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Can you go to Community College then Transfer to a University
Where to go to college is a huge decision. For some students, it means going straight into a four-year college or university; for others, it’s going to a community college first and then transferring to a four-year school. There are good and bad aspects to either option. Here are some of the pros and cons of the transfer route.
Pros of transferring
Transferring from a community college to a four-year school isn’t as crazy as it seems! For students who don’t feel fully ready to go off to a four-year college or who want to get their general courses out of the way to save money, starting at a community college is a great option.
- Community college is generally a lot cheaper than a traditional four-year college. Earning general education credits at a community college and transferring into a four-year school can help you save quite a lot of money.
- Community colleges help you explore different majors to help you get an idea of what you might want to study.
- Not only does going to a community college let you adjust to college coursework but it also allows you to stay close to home if you aren’t feeling ready to go out on your own just yet.
- Community colleges offer many more night courses, and class schedules are flexible for students who are also working to save money.
- For international students, attending a community college first helps for a smoother transition into a four-year college later on.
- You can earn your associate degree in about two years, so if something comes up that forces you to postpone a four-year college and go straight into the workforce, you can find plenty of jobs with this degree.
- Lots of states have special programs (articulation agreements) set up between in-state community colleges and public schools to make transferring easier.
- Your high school standardized tests scores might be less important in your transfer application (depending on the four-year school and how long you’ve been out of high school).
- Community colleges and four-year schools often have transfer counselors who can help you during process.
- You can meet other transfer students at your new school during the transfer orientation and maybe by living in a transfer student dorm.
Cons of transferring
Despite these good things about transferring, there are also some potential problems as well.
- The curriculum at a community college is more limited to general education classes and specific jobs (like medical technology, hospitality management, and aviation or automotive repair), so if you know exactly what you want to do in life (and it’s not covered at the community college), then you may be better off starting in that major at a four-year school.
- The workload is lighter, and although this sounds nice at first, you may not be fully prepared for the amount of work that is required at a four-year college.
- It might be harder to get into your four-year school as a transfer; admission rates tend to be slightly lower for transfer students.
- Transfer scholarships might be limited.
- You would miss many social opportunities and opportunities to meet people that are unique to freshman year.
- It can be harder to feel like you fit in at the university you are attending, especially with the people in your classes who have known each other for longer.
For many students, the transfer route is a good way to go; it helps you adjust to college courses and save up money before you head off on your own to a four-year university. Other students with a clear idea of what they want to study might be better off going straight into a four-year college. But no matter what your college decision, there is always a silver lining.
How to Successfully Transfer
If you are a community college student, here are 10 things that you can do to boost your chances of ultimately making a smooth transition to a four-year college.
1. Study for Placement Tests
Community colleges routinely require entering students to take placement tests in math and English. Studies show, however, that these tests are blunt instruments that unfairly consign too many students to remedial courses that do not offer credit. According to Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, 30% of the time, test takers are underplaced in English and math courses.
To avoid getting stuck in remedial classes for no credit, students should study for the placement tests. Go to the testing center and ask about the best ways to study. A staffer should be able to recommend materials.
According to a study by the Center for Community Student Engagement, almost half of colleges offer placement test study aids, but only 28% of students used them. One helpful and free test-prep resource is the Khan Academy.
2. Appeal the Placement Verdict
If you test into remedial courses, you should consider appealing. Students who show enough gumption to appeal are more likely to succeed in skipping remedial classes. A high school grade point average is more relevant than placement test results for predicting student success.
3. Don’t Front-Load General Education Credits
Although students assume they need to sample a wide variety of courses at the beginning of college, this will often lead to earning excess credits. Students fall into the trap of taking general education classes that won’t apply to their majors when they want to transfer.
Community colleges encourage this behavior by offering a cafeteria model of choices with an overwhelming number of disconnected courses and programs. “When they wander around in the general eds, they are going nowhere,” Jenkins said.
4. Don’t Delay Selecting a Major
“Community college students who successfully transfer are more likely to pick a major early,” said Natalie Jansorn, director of scholarship programs at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. This is especially important for majors in the sciences, engineering and nursing that have a lot of prerequisites.
Students should get a taste of a potential major, such as social and behavioral science, business, education or criminal justice, in their first semester. Not sure about a major? Seek help at the career center, where you can take a career test and ask about internships and work-study opportunities. Jansorn says you’ll be better off if you pick a major early, even if you decide to switch to another one.
5. Develop a Plan
It’s essential to start community college with a plan for how you are going to transfer. Go to your career transfer office and see what the academic path will be for a particular major. A growing number of community colleges, 250 by Jenkins’s estimate, offer guided academic pathways for students. Identifying a list of potential classes helps students make progress towards a goal.
6. Network with Advisors
It’s important to meet with transfer advisors at the community college and talk with professors in your intended academic field. You can learn from everyone you meet.
7. Take a Student Success Course
Community colleges routinely offer a student success course that shares critical information about studying and time management. Community colleges have reported that students who take these optional courses are more likely to stay in school and transfer to four-year universities.
In fact, a study from the Center for Community College Student Engagement concluded that students who complete a success course are more likely to earn better grades, have higher overall grade point averages and obtain degrees.
8. Check out Potential Universities
Early on, you need to know what kind of classes are required to transfer to four-year colleges and universities. It’s quite common for students to lose 10-15% of their credits during a transfer.
Talk to the transfer advisors at four-year institutions, as well as professors at your intended department. Unfortunately, transfer requirements can vary from department to department at a university, so you will also have to do your research on that level.
