Community college is becoming a more viable, attractive option for high school graduates. Students may choose to attend community college due to its affordable cost, academic flexibility, its proximity to home, or to improve their academic record before transferring schools.
Yet four-year colleges can offer students unparalleled learning opportunities and career growth. Because of this, it’s no surprise that many community college students would like to transfer to a university. In fact, four out of five community college students want to transfer to a four-year school.
Transferring schools should be an exciting and rewarding experience, but there are a few things you should know about first:
Narrow Your Search as Quickly as Possible
This may be easier said than done, but it is important to find three to four schools you are interested in transferring to. Doing this within the first year of enrolling in community college will give you plenty of time to make sure the institutions have the areas of focus you are interested in studying, the support services you will need, and are at a price point you are comfortable paying. Limiting your search will also allow you to have a more informative and quality experience with each school.
Find Out Which Classes Will Transfer
Community colleges regularly set up articulation agreements with four-year schools. An articulation agreement outlines which classes will transfer over, as well as how many credits the four-year school is willing to accept. Some schools will accept all of your credits, whereas some will only accept a small portion of your credits.
If you have decided which school to attend, and they are only willing to accept one year of transfer credits, you should start the application process before earning an associate degree. While graduating with your associate is typically the most affordable option, there are a few cases where it can add time and increase the overall cost of your education.
But, you can save yourself time and money by researching what type of transfer agreements are set between your community college and prospective four-year college(s).
Know the Deadlines
Do not wait until the last minute before applying to four-year schools. Many four-year schools have strict transfer application deadlines in February, March, or April. Waiting to start the application process can postpone your start date to the following spring semester. Identify which term you would like to start, and try to begin the application process one full year in advance. This will give you plenty of time to put together an application. You will also have ample time to interpret your transfer credit and financial aid awards.
Keep in mind, you have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year to be eligible for financial aid. Contact your prospective school’s financial aid or admissions department. Both can assist you on filing for financial aid well in advance. Don’t forget to ask them about scholarships as well.
Speak with Advisors
Academic and transfer advisors can be wonderful resources when exploring transfer options—so don’t feel like you have to go through this process alone. Advisors can be helpful when it comes to scholarship opportunities, unique programs at schools in the area, or connecting you with representatives from the school(s) you are interested in. Many of them went through the transfer process themselves, or are alumni of the school(s) you are interested in attending. Don’t be afraid to use your network.
Attend Events on Your Desired Campus
It’s important to immerse yourself into your possible new community as quickly as possible. Attend an open house, take a campus tour, watch a basketball game—just get on campus. If you’re an online student or can’t travel, check out virtual clubs and organizations, such as the school’s Facebook page. This will help you access their community and figure out if it’s a good match.
Whenever I talk to a student that transferred from community college to a four-year school, they almost always say, “I picked this school because it just felt right.” Don’t underestimate your gut feeling. If everything about the school fits, go for it.