Transferring From a Two-Year to a Four-Year College? Tips for Success
You can save thousands of dollars by starting your education at a community college—and then switching to a four-year school. Studies show that students save approximately $6,500 in debt by taking this path rather than staying at a four-year college throughout their academic career. However, there are a few drawbacks to this strategy—including the fact that students who do adopt it frequently take more than four years to earn a degree. Here are some tips for avoiding pitfalls when switching from a two-year to a four-year degree.
Plan it out beforehand
Some colleges make it more difficult to transfer than others. Before choosing a community college, make sure you know which online Bachelor’s program you plan to transfer to—and what their policy is on transfer credits. Some community colleges work with four-year colleges in the area and serve as “feeder schools”—so they’re used to students transferring and have systems set up to facilitate the exchange. These are often called “articulation agreements.”
Ask questions about credits
Make sure the four-year college you’re considering will accept credits from the school you’re transferring from. Before you enroll in a community college, talk to your planned four-year school and ask them if they have special relationships with any community colleges and how they handle transfer credits. You don’t want to get to the four-year school only to find that they accept a limited number of credits.
Don’t switch types of school
If you’re switching to a traditional, on-campus school, be aware of the type of school you choose to spend your first two years in. Many traditional schools will not accept credits from schools that are for-profit, and some are reluctant to accept credits from even an accredited online college. If you’re going to school online, a traditional, on-campus school with an online component is a safer bet—but always talk to the four-year school first so you’ll be prepared.
Get good grades
This should be obvious—but if you’re planning to switch schools and you’re not sure if all of your credits will transfer, be sure you get good grades. Some schools have GPA minimums for the credits they will allow to transfer, and you will always have a better case if you can demonstrate you’ve been a strong student in your two-year program. Some four-year schools will require you to maintain a certain GPA in order to be accepted.
Complete the Associate’s degree. Even if your ultimate goal is the Bachelor’s, finish the degree. This will make it easier for you to transfer—and ensure you have a more consistent and solid record of credits—than if you just graduated with a lot of unrelated credits under your belt.
Pick your classes strategically
Not all classes transfer to other schools well. Major-related courses are the most likely to count for college credits at other schools, especially if there are direct equivalent courses at the school you are transferring to—but this varies from college to college. Talk to your academic advisor and the school you’re applying to later to make sure you understand which classes you take will likely be accepted—and be careful in choosing your classes at the two-year school.
If you can go to a two-year school with an articulation agreement with a four-year school, that’s the best situation. In this case, you will most likely be told exactly which classes to take in order to make a successful transfer within the program of your choice. But if you don’t have that, you will have to do more research to make sure you are choosing the right pair of schools—and plan out your first two years carefully.
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