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Enrolling in College? Ask These Questions About Their Credit Transfer Policy First

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Transferring college credits can save you time and money. Although each institution follows its own policies and procedures, these questions will help you find the answers you need to better navigate the credit transfer process.

Paving the Way for a Smooth Credit Transfer

Whether you're earning credit-by-exam, transferring directly from another university or going back to finish your degree, your existing credits could give you a head start toward earning your college diploma. Make sure you get the right information about the credit transfer process before you enroll in your new college: Use these questions as a guide to help make the most out of the credits you've already earned.

Does Your Former School Meet Accreditation Standards?

First and foremost, you have to figure out which types of accreditation your new college accepts for credit transfers. You may have completed coursework at a legitimately accredited school that still doesn't meet your chosen college's standards - and that might stop your credit transfer plans in their tracks.

There are many local and national accrediting agencies. Some of them only accredit courses within certain subject areas. Did you earn your college credits at a school within the United States or one of its territories? If so, you can use this searchable database from the U.S. Department of Education to discover how your former school is accredited.

Studying up on accreditation standards for your new school will help you know whether you can transfer your existing course credits.
If you attended a school outside of the United States, finding out if your chosen college will accept its credentials could be a bit more complicated. You will need to have your foreign education credentials evaluated. NAFSA: Association of International Educators provides this comprehensive guide to help you select an appropriate evaluation agency.

Will Credits Transfer One-for-One?

If you've ever exchanged foreign currency, you know that a British pound or a Japanese yen may not be equal in value to an American dollar. Likewise, your new college might count the three credits you earned elsewhere as a one-credit course.

Just like foreign currency exchange, credits earned at one school may not be worth the same at another school.

If you're trying to meet certain credit requirements for graduation - especially if you want to finish your degree in less time - it's important to determine how many credits your existing coursework will be worth. As always, avoid assumptions and ask open-ended questions to steer clear of unforeseen setbacks close to graduation.

Will Your Credits Be Accepted as Equivalents for Specific Courses?

Each institution may present topics and courses differently. Your chosen college may be reluctant to accept a course with similar curriculum as a substitution for a course you need.

There are many considerations you must make if you
You can work with someone in the admissions office to negotiate for credit transfer. The class syllabus from your completed course can show in detail what topics were covered. A list of the books and resources used will also help your new school evaluate the work you have done.

You might even ask the professor who taught your completed course to speak with the subject's department chair at your new college. If your previous coursework is deemed acceptable, the department chairperson at your new school could recommend granting your credit transfer.

Is There a Limit to the Number of Credits You Can Transfer?

Most colleges and universities will only take a fixed number of credits from another accredited institution. The number of credits accepted can be as few as fifteen or as many as ninety.

For example: You may have ninety credits you'd like to transfer, but the institution you want to attend will only accept half of them. If this is the case, will your chosen college still fit in with your degree timeline or your financial considerations?

Leveraging Your Accomplishments

Your credits from completed college courses can be a great asset as you move forward to the next phase of your academic career. With careful planning and research, you can increase the likelihood that your prospective college will accept your credit transfer request - turning your past achievements into the cornerstone of your future degree.

Transferred course credits can bring you closer to graduation.

By Michelle Baumgartner
March 2017
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