Choosing the Path of a Transfer Student

University of California TransferNo one says there is one absolute path towards obtaining a college degree. The good thing about that is it means more flexibility for students. Choosing the path of a transfer student is one that should be well researched and planned for. This path is not for everyone so the more an individual knows about the process and what it involves, the easier it will be to make that final decision.

What is a Transfer Student?

Transfer students are those that go from one school to another. This term is most commonly applied to college students. One of the most traditional transfer student processes involves attending a junior/community college for two years and then going on to transfer to a 4-year college or university. Another common situation that transfer students deal with is going from one 4-year college or university to another 4-year institution.

Although the description of this process sounds fairly simple the actual steps required to complete a transfer can be quite tedious and involves a lot of paperwork. It is important that students considering this idea know exactly what will be expected of them and that they fulfill all of the requirements to be given the green-light.

Advantages & Disadvantages

As with anything in life, transfer students have a list of pros and cons to deal with.


  • Affordability: Students starting at a community college and plan on transferring to a 4-year college are able to still complete their pursuit of a higher education without breaking the bank. Community colleges are known for being much more affordable per unit compared to traditional colleges and universities, which makes it possible for students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds to accomplish their goals.
  • Advanced Preparation: Transfer students go into their new school with an abundance of college credits already under their belt, which shows their commitment to obtaining their degree. This demonstrated effort is not lost on the colleges and universities, who are more than happy to accept these types of students.
  • Get Ahead of the Game: When transfer students step foot onto their new campus, they are academically prepared to begin taking core classes that count towards their degree program. The first two years at a community college takes care of the entry level courses and prerequisites, making a transfer student more than ready for the next level of advanced coursework.
  • Flexibility: Community colleges tend to provide very flexible class schedules, making it possible for students from all walks of life to work on their first two years of school without having to make drastic changes in their lifestyle. From online classes to night school, students are able to hold down part-time or full-time jobs and even parents with families can balance both a school schedule with their family life. An accommodating schedule allows individuals to complete their required courses at their own pace.


  • Confusion & Misinformation: From figuring out what requirements are needed to requesting copies of transcripts and other information, sorting through the transfer process can be overwhelming. Without the right information and guidance, a student could easily make errors along the way, further delaying their opportunity to transfer from a community or junior college to a 4-year school. It is vital that future transfer students have the assistance of an academic advisor who knows the transfer process inside and out. With the proper guidance, a student will have a sure shot at going through this stage unfazed.
  • Challenging Requirements: Not all colleges and universities have the same admissions requirements for transfer students. It is up to each student to find out what the specific criteria is that needs to be met and prepare their applications accordingly. If more than one school is on a person’s list, this increases the amount of paperwork to deal with even more. If an individual fails to meet the requirements it means having to either apply to another school or staying at their current community college until they satisfy all of the requirements.
  • Non-Transferable Credits: Nothing is worse for transfer students than finding out too late that some or all of the coursework they’ve completed at a junior or community college is not accepted by the school they want to transfer to. Whenever this type of situation occurs, it could mean retaking courses all over again or opting for a different school that will accept a student’s previous credits.
  • Delays: The challenge with opting for the transfer route is that any mistakes, missed deadlines or incomplete coursework will automatically result in being unable to transfer over to the new school. Transfer students have to be on top of every action they take during their time at a community college in order to ensure they are on the right track for being accepted to a 4-year college or university.

Tips for Future Transfer Students

High school seniors in particular will want to take time to plan their next steps and decide whether transferring is a viable option. Consult with an academic advisor right away to discuss your situation and see what feedback they have to offer. If you decide to go for the transfer route, make a list of the top 4-year colleges and universities you would like to transfer to and work with your academic advisor to find out what their requirements are for transfer students. From there create a step-by-step game plan as to what courses to take at your local community college and set up a potential time frame as to when you know you’ll be ready to submit your application(s) to the school(s) you’re interested in transferring to.

Once you begin actively taking courses at a community college, dedicate yourself to completing all the necessary courses and collecting the proper number of credits–don’t forget to double check that each class you take is actually transferable to the schools you want to apply to. It is best to wait until you know you are close to finishing all of your classes before initiating the application/transfer process to a new school.

For information on specific transfer systems visit our sections on: