Best practices for transfer students

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With education now available in a variety of forms, it is becoming more common for students to transfer colleges. While some students opt to earn credits from a community college before transferring to a four-year institution, others may decide to transfer as they find the flexibility of an online program more conducive to their lifestyle. Whatever the reason, it is important for you to make sure your credit hours will transfer prior to enrolling in an institution, even if you don’t foresee transferring at the moment.

Here are some general guidelines for determining if your credits will transfer.

  • Make sure the school you plan to attend is properly accredited. There are regionally accredited schools and nationally accredited schools. While both types of accreditation are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, in many cases, regionally-accredited schools will accept transfers of credit only from other regionally-accredited schools.
  • Keep your grades up. Many schools won’t accept transfer credits if low grades were earned. If you earned a letter grade lower than a C – in a course, chances are those credit hours will not transfer to another institution.
  • Keep in mind that all schools have the right to establish their own transfer of credit policies. The school you plan to attend has the authority to determine which, if any, credits you earned from a prior school will transfer.
  • Some institutions put a limit on the number or type of credit hours they will accept. It is not uncommon for institutions to put a limit on the amount of credit hours they will allow a student to transfer in from another school. Be certain you know if there is a limit and what that limit is before you transfer.
  • Credit hours awarded for life experience, not-for-credit courses, workshops or seminars are unlikely to transfer. When registering for courses you plan to transfer in the future, be aware that credits for pass/fail courses or other not-for-credit work may not transfer. In addition, courses taken at non-collegiate institutions such as government agencies, corporations and firms may not transfer.
  • If you know you will be transferring from a community college to a four-year institution, read the institution’s policy on transfer credit hours prior to enrolling in classes at the community college. Look for community colleges that have established written arrangements with 4-year colleges and universities to accept credits earned at the community college.
  • Do not rely solely on an unofficial transcript evaluation to determine how much of a new school’s program you must complete. Some schools offer initial, unofficial transcript evaluations based on copies of transcripts from a prior school that the student has in his or her possession. You may wish to delay your registration and attendance in classes at a new school until you receive an official transcript evaluation from the new school so you know exactly how much of the program you will be required to complete. This will provide an accurate picture of how much more it will cost you to complete that program. However, the official evaluation most often occurs after the school has received an official transcript directly from the prior institution. Keep in mind that some schools will not release an official transcript if you have any unpaid bills or outstanding charges.
  • Graduation Rate. It is always a good idea to know the graduation rate of a school prior to enrolling. This rate will give you a better idea of how successful the school is at retaining its undergraduates. The College Navigator is an excellent source for finding a school’s graduation rate.
  • Default rate in the Stafford Loan Program. Be sure to check out a school’s default rate in the Stafford Loan Program. If graduates of the institution default, or fail to repay their student loans at a high rate, it could be an indicator that students are not finishing their programs, are unable to find employment in their fields or are not satisfied with their program. You can check a school’s Stafford Loan default rate here.
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