If you’re a recent high school graduate who is considering alternative paths to your degree, a current college student who is thinking of transferring, or an individual already undergoing the transfer process, it’s important to thoroughly research and understand both the process and the requirements to do so successfully.

There are various benefits and risks involved with transferring colleges, but by knowing which colleges value transfer students, understanding what schools are looking for, and noting the requirements of your desired degree, you can approach this process with confidence.

What Is a Transfer Student?

A transfer student is anyone with a high school diploma, General Equivalency Diploma (GED), or High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) score report who is a full-time or part-time student looking to change institutions. In other words, transfer students start their college career at one school, and after completing coursework and earning credits, decide to transfer to another school to earn their degree. Oftentimes, transfer students do so to pursue a different major or course of study to ensure they graduate with more career options with the highest earning potential possible.

Transfer Credit Eligibility

Transfer credits are just that—credits that transfer from one school to another. While the requirements for transfer credits differ from school to school, typically, college-level courses where a student earns a “C” average or higher from an accredited college or university are accepted during the transfer process.

Students considering a transfer should work on their grades before requesting a change to ensure they are eligible for even the most stringent institutions. This requires extensive research of prospective transfer schools to determine which courses are eligible for transfer. Schools also look at how recent credits are earned, as well as how relevant they are to the transfer student’s desired course of study.

How to Transfer College Credits

While transferring credits may seem like a quick and easy process, there are several steps you should take to ensure your college credits transfer to your new school.

1. Determine if Transferring Is the Right Choice

It’s important to take the time to determine whether transferring schools is ultimately the right choice for you. Sometimes students pinpoint small, but ultimately changeable elements of their college experience as reasons to transfer. If the motivation is related to conflicts with roommates, or dissatisfaction with classes or advisors, those are all components that can be addressed and changed without transferring.

If, however, your decision to transfer is to complete your degree, or switch to a program that offers better job and earning potential, you can feel confident you’re on the right path for the right reasons.

2. Search for the Right Institution

Finding the right institution is a critical component of successfully transferring schools. If you’re planning to transfer, you should compile a list of schools that offer your desired major, accept most of your credits and coursework, and provide the support needed to obtain your degree. Scheduling an on-site or online visit is an important part of this search and will help you determine if a prospective college or university is a good cultural fit for you.

3. Evaluate Other Financial Options

For many students, financial aid is an important part of their transfer decision. In fact, many students make the decision to transfer solely based on their financial standing. Those who were unable to secure financial aid or scholarship to attend their first choice school may pursue a more affordable pathway to their degree, such as community college. The admission counselors at potential transfer colleges and universities can provide incredible financial resources and education, as well as new and affordable pathways to a degree for students who need additional assistance.

In Massachusetts, this pathway is called MassTransfer. MassTransfer partners, such as Regis College, provide more attainable pathways to a bachelor’s degree. MassTransfer students begin their academic career at community college with the intention of eventually transferring to an institution. With this streamlined admission pathway, students are able to save money during their first one to two years of college while still earning a degree from a prominent institution.

4. Familiarize Yourself With the School’s Transfer Credit Policies

Every college and university has their own set of transfer credit policies and it’s crucial to be informed of these before applying. Ensure you are fully informed of each school’s transfer credit policy, and understand the specific guidelines each school has for transfer credits.

For example, institutions like Regis College may have different or more advanced requirements for transferring into programs like nursing or dental hygiene than other institutions. “For many classes, we may accept a C or above for transfer credits, but for the nursing program or sonography, for instance, we may require a B minus,” explains Alexander Patturelli, director for Undergraduate Admission at Regis College. “So students will really need to pay attention to those specific requirements. If they’re planning to transfer to complete a bachelor’s in English, those C grade credits will transfer, but they wouldn’t count toward other programs,” he cautions.

Patturelli also encourages students to pay attention to a school’s AP transfer credit requirements. This ensures you won’t need to re-take some of the pre-requisite courses already on your record. “A student may have attended a school that only required a three on their AP exam, whereas we require a four. So they could transfer over and find that they need to retake an entry-level course that they already thought they passed,” he explains.

5. Gather the Required Materials

The materials colleges require of their transfer students vary from one institution to the next. Many schools like Regis College require writing samples and previous coursework records in addition to other materials. All transfer colleges require your transcript to verify your credits and coursework to date, so it’s important to know the process for obtaining your full transcripts from your current school.

6. Connect With the School’s Admission Office

Working with a counselor in a school’s admission office allows students to gain valuable insights into the requirements and process of transferring. Ask professionals these questions can help ease the transition into a new school. Admission counselors can set up virtual or on-site tours to help students find a school that’s the best fit.

Successful Credit Transfer Requires a Well-Rounded Approach

Transferring colleges has become an incredibly common element of postsecondary education. In fact, studies conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center suggest nearly one-third of students transfer schools at some point before completing their degree. Due to its prevalence, there are many resources available to help along the way.

If you’re considering becoming a transfer student, make sure to evaluate your motivations for transferring, assess your current financial situation, thoroughly research potential schools, and make connections with dedicated transfer admission professionals. This well-rounded approach to the transfer process will ensure you make the right decision to achieve your goals.

Schedule a campus visit at your prospective college to learn more about transfer policies and receive guidance on navigating the transfer process.

Download the transfer admission comparison worksheet.

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