If you're one of the many students in the United States who plans to transfer at some point in your academic career, finding out which colleges will accept your transfer credit is an essential part of your educational journey.
Transferring is Pretty Common
According to the NCES, more than a third of students transfer at least once in their journey to complete a four-year degree.
Additionally, 11% of students transfer twice, and 2.3% transfer three or more times. However, statistics also show that many students have difficulty transferring their credit. The bottom line is, if you took credit at one college that you are unable to transfer, it was time and money that could have been spent elsewhere.
What is Transfer Credit?
Transfer credit is credit that you take at one college or university that, when you go to a different college or university, you try to transfer so it will apply towards your degree.
No college is required to accept transfer credits, unless there is an articulation agreement or state policy in place (explained below). Therefore, it's up to you to do the work to make sure the college you plan to attend will accept your credit.
If you attend College X and complete 12 credits, and then transfer to College Y, you will ask College Y to look at those 12 credits to see if they will accept them. It's College Y's decision whether they are accepted, unless there is an articulation agreement in place.
Articulation agreements are similar to contracts, usually between a community college and a four-year college, which indicates which credits will be accepted. If College X and College Y have a transfer agreement, you can easily look at it and see which credits College Y will accept. Sometimes articulation agreements are specific to certain majors, so it's important to read them carefully. Either the community college or the four-year college will be able to provide you with the articulation agreement.
Similarly, some states have policies in place that indicate which credit will transfer between community colleges and four-year institutions within your state.
Transfer Credit Limitations
Most colleges will have some sort of limit on a grade that is required to transfer credit. Many colleges require that you earn a C in order for them to accept transfer credit, but some might require a B in a certain course.
Transfer Credit Limits
Additionally, most colleges have a limit on the amount of credit they will accept. For example, they may only accept 60 transfer credits, or they might require that 36 of your last 60 credits be earned at their college. Bottom line, the odds of you successfully transferring in 109 credits to earn a 120-credit degree are very, very slim. Remember that if you attended a college that uses quarter or trimester hours, the college will recalculate them to semester hours, or vice versa.
Some colleges also have time limits on credit, which may particularly impact older students returning to the classroom. For example, a college might require that credit was earned within the last 10 years in order to award credit for it. These types of policies should be either outlined on their website, or easy to find out through a call to their admissions office.
Lastly, all colleges are accredited in some way in order to qualify for Federal Aid. However, some colleges don't view all accreditation equally in regards to transfer credit. A college might require that credits be earned at a regionally accredited institution (as opposed to national accredited) in order to transfer. Ask the admissions department about this!
Types of Transfer Credit
Colleges accept transfer credit differently. Some might be more willing to transfer general education classes rather than major classes. For example, maybe you hope to be a business major and you completed an upper-level business course at your community college. Some four-year colleges might take the credit and apply it to your business major, while others might only allow it to come in as elective credit.
Most colleges will probably take your AP or CLEP scores, but it might transfer differently to different schools. Credit earned while in the military or competency-based might vary from college to college as well. Ask!
How Do I Find Out Which Colleges Will Accept My Transfer Credit?
Some colleges, like Penn State, have a specific transferring credit tool on their website so you can check on course transferability. The community college you plan to attend may also have resources. Houston Community College, for example, has a University Pathways webpage that provides a list of colleges where students have transferred, as well as a transfer checklist to help you through the process. However, in almost all cases, you will have to be proactive.
Many colleges will not perform a full transfer evaluation until after you have applied and been accepted. A transfer evaluation is when a college goes through your transcript course by course and lets you know specifically what will transfer and, similarly, what won't transfer.
However, you can likely contact the admissions office of the college where you plan to transfer and ask them to help you determine the courses that will be more likely to transfer. If possible, contact them before you register for courses at your community college, so there is no time or money wasted with courses that won't transfer.
Keep in mind, if you find out that the college you were accepted to isn't accepting as much transfer credit as you would like, look elsewhere. Apply to other colleges and see what they're willing to accept. You have bought and paid for your credits, so do your due diligence to make sure you can keep the credits when you transfer.