college has Articulation Agreements with does not represent the only schools one can transfer to. They call attention to schools colleges have developed agreements with for multiple reasons.
Should I get my Associate Degree before I transfer? Yes, generally it is better, but not required. It helps to do this. You will save money by earning your Associate Degree before transferring. The chances of you receiving full Junior standing at the 4‐year college also increases with a degree. But it is not required. Special circumstances might warrant you to transfer before receiving your degree, but they are the exception. In the state of New Jersey for example, NJStars Scholarship recipients must transfer with their AA or AS before transferring in order to keep their Stars II Scholarship.
Can I transfer in January or only in September? Students most often transfer in September at the start of a new year. But January or mid‐year winter/spring semester transfers work just fine if that fits your timetable better.
What is college accreditation? The good news first: most all colleges are accredited. But this can be a tricky question because there are different kinds of accreditation. A traditional college or university would need to be accredited by one of nine Accrediting Organizations depending on the area of the country in which they reside. The American Council on Education (ACE) publishes a guide to Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education. Regional, Career-related, Faith-related, Professional and Specialized Accrediting applies to different types of schools and colleges. This information will be published for you but it never hurts to ask. The key is to ensure your community college is Regionally Accredited so that your credits will transfer to a Regionally Accredited 4-year college. Providing you are accepted by having a good grade point average, your credits will transfer to colleges from Maine to California. Academic programs like Nursing, Radiography and Paralegal have additional accreditations which can be found on the college’s web page.
What should I look for in a college when I transfer? Investing in your AA and BA degree will be one of the largest investments you will ever make in your life. Other than purchasing a home, your degree may be your single largest purchase, not only in terms of money, but time and energy too. It’s important that you pick a college that is the right fit for you. Location, majors, sports, size, expense, housing, parking, study-abroad opportunities, extracurricular activities are all important aspects of a college you might transfer to. Look at their web site repeatedly, visit the school. Attend an Open House or Transfer Visitation Day which all colleges host for potential transfer students. Remember, they want you to apply and attend their college and they are interested in meeting you and answering your questions. Do not be shy about approaching them and sending emails to their admissions offices. This is not the time to be shy. Ask them everything you want to know.
How do I submit a college application to transfer? In virtually all cases you will apply online. The application will be found on the college’s web site. If you are unsure of the college’s web address, simply Google the name of the college first. Be sure to submit the Transfer Student Application, not the one for Freshman. In some instances you will be directed to complete the “Common Application,” but this is optional. You will also need a debit or credit card to pay your application fee and have your college send them your official college transcript(s). Some colleges have an electronic transcript process, but a hard copy is more common. You must sign a release and pay a small processing fee to your college, usually not more than $5. You will not usually be asked for your high school records or test scores like the SAT. These apply to entering Freshman. As a transfer student, your acceptance will be based on your transcript at the college(s) you have attended after high school.
What is the University Center on campus? The University Center located on many two-year college campuses will provide you with a seamless transfer experience. Located at your home campus, it is most convenient for students who do not have the ability to travel or relocate to complete their studies. Stop into the UC just to see what colleges are there and what majors are offered.
There are different types of colleges and universities, which should I choose? This is an excellent question which is asked often. If you need to remain home and finish your Bachelor’s Degree locally you have several options. • Attend a college in your University Center if there is one. Our college web page identifies eight University Partners and the majors they offer that you may transfer to and remain on our campus. • Online Bachelor’s degree programs are growing in popularity and seem to be right for independent learners with a high level of discipline who are comfortable with technology. • Commuting is another option for a “location bound” transfer student. From the location where I work at Cumberland County College in Southwestern New Jersey there are three commutable colleges: Rowan University, Rutgers University and Stockton University. If you are willing and able to commute into Philadelphia, there are many other fine colleges there. There are 4‐year colleges and universities in all 50 states you may choose to apply and transfer to. The fun is in the hunt. Be sure to visit the transfer office at your college for some direction and good advice.
What help can I expect from my Community College? Transfer Services are always mentioned on a college’s Web site so look there first. The Transfer Center has staff to provide one-on-one help. They are likely to offer services throughout the year to help students navigate their transition to their next college for the Bachelor’s. These services will include College Fairs, On-Site transfer days and visits from recruiters representing different colleges. Our college offers some services in coordination with the local high school to reduce costs of duplication. In February we hold an annual event called “Transfer Day.” All students near graduation are invited to participate in this event at which you can register, apply, and have an admissions interview and then receive an answer on the spot from an admissions representative from a dozen various universities.
How will I pay for my next degree? Most students rely on several sources of monies to fund their education. How have you paid for your college so far? Probably with a Federal PELL Grant, perhaps some state scholarship money, a private merit-based scholarship and perhaps you may have even taken out a small student loan. Some students are fortunate to have earned a scholarship from an organization to help them. Other sources of paying for college come from your personal savings, or your parents or other relatives may have helped. You probably worked at some point and used that money to buy books, bus passes, gas for your car and lunch in the cafeteria. Funding your four‐year degree will work much the same way. Your tuition will be higher but most other costs will be about the same. The big difference that makes a Bachelor’s Degree more expensive is the increase in tuition and of course the added Room and Board if you live on campus. Keep in mind that four‐year colleges need you on their campuses. They want you to attend their college and may offer you financial incentives for attending their school. These incentives come in the form of Transfer Scholarships. Basically, the higher your grades are, the more you are likely to be awarded. Most students do need to rely on student loans to some degree to fund their Bachelor’s.
