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Chronicle of Higher Ed News
College Transfer Timeline
Now that you’ve made the decision to start at a 2-year college with the intention of transferring to a 4-year school, you’ll need to start planning.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve bought yourself time and can slack off – quite the opposite! By planning ahead, you can avoid some of the common transfer mistakes that can cost you time, money, and heartache.
We also recommend printing our Ultimate College Transfer Checklist where you can fill in transfer deadlines specific to your schools.
Before You Enroll in a 2-Year School
So it begins…before you enroll in a 2-year school, do your research. Your local community college is a good place to start, but be sure to look around. Ideally your choice will have a variety of services to help ensure your continued success.
- Research two-year schools at least two months before you plan to enroll. Ask yourself:
- Is the school accredited? You can verify accreditation at the U.S. Department of Education.
- Will my credits transfer? Speak to the admissions office of both schools (2-year and 4-year) to verify this information.
- Is there a 2+2, transfer program or articulation agreement between the schools?
- Submit your application. If applicable, indicate on your application that your goal is to transfer.
- Fill out the FAFSA and apply for financial aid and scholarships.
- Speak to an advisor before enrolling for classes. Make sure he or she knows that you need to take credits that will transfer.
Your First Year
This is the most essential time in the life of a transfer student. Although there’s not much on the checklist, the work you do in year one will affect you far down the line. Most important is to do well academically and to take classes where the credits will transfer.
- Focus on your academic success. Aim for a 3.0 GPA or higher. If you do poorly in one class, ask if your school has a freshman forgiveness policy where you can retake it for a better grade.
- Connect with your professors. After all, soon you’ll need letters of recommendation!
- When enrolling for classes, speak to an advisor again. Always confirm that course credits will transfer.
Your Second Year
If you’ve enrolled in a 2+2 program, congrats! Your can skip many of the below items. For 2+2 transfer students, the timeline is the same as for year one – focus on your studies and make sure to take credits that will transfer.
For everyone else, year two is about keeping up your GPA and applying to 4-year schools. One transfer myth is that academics aren’t important after you’ve been accepted into your target school, but the truth is that schools can change their minds if your grades take a nosedive. Best advice: keep working hard.
- In the early fall, finalize your list of target transfer schools. Apply to as many schools as you want, but don’t overdo it. Include at least two safety schools.
- Request or download applications. Check to see if there’s a specific application for transfer students. Read all instructions carefully.
- Note submission deadlines (typically October through December), and organize applications chronologically based on deadlines.
- Ask current or former instructors to be a reference for you. Provide all materials (forms, instructions, envelopes, etc.) at one time, and give them at least two weeks to complete everything.
- Obtain the necessary transcripts (high school, college, SATs).
- Submit each transfer application before its deadline. If there are rolling admissions, submit your application as early as possible.
- Complete your FAFSA again, and be sure to complete additional financial aid forms, if a school requires it. Also search for scholarships, including those specific to transfer students.
- Choose a school, and accept.
Before You Enroll in a 4-Year School
Now is the time when those early decisions – choosing a 2+2 program or schools with an articulation agreement – will have a major impact. If you chose wisely and planned ahead, your credit transfer evaluation should go smoothly. If not, you may find yourself retaking classes, which could delay your graduation.
- Coordinate with your new school to complete a credit transfer evaluation.
- Appeal any credit transfer denials, if appropriate.
- Plan for your time at the new school. Enroll in classes as early as possible – matriculation may be more competitive than it was at your 2-year college. Also consider on-campus housing, especially if there’s a program specifically for transfer students. It could help you make friends and feel more comfortable in your new school.
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