By Amy Resnic
According to the Association of Community Colleges, approximately half of all college students begin their studies at two-year schools. There are two primary reasons why 50 percent of students transfer to four-year schools to complete a baccalaureate degree: the competitive U.S. job market and increased economic globalization.
Historically, the process of transferring from a community college has been difficult, primarily due to the fact that many courses are often viewed as remedial, having lower academic standards than similar courses offered at four-year schools. For this reason, four-year schools routinely reject most credits for transfer, making for an extremely frustrating process for students.
While the transfer process can still be complicated for students, the credit transfer situation has, and continues to improve. Community colleges are stepping up to the challenge of educating an increasing number of students by improving and establishing new courses that meet the standards of four-year colleges. For students who have properly planned their transfer, this equates to a less problematic process.
The transfer decision
Ideally, a student will be thinking, or perhaps has already decided, that he or she will eventually transfer to a four-year school before any community college courses have begun. Of course, not all students decide that far in advance. No matter when the decision is made, if a student is considering transferring, determining a desired major and career choice is essential for effective course planning.
The key to an easy transfer process is avoiding a class schedule filled with courses that will not transfer successfully to a four-year college. Most four-year colleges and universities have prerequisites that must be met during a studentӳ first two years of college. With good planning a student will be able to take the proper prerequisites, electives and general education requirements.
Comparing four-year schools
The next step after a decision has been made to transfer is to research and compare four-year schools. Schools that offer a studentӳ desired major, are geographically desirable, and within the studentӳ budget, should all be explored.
The most effective ways to research schools include:
- Looking at school Web sites for transfer information
- Visiting the schools
- Speaking with a counselor about program requirements
Important factors for consideration
The following factors should be considered when researching schools:
- Location ֠is the school desirable geographically?
- Tuition and other costs ֠is the school affordable?
- Available financial aid and scholarships ֠are these options and can they be continued if already receiving assistance?
- Academic program and majors ֠what is the reputation of the program of interest?
- Degree requirements and credit transfers ֠how many credits will be accepted for transfer and will graduation be attainable in a reasonable time?
- Campus housing ֠are the options desirable?
- Academic advising and other resources ֠are there strong advising services and other resources available such as a career center to help with job placement?
- Student activities ֠are there any extra-curricular activities of interest such as athletics or social organizations?
Working with an academic transfer advisor
Most community colleges and four-year schools have transfer advisors to help students through the process. Even if course requirements appear clearly in the college catalog or on the schoolӳ Web site, it is still essential to speak with an advisor, taking every step to avoid any mistakes in the transfer process.
A good advisor will help students prepare for transfer with the maximum amount of credit, into their program of choice. A transfer advisor will be able to compare courses to see what is eligible for transfer and advise about any of the collegeӳ articulation agreements. Articulation agreements are written agreements between two schools, usually a community college and a four-year school, that guarantees certain courses can be transferred from one institution to another.
Many state college systems publish detailed listings that show course equivalencies at four-year colleges within that system. Where articulation agreements are present, faculty advisors can help students examine the agreements and guide them regarding the courses that students must complete before transferring. Good advising avoids taking unnecessary courses, saving students time and money.
Completing the Application
Submission of an application to each chosen school is the final step in the transfer process. Some colleges give students the option to file applications on-line.
Filing usually includes:
- Application fee
- Copies of transcripts
- SAT, ACT, or other test scores
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
Finally, confirm any application filing deadlines. Schools may require applications up to a year in advance of enrollment date. Also, make sure to keep copies of all applications. Timely submission is the goal!
See Community Colleges: An Important Part of Higher Education and Community Colleges and Articulation Agreements for more information.