BLOG: All Things Higher Ed

How to keep your credits during your college transfer

Every year, millions of savvy students obtain post-secondary education at a community college; perhaps you’re one of them. Community colleges are often closer to home and they frequently have less-strict enrollment requirements. 

However, if your long-range plans include earning a bachelor's degree or higher, you'll eventually need to transfer the credits you've earned at community college to a four-year college or university. Students who didn't plan accordingly may be in for a rude surprise when attempting to transfer credits. Many factors impact whether the credits you've worked so hard to earn will transfer toward your four-year degree. 

Your academic advisor at community college can help, but you shouldn't rely on them completely, especially if you're planning to transfer to a new school. The best course of action involves talking with someone at your transfer institution early on, so you'll know which general education classes to take and what the transfer policies are.

Don't lose credits when you transfer schools. Learn more about transferring to Central Michigan University and check out our transfer simulation tool.

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How many credits do you need to graduate?

Each degree has its own credit requirements, though they may vary slightly between institutions. In general, you'll need at least:

  • 60 credits to earn an associate degree.
  • 120 credits to earn a bachelor's degree.
  • An additional 30 to 60 credits to earn a master's degree.

When you consider that most college courses are worth between three and four credits each, it becomes easier to figure out how many classes you must take to earn your specific degree. However, the classes you take at your community college must transfer into your planned course of study. Otherwise, they'll simply fall into the extracurriculars category, and you won't be able to use them toward your degree. This is where many students become discouraged.

Common issues that can affect transferability

Do you have questions about transferring credits from one college to another? These answers may help:

Only a certain number of credits may be eligible to transfer

Many four-year institutions allow students to transfer up to 60 credits toward their bachelor's degrees. So, if you went that extra mile at community college and took additional electives to pump up your transfer application, it may have all been in vain. Make sure you understand exactly how many credits are transferrable before you begin tacking on extra coursework.

Your grades matter

Most four-year institutions have set limits on what grades they'll accept, oftentimes a “B” grade or better. So, if you earned a few "Cs" or even the occasional "D" in community college, your credit for that class may be lost. What does that mean for you? You'll have to take the class, or its equivalent, over again, effectively paying for the same class twice.

Some classes may not transfer

Then there are classes you take that simply aren't transferrable. Many students who earn Associate of Applied Science degrees run into this problem when it's time to transfer credits. Because applied science degrees are usually career degrees instead of transfer degrees, they often involve specialized coursework. This coursework is designed to prepare students to enter a career directly after community college. As a result, some of those specialized classes won't transfer toward a four-year degree. Though you may have earned 60 hours obtaining your associate degree, you may find only 50 hours actually transfer. This means you'll have to earn those 10 lost credits over again by taking additional classes at your new college.

Lack of accreditation

Accreditation is a big issue. For example, if you earned your credits from an unaccredited institution, none of your credits may be transferrable. That's quite the blow to suffer when it comes time to transfer. But what, exactly, is accreditation?

If your community college is accredited, this means it has been examined by accreditation authorities and meets the minimum state or federal education requirements. In other words, it's teaching students what they need to know to succeed in their intended field. Some individual programs of study, such as nursing, may also be accredited.

Always research your choice of community college, or any college, really, to ensure it’s accredited before you spend time and money attending classes.

How to transfer credits from one college to another

When it comes time to transfer, you'll work with a transfer advisor who can help lead you through the process. However, by preparing early and knowing exactly which courses will transfer into your desired course of study, you can save yourself from disappointment. This is when many students discover they'll need an additional three years to earn a degree that should only take two.

Choose a school that accepts transfer credits

Ideally, you'll already know where you're planning to attend and will have been preparing to transfer all along. But if you only decide at the last minute, you'll need to find a four-year institution that accepts the transfer of credits. Don't panic. Nearly all four-year colleges accept transfer credits from accredited institutions.

Understand the school's transfer policies and requirements

When you find a school that piques your interest, make sure you read through the school catalog. This will help you better understand their policies and requirements, including those geared toward transfer students.

Send transcripts to the new school

Once you've chosen your school, your next step will be applying for admission. During this process, you'll request that your official community college transcript be sent to your new college with your application. Your application and your transcript are what the four-year university will use to determine whether to grant you admission.

Meet with an advisor to review credits before enrolling in classes

Upon acceptance, you'll want to contact the school and meet with a transfer advisor from your intended program of study. Your advisor will have a copy of your transcript and will be able to tell you how many of your credits are transferrable. They'll also help you pick out the classes you'll take in the new semester. They can also put you in contact with other resources, such as financial aid.

Transfer to CMU today

If you're considering transferring previously earned college credits from a two-year college to a four-year college, we invite you to explore the many programs available at Central Michigan University. At CMU, we welcome transfer students from many institutions, and our minimum grade requirement for transfer credits is a "C." For more information, contact our admission office, or visit our website for help.

Central Michigan University offers 200 undergraduate and graduate programs in areas such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, healthcare, the arts, and more. And we're sure you'll find the right one for you. Contact us today to learn more.

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