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How to Transfer Colleges: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Transfer Colleges: Step-by-Step Guide
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Posted in category Learners by

Transferring to another college can seem complicated and confusing but with the right information and tools, it can be a smooth process. Whether you’re looking to transfer to a four-year college from a community college or transfer some college credits from one university to another, we’ve outlined below the steps you’ll follow to transfer colleges.

Research and Select a College

The first step in transferring colleges is to determine which college you want to transfer to. The sooner you can determine which school you want to transfer to, the better you can plan your courses to maximize transferability. So if you’re planning to attend a community college then transfer to a four-year university, the best time to decide which college you will transfer to is before enrolling in a community college! At the end of this blog, we share our top pick for a transfer-friendly community college.

There are a couple of different things you’ll want to keep in mind when selecting a new college. First, consider why you’d like to transfer and make a list of what you’d like your new college to have (classroom environment, academic programs, social activities, geographic area, etc.) so you know what to look for. Knowledge to Work’s Services Search tool can help you find colleges by zip code and by the services it offers (such as transfer agreements, online courses, tutoring services, etc.).

Next, determine if your current college has any transfer agreements with other colleges. Many community colleges have transfer agreements with four-year universities, but some four-year schools maintain transfer agreements with one another as well. These agreements could include guaranteed admission to a university or guaranteed credit transfers if certain conditions are met. As transfer agreements usually offer the easiest path to transfer success, start there to determine if any of the colleges your current school maintains a transfer agreement with (if any) would meet your needs. Some universities even have online tools to show you which courses taken at a certain community college will transfer to their school, which can help you plan your courses before transferring.

You’ll also want to pay attention to any upcoming transfer events. Some colleges host transfer days for potential transfer students where you may be able to meet potential future classmates, learn about special programs or financial aid offerings that are unique to transfer students at that university, meet with academic or financial aid advisors, and generally learn what the process of transferring to that college would be like. These events can help you decide which college to transfer to!

Determining Which College Credits Will Transfer

Once you’ve chosen the school you want to transfer to, the next step involves finding out which credits from your current college will transfer to your target transfer college. Most universities will accept at least some college credit as transfer credit from another college, while others will accept all college credits from accredited colleges, and some will not accept any transfer college credit.

Talk to advisors at both your current school and the school you’d like to transfer to for help at this stage. Verify the details of any transfer agreements or requirements with these advisors, including whether you need to maintain a certain GPA, have completed a certain number of credits, have earned a certain grade in any courses you want to transfer, etc. Academic advisors can also help you understand the requirements of the application process for transfer students, which brings us to the next step.

Applying to Colleges as a Transfer Student

Finally, you’re ready to apply to the college you’d like to transfer to! Keep in mind that the college application forms you fill out, the documents you’ll need to submit with your application, and the application deadline may all be different for transfer students than for first-year college students. Again, speaking with an academic advisor at the college you’re applying to can help you navigate this process.

Your transfer application may include an application form, recommendation letters, an application essay, college transcripts, high school transcripts, or standardized test scores. The application materials you’ll need to submit will depend on the college you’re applying to and may be different depending on how many credits you’ve earned (if you’re transferring colleges after one year or less, for example, typically your high school transcript and standardized test scores carry more weight than someone applying to transfer after completing more college credits).


For guidance in preparing your transfer application essay, we recommend the following resources with both information on transfer college essays and transfer college essay examples:

Investigate Financial Aid Options

In addition to the normal applications you may already be familiar with to apply for financial aid (such as the FAFSA), you’ll want to investigate other financial aid opportunities that may be available to you at your new school. Some colleges provide scholarships that are only available to transfer students, for example. Meet with a financial aid advisor at the school you’d like to transfer to for help.

After Transferring Colleges

Once you’ve been accepted to a new school, be sure to take advantage of any of the activities or programs offered to transfer students. These programs can help you settle in at your new school, make friends with other transfer students, and support you during the next stage of your academic journey.

A Final Tip: A Transfer-Friendly College

If you’re interested in attending a transfer-friendly community college to later transfer to a four-year university, we recommend checking out our partner institution Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC). LFCC offers over 75 degree and certificate programs to choose from and has over 40 guaranteed transfer agreements with other colleges and universities. LFCC also offers many of its courses (and even full programs) online.

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Learn how to transfer from one college to another in this blog post!

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