5 Things to Know About Transferring College Credits

Transferring College Credit Facts

  • Accreditation Matters
  • Preparation
  • College Credit Transfers
  • The Transfer Process
  • Semesters vs. Quarters

Anyone heading off to college should be aware of certain facts before they try to transfer to a four-year university. Transferring college credits to a university may be a frustrating or disappointing experience because most of these higher learning institutions have strict accreditation and curriculum standards. Knowing the five facts that follow will help readers avoid these academic headaches.

Accreditation Matters

Almost all regionally accredited institutions only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions. This means that most state colleges and universities only accept credits from each other, so students transferring from nationally and non-regionally accredited colleges may have to start their degrees over. Area specific regional accrediting bodies include the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. National organizations with regional accreditation include the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

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Many students unfortunately fail to plan long-term for their academic goals, so they may experience transfer rejections. Be sure to come up with a documented plan that is supported by evidence. For example, once you establish which two-year college and four-year university that you want to attend, review both of the course catalogs. Make an organized list of community college classes that you want to attend and their corresponding university equivalents. Email this list to academic advisors at both higher learning institutions with a request to have them provide preemptive transfer feedback. This will help you to select the right community-college level classes to take. It will also serve as valuable documentation if academic or credit transfer standards change.

College Credit Transfers

Curriculum equivalency matters when transferring credits between schools with mutually accepted accreditation standards. That is, a college credit must have the same or higher level of academic quality, integrity and rigorousness in order to be accepted by another school. Be prepared to defend your college credits with detailed syllabi, assignment overviews and established learning outcomes. A letter from a previous school instructor or administrator may help if the transfer school rejects a credit transfer. Most classes that are general education, lower-division and undergraduate-level will probably be accepted by the transfer school. No proper college will accept and apply undergraduate credits for graduate-level courses.

The Transfer Process

Almost all colleges and universities will require official transcripts. Be suspicious of any higher learning institution that accepts unofficial transcripts directly from students. Most schools now accept digital transcripts from official student service or academic email addresses. The traditional method is an officially sealed copy of transcripts delivered through the USPS. Once this arrives, the school’s admissions department will carefully compare the previous college class descriptions to the corresponding class descriptions. This process may take a few weeks because the new school must ensure that their high academic standards are being met or exceeded. Almost all schools require the student to receive a passing grade in order to transfer a credit.

Semesters vs. Quarters

College semesters and quarters actually refer to two different curriculum systems. A quarter system requires students to attend classes for four quarters every year. Although they vary in length, the typical quarter lasts 10 or 11 weeks and continues year round. A semester system requires students to attend classes for two semesters every year, which are usually the fall and spring, but they only last 13 to 15 weeks. Both academic systems allow students to graduate on schedule. These credit differences may create potential transfer challenges and confusion.

Transferring college credits will be a smooth process for anyone who uses the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation search tool here. Always verify accreditation before starting any online or on-campus degree program.

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