Staying the Course: Navigating School Transfers

Welcome back to the EDGE College Resource Blog! Transferring is a great way to save money on your education, but it can also be a confusing process to navigate – read on for information about transferring between colleges, and transferring from a Community College to a 4-Year Institution.

Today’s bloggers are Jocelyne Alva, USC graduate and EDGE volunteer since 2014, and John Horne, 2014 EDGE alumni and current student at Merritt College.

What is transferring? How does it work?

John: Transferring is going one place to another. In this case, it means going from one school to another. You can transfer between universities if you need to move, or your school is not a good fit; however, in this context it mainly means going from a community college to a 4-year institution. The process is not that hard and it depends on which school you want to go to. For this example, I will use the University of California (UC) system. You have to earn 60 transferable units for at least a 2.5 GPA. 30 of them have to be general education courses. Some specific classes you need to take are Math 13(stats), English 1A, English 5, and an Oral Communications class, because schools will take a closer look at those courses. It all depends on the school, but for the most part, you will need 60 transferable units.

Jocelyne: At a 2-year college, you are able to earn an A.A or A.S, though it is not required to transfer. At a 4-year college/university, you earn a B.A or B.S. Transferring is taking classes at a 2 year that are then counted at a 4-year in order to get a degree.

 Why is transferring important? Why should we care?

Jocelyne: Transferring is a cheaper alternative to going to a 4-year university straight from high school. Right now in California, your first 2 years at a community college are FREE! A private university is around $60k+ a year (USC, Stanford, Caltech), UC is around $35k+ a year (Berkeley, Santa Barbara) and a Cal State is around $7k+ a year (SLO, CSUN). Saving half of student debt is a huge benefit.

John: It is super important. It is also super easy to get confused. If you know your want to transfer, you have to understand why you are there – don’t take classes that you can’t use to transfer. With this route, you will also get your general education courses done in your first two years and you can focus on your major after you transfer.

What is your personal experience with this topic?

Jocelyne: I loved going to Pasadena City College and then to my dream school of USC. I did this all in 4 years, because I was smart and stuck to my plan. I took classes during the summer right after senior year, and then every session after (spring, summer, fall, winter) and made sure I was full time. Through my community college, I was also able to study abroad in Florence, Italy for only $7k, which included all of my classes (they all transferred), flights, books and rent! That is unheard of through a 4 year.

John: I got a little sidetracked in community college, but I am now back on track. I ended up having to take classes that didn’t count for transfer. I was going in the wrong direction, then a counselor came and steered me the right way. I graduated high school in 2016 and now will be transferring in fall 2020.

Timeline–when should students focus on this and/or apply to transfer?

Jocelyne: May 1st senior year is when you should apply and focus on your time at a community college. This is when you officially choose where you will go, and you are able to enroll in summer classes and map out where you want to go. To transfer, look at your desired university’s deadlines. You are able to transfer after 1 year, but make sure you are prepared. California public university deadlines are November 30th, while private schools tend to be in February.

John: If you decide you want to transfer, you should start researching as soon as you get to your community college. It takes time to transfer and you should always know what classes you need. It is supposed to take 2 years but what people do not tell you is how many classes you need to take a semester to achieve that – it can be a lot!

What some tips and tricks you think are helpful for this topic?

John: I think talking to a counselor at your community college is your best bet. They can help you create a student education plan and help you better understand transferring. They can tell you much more than I can. Be careful to not take on too many classes. I know you guys are all smart and can probably take on a lot but do not do that to yourself. It will be easier to spread out your classes. It all depends on what kind of learner you are, but you should know your limits. Your education doesn’t need to have a deadline for completion – take care of yourself.

Jocelyne: If you know you want to transfer, don’t take classes that do not transfer – it just wastes your time and energy. This is how to make sure you are smart about your classes:

  • will be your best friend if you want to transfer to a public CA university. It will tell you the exact classes you need to take at a community college to transfer to your desired university and major. Also look into TAG (Transfer Admission Guarantee) for your specific UC/Cal State.
  • If you are interested in a private university, look up your specific school’s ‘Articulation Agreement.’ This is the exact same as but for private schools. It will tell you exactly which classes to take from your specific community college. A quick Google search can lead you there.
  • I was also lucky and set up a meeting with counselors at USC when I went to Pasadena City College. I made a specific agreement with them, that if I had over a specific GPA, I would have high preference in admission. Reach out to your dream school and see what do YOU need to do to get in. I found this to be a lot more helpful than going to my CC’s counselor.
  • Some CCs also have direct connections with other universities. For example, Pasadena City College has a program that if you take specific classes with a certain GPA, you are guaranteed acceptance to Cal Tech – Santa Barbara City College has a similar program with UCSB. If you do want to move out from home, a smart option is to go to the community college near your desired university, as they will have programs to give you a better chance to transfer.

Any final words of advice?

Research, and ask questions of other people who have done this before you. You are not the first person ever to transfer! Counselors and peers can help you to better understand the process. Transferring from a community college can be a great way to cut back on the costs of education, but you need to be very aware of your goals and of your own personal timeline. While many people do 2 years at community college and then transfer, these schools are also a great opportunity to get your education while holding down a job or figuring out what you ultimately want to do. Each person’s path is different, and only you know what is right for you!

Thank you Jocelyne and John for your advice about transferring! Keep an eye on our College Resources page for a new article every two weeks! Got transferring questions that still need answering? Comment below!

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