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Steps to the Transfer Process

Learn about the steps you need to take to successfully transfer from a community college to a four-year institution.

Nearly 11 million students each year attend community college. Some choose community college to save thousands of dollars on tuition for the first two years of schooling, while others opt to attend community college to determine which major interests them most. Regardless of why you choose to attend community college, with a few phases of planning, you can transfer to the university and major that are right for your higher learning.

The time that you take to plan out your community college curriculum will pay off significantly in helping you gain acceptance into the university of your choice, along with transferring valuable credits. The key to successfully transferring to a four year institution begins with early planning. This ensures that your credits not only transfer, but that the classes you take put in the best academic light possible.

Step 1: Befriend your counselor

One of the least utilized resources is your academic counselor, whose goal is to help you succeed…academically! One of the first things you should do during your transfer planning is to meet with your academic counselor as soon as possible. Tell your counselor what your plans and goals are, and together you can craft a curriculum that not only helps you gain entry into a four-year institution, but will also allow you to transfer the maximum number of credits. You should ideally meet with your academic counselor before your first semester at community college, ensuring that your curriculum planning is optimal to your long-term goals. Schedule quarterly or semester meetings with your counselor, and the transfer rewards will pay off significantly.

Step 2: Evaluate what four-year institution (and major) you want to attend

Not all institutions are created equal, and neither are their transfer requirements. You should develop a list of institutions are you are interested in transferring into, and then evaluate their transfer requirements. Each institution has a different set of governing rules when it comes to applications from community college students. For example, if you are interested in attending the University of Virginia as a transfer student, you will be expected to hold a minimum 3.4 GPA, and not all programs are open for transfer students. On the other hand, the University of California system requires a minimum 2.4 GPA, and they do not have any limitations on the majors, programs, or departments for transfer students.

Understanding what your ideal four-year institution expects of its transfer students can help you craft your time at community college accordingly. You can conduct research ahead of time to properly assess their requirements, minimums, and expectations, which will help you make the best curriculum choices in community college.

Step 3: Understand what the transfer program entails

Most transfer programs anticipate that you will complete your first two years at community college, then transferring to a four-year institution as a junior. Therefore, your two years at community college are typically spent building your lower-division course credits, such as:

General education classes – such as English, Math, History, etc. These are the courses that every student must take, regardless of major.

Lower-division electives – These classes may pertain to your major or focus, or they may be general electives that fulfill institutional requirements, such as a language or cultural class.

Classes that are related to your major – You should also take classes that will prepare you for your major once you transfer to a four-year institution. This not only cements your interest in your major, but also demonstrates to the university that you are serious about your interests, as well as have an ability to succeed in the subject matter.

Remember, as a transfer, you essentially have two main goals: demonstrate that you are academically competitive in your major, and ensure that you can transfer over a maximum number of credits. Both of these are important in not only helping you gain acceptance into the university of your choice, but also in graduating on time from that four-year institution.

Step 4: Review articulation agreements between four-year institutions and your community college

Articulation agreements are important in your transfer plan because they define the detailed policies that govern your transfer from a community college to the four-year institution. Your community college most likely has specific articulation agreements with both the public and private universities in your state.

What does an articulation agreement entail? It essentially discusses what classes are required of the proposed transfer students, and which courses from the community college will transfer with full credit to the four-year institution. Whereas some articulation agreements are broad, governing the entire community college and four-year institution relationship, others are more specific. For example, for a community college student interested in pharmacy, there may be an articulation agreement between the pharmacy departments of the four-year institution and the community college. On the other hand, other articulation agreements offer broad “guaranteed” admission. The University of California, for example, has articulation agreements that guarantee admission of community college transfers, as long as they meet minimum academic requirements.

It is important to stay updated on the changes to the articulation agreements, as they can vary between quarters and semesters. It is highly advised that you speak to your counselor to obtain these updated articulation agreements, and you may be able to find the information online. For example, if you are attending a community college in California and considering transferring to a UC institution, then specifically helps you determine which of your classes will transfer to UC credits.

The key to successfully transferring from a community college to a four-year institution is planning! The earlier you plan, and the more you empower yourself with knowledge regarding the transfer and credits process, the more likely you will gain admissions to the university of your choice.

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