Although transferring from community college to a four-year university is often less difficult than it may seem, it’s likely to be a hassle if you’re under prepared. Regardless of your circumstances, the best thing to do is plan. This will alleviate much of your stress in the future. No matter what your standing is, you can start addressing the nuances of your college transfer now.
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Here are 6 tips to focus on when transferring from community college:
1. Transfer your credits. Transfer credits are a huge chunk of the transferring process. Even if you have a rough idea of where you want to go or what kind of field you want to go into, make sure you are taking the right classes to accomplish this. Most community colleges have a clear agreement with a four-year university on credit transfers, which will help you seamlessly slip out of the former and into the latter. However, that may not always be the case! Research the institutions you are thinking about attending; almost every college website has information on which community colleges they are willing to take credit from and (usually) how it might transfer. Colleges will also have information on whether SAT and ACT scores need to be submitted again (it may be one or the other). For the majority of transfer students, standardized test scores are unnecessary if you have enough college credit—typically around 30 credit hours. This information can generally be found under the admission requirements for transfer students on most college websites.
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Universities vary in their requirements and regulations, so it’s important to look further than a website if there isn’t enough information provided. The best thing to do is to call or e-mail an adviser at the prospective school if you can’t find what you’re looking for online. Your community college advisers can help you tease out some transfer credit specifics, but they may not have the latest information from all the possible schools you may want to apply to. So reach out to someone at the school you’re interested in. If you find that your credits do transfer, make sure you meet minimum grade requirements (retaking classes is both costly and wasteful). Some schools take a C average in courses while others weigh overall GPA more heavily. Don’t leave these aspects up in the air; actively keep track of requirements and make sure you have someone to contact if you’re lacking information.
2. Focus on a goal. Stephen Handel, PhD, gives a very terse statement in terms of what NOT to do in community college: waste your time and money. He finds that “the real problem with many students at community colleges is they wander. They take a course here. They take a course there. They go part time. And they don’t really focus on any goal.” Even if you might not know in exactly what direction you’re headed, try to take classes based on tentative goals. At the very least, work toward a certain number of credit hours and make sure your grades are solid.
[Read more tips from a college transfer specialist.]
3. Use all of your resources. Your campus advisers are there with a motive: to give you guidance and advice while you’re forecasting your plans. With so much information available online, it’s easy to overlook the people who can help you, too. Advisers are a good primary or secondary resource alongside Internet research, especially if you don’t know how or where to start. Advisers can help you find online resources, send you in the right direction, help you plan the best community college course load for eventually transferring, and answer many of your questions. Your community college advisers consult with a lot of students in your situation. Chances are, if you have a question you can’t answer on your own, your advisers have been asked before and can help you.
Sometimes it can help to start your transfer search online so that you have an idea of what your options are. College websites are the best starting place. However, it is always a good idea to check with someone at the university to make sure policies haven’t been changed. In general, websites provide a hefty amount of information, including frequently asked questions, indexed information on specific types of transfers, and contact information. Remember that universities anticipate prospective students will look to their online resources, but it may not be enough or you may need clarification on what is needed of you. Additional websites that are not specific to a college, such as cpec.ca.gov (California based), give information on post-secondary education for all statewide universities. Virginia has an analogous website, and many other states provide similar data.
4. Don’t procrastinate. There are always deadlines for applications and financial aid. As a rule, leave a substantial amount of time to gather paperwork and other information; the technical side may be just as time consuming as the applications and essays themselves. Make sure you have wiggle room in your schedule. Sometimes colleges ask for a syllabus or information on the courses you’ve taken in community college to see if they are comparable in content to those of the university (which will take time to request or dig up). Often, their website will include a Transfer Equivalency System, which answers many questions you may have about transferring credits. All of this will take time. Don’t forget to account for all these elements in terms of your timeline.
5. Make sure you’re invested in the switch. Just because transferring from a community college seems like a good idea, that doesn’t mean it is right for you. One of the perks of community college is the financial aspect. Four-year colleges can cost more than community colleges. If you haven’t found your passion or your footing, going to a traditional university may only be detrimental to your finances. That being said, if another college is definitely where you’re headed, make sure you’re ready. You may find that many things are different, including your course load, class size, and financial obligations. If you find that you are not prepared, either academically or financially, and decide to take a gap year or two before heading into a four-year university, apply and plan just the same. It’s much easier with the support and guidance of your community college. Then, if you’re accepted, you can simply defer acceptance and attend the university when things are more settled for you.
Also, don’t forget to factor the application fee into your budget. University websites often provide this information up front. Similarly, don’t apply to places that you’re unlikely to attend. Narrow down and aim for a few solid choices. Application fees can get pricey, so you don’t want to splurge just to “see if you get in.”
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6. Don’t forget to network. Make sure to maintain good relationships with professors and faculty throughout your college experience. People always have connections and, most importantly, can write killer recommendation letters. Additionally, these people may have insight into things you haven’t considered and can give you additional guidance and advice. There’s never a downside to having connections and healthy relationships within your academic circles.
Overall, the transfer process may seem like a huge endeavor, but addressed practically, their is no reason that the transition cannot be a smooth one as long as you are willing to plan ahead and take advantage of all your resources.
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