Guide to a Successful Transfer from a 2-Year to a 4-Year College

Starting your college education at a 2-year institution can be an economical way to dip your toes into the next big step after high school. If you have clear long-term career goals, you may be thinking about transferring into a 4-year university after finishing general education requirements and earning the Associate’s degree. However, many people who go to 2-year colleges don’t end up transferring successfully to a four-year college as planned.

Are you a high school senior planning to attend community college, or currently enrolled in a community college? Here are some steps you can take to boost your chances of making a smooth transition to a four-year college.

Ensure Credits are Transferable

Not all classes being offered at community colleges transfer over to meet general education requirements. This isn’t to say that you can’t take these classes, but just keep in mind that you may want to prioritize the ones that do transfer to avoid a delayed process. Ideally, before starting community college, it’s smart to consult an advisor on campus who can help guide you with what classes to take to stay on track for earning your Associate’s degree in two years and transferring into a 4-year college with your desired degree.

Select a Major As Soon As Possible

It’s easy to take your time and lose motivation and discipline in community college. If you want to graduate on time and move on to a 4-year institution though, we recommend selecting a major quickly and sticking with it. If you are still on the fence, you may spend the first quarter taking a variety of classes to get a feel for what interests you. The sooner you pick your major, the sooner you can get those required classes out of the way. This is especially the case for majors in the sciences, engineering, and nursing because these fields have a lot of prerequisites.

Have you taken several classes already, and still unsure of what you want to major in? Seek help at a career center, where you can take a career test and inquire about internships and work-study opportunities. These may help you better identify what you want your future career to look like.

Make a Plan

Going into community college with a plan to transfer will set you up for success. Once you decide on a major, you may visit your career transfer office and see what the academic path will be for it. Having a solid idea of what classes you will need to take will allow you to make progress. It may help to roughly map out what classes you’ll take each semester, and have a list of back-up classes as substitutes in case one or two get filled up.

Network with Advisors

Don’t be afraid to reach out to transfer advisors at your community college, and speak with professors in your intended academic field after class hours. You never know what kind of resources you can get from them, and you will learn something from everyone you meet. Remember that you are not alone during this process!

Go See Potential Universities

Do you have your heart set on a four-year college already? Find some time to check out the campus, and talk to the transfer advisors there. If you have multiple schools you want to apply for, visit as many as you can. Unfortunately, transfer requirements may differ from one department to another at a college, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t lose out on too many credits during your transfer. By speaking with a transfer advisor, you will get a better idea of what will transfer and what won’t.

Be Aware of Costs

4-year institutions are typically more expensive than community colleges. It can be quite an adjustment for many financially, so it’s wise to get an idea of these costs before starting the transfer process. Keep in mind that if you are moving away from home or out-of-state, you’ll be responsible for room and board fees on top of regular tuition costs. Transportation and dining are also essential expenses to account for.

Most colleges and universities offer scholarships and financial aid to transfer students. If you aren’t sure where to start with taking advantage of these, you may want to speak with a financial aid administrator at your community college. He or she will be able to guide you through the process, as well as inform you of important deadlines.

Common Q&A

Finding a place at a new college or university can be daunting. Let’s address the common questions and concerns that transfer students often have.

Q: What are the general steps involved in the transfer process?

A: Students must send in their transfer applications, and have their high school and college transcripts sent to the college(s) they are applying to. Once these steps are completed, an evaluation of previous credit, as well as the admission decision, is made and you will hear back on whether you got accepted or not.

Q: How early should transfer students start the process of applying to four-year colleges of their choice?

A: If you wish to begin in the fall semester, then we advise starting the application process in January. If you want to start in the winter semester, then it would be best to start in October.

Q: How does a student’s GPA transfer to a new college?

A: It doesn’t. Students begin their college careers with a 0.0 GPA.

Q: What are some resources students can use to determine which credits will transfer?

A: Students can visit their college campus and speak with a transfer advisor directly. This may not be doable for all, especially for students applying to out-of-state colleges. If this is the case, they can always send in a transcript for review and get answers that way. Often, university websites will provide information on credit transfer as well.

Q: What are some common mistakes transfer students make during their transition, and how can they be avoided?

A: Getting started on the application process too late, missing deadlines, and sending transcripts to the wrong office are common mistakes. We recommend students to contact the transfer admissions representative at their desired four-year institution to get up-to-date deadline information, as well as proper application guidelines.