9. Check the Price
Be sure to understand what your costs will be at a four-year institution before transferring. Some universities offer net price calculators for transfer students. Many colleges and universities also provide scholarships and financial aid to transfer students. Schedule a talk with a financial aid administrator.
10. Hang in There
Although it can be tough to navigate the community college system and transfer successfully, the good news is that students who do persevere do just as well as students who start at four-year schools. You can get a great education at a community college, but to succeed, you need to be your own advocate.
With college prices soaring, more and more homeschool high schoolers are choosing to do their first 2 years at their local community college. I interviewed some of our many local homeschool graduates who started out at the local community college.
Here is what they told me about spending their first 2 years at community college and then transferring to a 4 year university:
- Many states have a tuition-free program for good students to go to the local community college. This is helps many students who need a financial boost. This program allows students to choose a major and earn credits toward that major. (You can read here about our local community college‘s SEED program.)
- Community colleges often are more student-success oriented than 4 year colleges. (Teachers are often engaged in helping students learn and do well.)
- Community college help hone student writing and study skills in a more relaxed atmosphere. This will be even cheaper if students test out of some classes. Make sure their writing skills are up to par by doing 7Sisters’ GREAT, no-busywork, level-able, comprehensive inspirational writing courses throughout high school (our writing courses-Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced levels were the writing success secrets of our kids- and many others).
- Community colleges often have smaller class sizes than a state university (although private 4-year colleges tend to specialize in small class sizes also).
- Because of the small size of each program, it is easy to for freshmen college students to get involved in community college major activities (if they give genuine effort).
- Not everything transfers. No matter what they tell you, it is likely that not everything will transfer. Your homeschool graduate can carefully check the transferability of courses, but the university can change this as new officials come into office at the school. That means 1 or more courses over.
- It might take 3 years to graduate after transfer. Despite your teen’s best efforts, transfer students often need an extra semester or 2 to graduate from their transfer schools. This is because the transfer university will likely have specific courses unique to that school that the students must take (usually beginning in freshman year)
- Sometimes there are wasted electives when transferring from community college. For instance, our local state university participates in the free-tuition program for the first 2 years. However, it doesn’t allow the students to choose a major until junior year. That means TONS of wasted “electives”.
- New kid on the block twice. This is one of the big complaints of the transfer students I talked to. They end up needing to make friends twice during college. That’s hard work (especially the second time around when most of the university students already know each other).
- Come in late on networking. One of the important parts of college (community or otherwise) is networking. College students should not simply be working on a diploma! They are working on a resume. Just as in high school, students need to network, make connections, have enriched experiences. When they come in 2 years into the program, some networking opportunities will have passed by. They must be very intentional about making themselves available for new opportunities.
Guide for Transferring from Community College to University
Transferring from community college to a university can be an excellent way to save money on a bachelor’s degree. But there’s just one problem: the transfer process can be a major headache. Depending on the schools you’re planning to attend, there could be a lot of red tape that you run into while attempting to transfer.
That’s why your best bet is to choose a school with a guaranteed transfer program (GTP), which is a program that guarantees an easy transfer process after you earn an associate’s degree at a community college. But if your dream school doesn’t have a GTP, don’t stress! Here’s a no-fuss guide for transferring from community college to a four-year school.
Start Studying for Placement Tests
Most community colleges require incoming students to take placement tests to get a sense of where they are academically. To make the transfer process easier, you definitely want to study for these tests! If you bomb a placement test, you’ll end up in remedial classes that offer NO credit. (Tip: Check out Khan Academy for some test prep resources and start brushing up on your math and English.)
While we’re on the subject of tests, you should also be aware that transferring from community college to a university doesn’t get you off the hook for taking college entrance exams. (Huge bummer, we know.) Even though most community colleges don’t require SAT or ACT scores, some universities and colleges — especially selective schools and liberal arts colleges — will require you to submit test scores upon transferring.
Make a Plan
So, this might sound obvious, but transferring from community college to a university isn’t something you want to do on a whim. You want to be sure that all of your credits will transfer, and to do that, you need to start doing your research and cobbling together a transfer plan.
The first step is to figure out what you want to do career-wise. (You can check out our blog – How to Choose a Career – to start getting some ideas.) Then, pick a major and make a transfer plan.
FYI, it’s totally OK if you decide to change your major later. At least 30 percent of students end up changing their majors within three years of declaring them, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Still, it’s a good idea to at least have a tentative path forward before you begin the transfer process.
Transferring from community college to university shouldn’t be a solo expedition. To ensure a smooth transfer, start building relationships with the people who can make your life a heck of a lot easier.
Your high school counselor can be a great resource. Your school counselor can help you with the early stages of career planning, as well as figuring out which college pre reqs you need to knock out before enrolling in a specific program.
Two other key players you should have in your corner include your academic advisor and your community college professors. And if your school has a transfer counselor, by all means, use them. It’s literally their job to help students transfer, so take full advantage!
Figure Out Your Finances
Many students who intend to transfer to a four-year university end up failing to transfer due to financial struggles. To avoid this common pitfall, start researching financial aid packages and look into tuition-free community colleges.
You should also fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you haven’t done so already. FAFSA helps determine a student’s financial need for grants and scholarships (check out our blog – What Is a Need-Based Scholarship? – to learn more).
Federal student aid on its own likely won’t be enough to cover all four years of school, so be sure to look for additional college scholarship opportunities and consider a work-study program to help you cover the rest.