What kinds of degrees are there? There are several types of Associate Degrees: AA, AS, AAS, AFA depending on their field and the number of General Education course requirements. These are all two‐year degrees. They might take longer than two years to complete, but they represent the first two years of college - Freshman and Sophomore years. Basically this represents 20 or 21 college level courses or about 60 credits. There are also different kinds of Bachelor’s degrees: BA, BS, BSN, BSBA, etc. These are all four‐year degrees and represent the last 2 years of college - the Junior and Senior years. If a student started school at a four‐year college they would not receive an Associate Degree. They would attend for the completion of 120 to 130 credits and receive their Bachelor’s Degree only. All students working on either their Associate or Bachelor’s Degrees are considered “undergraduates.” When you have a Bachelor’s degree and you continue for a Master’s Degree, then you are considered a “graduate” student. Thus, you would attend “graduate school” including Master’s and perhaps a Doctorate Degree. Medical, Dental, Law, Pharmacy, Veterinary schools are referred to as Professional Schools.
What is a traditional transfer student? About one half to two thirds of the students at a community college are between 18 to 24 years old. These are referred to as traditional college age students. If you have the means, time, freedom and desire to move away to complete your college degree, this is the time to do it. At no other time in your life will this opportunity present itself. You might have a favorite state you have always wanted to live in, a special activity that only some colleges offer or perhaps relatives in another area with whom you might reside. Most students remember their on-campus college years as some of the most exciting times in their life. If you have to option to “go away to college,” by all means do it!
Timetable for Transfer Activities
You have 12 to 24 credits: When you start school, be aware that you will eventually transfer to a four‐year college to complete a Bachelor’s Degree. Scan your college catalog and look at the index to see if there is a section on transfer. Visit your college’s web page or college catalog for the credentials of your college faculty, staff and members of the college administration. What colleges did they attend for their degrees? This is a good way to start a conversation with a professor or an advisor. Ask them where they went to college and get them talking about their experience there. Everyone loves to talk about their “college days” and it’s a good ice breaker to meet a mentor.
24 to 36 credits: Drop into the campus Transfer Center. Look for publications about transfer on campus. They are usually available on tables or display stands. Page through them and see what catches your eye. If you live in New Jersey, be sure to see www.NJTransfer.org. This site will show you every college in the state, their majors, locations, costs, course equivalencies and more. Most states have a comparable web page.
36 to 48 credits: In your Sophomore year your transfer college search should become active. Pick three colleges and visit their web pages often. Look for transfer student events like “Open House” programs and attend them. Read what other students are saying about those schools on social media. Look at the college’s Facebook page. Go and visit the campus. Meet the staff, walk the grounds, eat the food, look at the dorms. Do you like it? Do they offer what you want? Visit the schools you are interested in and discover if they have a major you want. Ask yourself if you want to be there for the next two years. Sharpen your pencil and look at their tuition and fees to decide if you can afford to go there. Remember that since you saved money by attending a community college for the first two years, you can relax and spend a little more on your last two years.
48 to 60 credits: Apply for graduation at your community college. Be sure you are on track to graduate. We call this “to submit a petition to graduate.” Your transfer options should be limited to just one or two colleges by now. There will be a date at which you need to pay a deposit, usually about $100. Paying this deposit is a statement that you are very likely to attend that college, but still does not require you to attend. A deposit will hold a spot for you until a tuition payment is required. Campus housing deposits are often required as well. But you may have other plans for your room and board - perhaps you plan to live off campus - or you may live home and commute to school in your car.
60 plus credits: At this time you should be finishing up your degree. You may be in your last semester or need a summer session to complete your Associate Degree. Be ready to transfer now!
Information about colleges that you cannot find online can usually be found in The College Blue Book. This is a collection of 6 different books you will find in your college library. Published by MacMillian Reference, USA Gale/Cengage Learning, these are in their 44th edition. You will find just about everything you will ever need to know about U.S. colleges from degrees offered to scholarships and fellowships offered.
Keep your eye on your college web page or portal for news about transfer workshops offered on campus and stop into the Transfer Center for more information.
Useful Transfer Web Sites:
www.NJTransfer.org This site allows you to navigate the movement of NJ community college courses and degrees to four-year colleges in the state.
www.njcollege2collegetransfer.com An excellent resource for all transfer students to reference
www.wes.org The World Education Services is used by students from other countries transferring their credits into US colleges and universities.
www.bls.gov This government page monitors occupations in the U.S. work force and provides educational requirements
www.chea.org The official guide for investigating a level and type of an institution’s accreditation.