Feb 21, 2007

Starting Your 4-Year Degree at a 2-Year College

Information provided by Petersons.com

Why Start at a 2-Year College?
Among the students attending two-year colleges are a large number who began their higher education knowing they would eventually transfer to a four-year school to obtain their bachelor's degree. There are many reasons you may go this route. Upon graduating from high school, you simply may not have definite career goals. Although you don't want to put your education on hold, you probably prefer not to pay exorbitant amounts in tuition while trying to "find yourself." So, while the cost of a university education escalates, the option of spending your freshman and sophomore years at a two-year college looks attractive. You may also find yourself looking at to attend a two-year college because you are unable to meet initial entrance standards - a specified grade point average (GPA), standardized test scores, or knowledge of specific academic subjects - required by the four-year school of your choice. Many such students praise the community college system for giving them the chance to be, academically speaking, "born again."

If your plan is to attend a two-year college with the ultimate goal of transferring to a four-year school, you will be pleased to know that the increased importance of the community college route to a bachelor's degree is recognized by all segments of higher education. As a result, many two-year schools have revised their course outlines and established new courses in order to comply with the offerings of the universities. Institutional improvements to make transferring easier have also proliferated at both the two- and four-year levels. The generous transfer policies of the Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida state university systems, among others, reflect this attitude; these systems accept all credits from students who have graduated from accredited community colleges.

When Should I Think About Transferring
If you are interested in moving from a two-year college to a four-year school, the sooner you make up your mind that you are going to make the switch, the better position you will be in to transfer successfully (that is, without having wasted valuable time and credits). The ideal point at which to make such a decision is before you register for classes at your two-year school; a counselor can help you plan your course work with an eye toward fulfilling the requirements needed for your major course of study. Naturally, it is not always possible to plan your transferring strategy that far in advance, but keep in mind that the key to a successful transfer is preparation, and preparation takes time - time to think through your objectives and time to plan the right classes to begin work at your new school.

What do I need to do to transfer
First, send for your high school and college transcripts. Having chosen the school you wish to transfer to, check its admission requirements against your transcripts. If you find that you are admissible, file an application as early as possible before the deadline. Part of the process will be asking your former schools to send official transcripts to the admission office. Plan your transfer program with the head of your new department as soon as you have decided to transfer. Determine the recommended general education pattern and necessary preparation for your major. At your present school, take the courses you will need to meet transfer requirements for the new one.

What qualifies me for admission as a transfer student?
Admission requirements for most four-year institutions vary. Usually, you will need to show satisfactory test scores, an academic record up to a certain standard, and completion of specific subject matter. Transfer students can be eligible to enter a four-year school in a number of ways: by having been eligible for admission directly upon graduation from high school, by making up shortcomings in grades (or in subject matter not covered in high school) at a community college, or by satisfactory completion of necessary courses or credit hours at another postsecondary institution. Ordinarily, students coming from a community college or from another four-year institution must meet or exceed the receiving institution's standards for freshmen and show appropriate college-level course work taken since high school.

Does every college and university accept transfer students?

Most four-year institutions accept transfer students, but some do so more enthusiastically than others. You'll want to check the catalogs of several colleges for their transfer requirements before you make your final choice.

Do students who go directly from high school to a four-year college do better academically than transfer students from community colleges?

On the contrary: some institutions report that transfers from two-year schools who graduate from a four-year school do better than those who started as freshmen.

Why is it so important that my two-year college be accredited?

Four-year colleges and universities accept transfer credit only from schools formally recognized by a regional, national, or professional educational agency.

After enrolling at a four-year school, may I still make up necessary courses at a community college?

Some institutions restrict credit after transfer to their own facilities. Others will allow you to take a limited number of transfer courses after matriculation, depending on the subject matter. A few provide opportunities for taking classes on more than one campus.

How far in advance do I need to apply for transfer?

Some schools process transfer applications as they are received all year long. With other schools, you must apply during the priority filing period, which can be up to a year before you wish to enter.

Why might a course be approved for transfer credit by one four-year school but not by another?

The beauty of postsecondary education in the United States lies in its variety. Entrance policies and graduation requirements are designed to reflect and serve each institution's mission. Because institutional policies vary so widely, schools may interpret the subject matter of a course from quite different points of view. Given that the granting of transfer credit indicates that a course is viewed as being, in effect, parallel to one offered by the receiving institution, it is easy to see how this might be the case at one university and not another.

Which is more important for transfer, my grade point average or my course completion pattern?

Some schools believe that your past grades indicate academic potential and overshadow prior preparation for a specific degree program. Others require completion of certain introductory courses before transfer to prepare you for upper-division work in your major. In any case, appropriate course selection will cut down the time to graduation and increase your chances of making a successful transfer.

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