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How to Get the Most Out of Your Credits When Transferring

By Matt Lauzon
February 21, 2018

Many students enroll in community college with the intention of transferring to a four-year college later on. With a bachelor’s degree becoming increasingly desirable—even for many entry-level roles—students are looking for more affordable ways to earn their bachelor’s degree.

One of the benefits of community college is the opportunity to earn credits at a low cost that can then be transferred into a bachelor’s degree program.

While transferring credits can be cost-effective and beneficial for the student, there are some tips you should know beforehand.

Apply as Early as Possible and Submit All Transcripts

Give yourself plenty of time to apply. A transfer credit award can take anywhere from two to six weeks to be completed by a four-year college. Applying ahead of time gives you an opportunity to receive your transfer credit award early and enroll in the appropriate courses well before they fill up.

Remember to submit all the transcripts you have. You can request your transcripts through your registrar’s office, either on campus or online. Missing transcripts will prevent your transfer credit award from being completed, or will keep you from receiving credit from courses you’ve taken in the past. Keep in mind, if you attended a two- or four-year college prior to the institution you’re currently attending, you’ll have to reach out to that registrar’s office separately.

Applying early also gives you an opportunity to challenge the transfer credit award. If you didn’t receive credit for a course, and believe you should have, you have the right to challenge it. That can increase the number of transfer credits you’re awarded and decrease the number of courses you have left to take.

If you’re currently working, or have industry experience, you may qualify for PLA credit. PLA stands for “Prior Learning Assessment,” and is the process of awarding college credit for your relevant work experience. If you feel like there is a course or two in the curriculum that is repetitive— maybe you’ve worked in an accounting department and feel like you don’t need an intro-level accounting course—let your advisor know. PLA credit is completely free of charge.

Know Which Courses to Take

An academic advisor can be a valuable resource for any student. One of the biggest mistakes students make is signing up for courses without first consulting their advisor. Not only can he or she assist you with mapping out your two years in community college, and ensure you finish on time, but he or she can also advise you on which courses to take to ensure that you’re in the best position to transfer into the four-year college of your choice.

Some four-year colleges can have strict or confusing transfer guidelines, and advisors are a tremendous resource to help you navigate them.

Understand Cutoffs

This goes without saying, but do your best. Many students think that any course will be transferable as long as they didn’t receive an “F.” This is not the case. At Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies, we will only award credits from courses in which students received a “C” or higher. Most schools do have a cutoff, so do your due diligence to understand what that cutoff is before you apply.

Most four-year colleges also have a cutoff point when it comes to the total number of transfer credits they’re willing to award. At Northeastern, we’re willing to accept 50 percent of a bachelor’s degree through transfer credit, so if your degree is 120 credits, students can transfer up to 60. It’s also important to remember that other schools may have a cutoff point of less than 60 credits. Make sure you know where you stand before applying.

Are you interested in learning more about transferring into a bachelor’s degree completion program? Download our guide below to learn more.

About Matt Lauzon
Matt Lauzon is an assistant director of undergraduate admissions at Northeastern University.