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How to Transfer College Credits

Be Prepared So You Can Advocate When Needed


If you're considering whether or not to transfer colleges -- or even if you've already decided to do so -- you may not be sure about how exactly to go about transferring your college credits. After all, you don't want your hard work (and tuition dollars!) to go to waste.

Transferring college credits can be incredibly tricky or incredibly easy, depending on your particular situation. With a few steps and preplanning, however, you can greatly increase your chances of having your credit transfer run as smoothly as possible.

Step One: Get printouts of your transcript. Even if you've only been in school for one semester, get an unofficial copy of your transcript. It will list every class you've taken at your college as well as how many units each class was worth. Consider this your master list of what you can potentially transfer to a new institution. You might be surprised at how easy it is to forget about a class you took last year or over the summer, for example, but if you keep a copy of your current transcript handy, you'll have everything easily accessible. Additionally, you'll have the full and formal names of your classes, which can help as you complete any credit transfer paperwork or online forms.

Step Two: Get a printout of the course description for each class. Listing your class as "Chemistry 213" or "English 309" is not going to be very informative to your new institution. And even if those classes have a name -- like "Practical Spectroscopy" or "African American Women Writers" -- your new school is more interested in content than titles. A course description, which you can find in a hard-copy course catalog or online, will explain what material was covered. Having that as an addendum to your transfer materials can be critical in making your case as to why your credits should be accepted.

Step Three: Get the syllabi for as many classes as possible. Okay, so your new institution sees you took a class on Plato. But they may not think that it was as rigorous as the class on Plato that they offer, which means you might have to retake it as a Philosophy major. If you show them the syllabus, however, you can demonstrate that the 5 papers, 2 midterms, and 1 final you rocked are definitely up to par with your new institution's standards. Additionally, the syllabi will list, in detail, what readings/labs/etc. were covered in case there are any questions about how prepared you'll be for upper-level courses at your transfer school.

Keep your communication with your new school open and positive. Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to accept your transfer credits is up to your transfer institution. All of which means, of course, that you want to make it as easy as possible for them to let you move everything over and earn credit for the work you've already done. Ask whoever is reviewing your transcript what they need to make their decision(s). Course description? You got it. Syllabus? At the ready. Additionally, send any requested information along as soon as possible. You don't want your reviewer to be cranky about how long it took for you to send materials over or how unhelpful those materials are. If you think you have a case to make for why your credits should transfer, keep the lines of communication as open as possible so that your argument isn't distracted by logistical delays.

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