As you’re probably aware, credits and credit hours are an integral part of the American college education system. Some might even say it runs on credits. Every student needs to earn a certain amount of credits to graduate, as we’ve covered in our article on the relationship between credits and graduation.
Transferring these credits from one institution to another can be a game-changer – especially for students pursuing online education. It allows you to leverage the credits you’ve already earned and apply them toward your degree program at a new institution. Besides regular classes, many online colleges also let you use transfer credits for work experience, military training, etc. (more on this in further sections). By maximizing transfer credits, you can accelerate your progress towards graduation, gain flexibility in course selection, and potentially reduce the overall cost of your degree.
Transferring credits is not a new trend, nor a ‘fad.’ According to data from the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), in the fall of 2021, the number of transfer-in undergraduate students enrolled in postsecondary institutions was over 1.2 million. Transferring credits is particularly important with online colleges, which aim to help make higher education more accessible and affordable. Regardless of where you are in your academic journey, this can have a significant impact on reducing your expenses.
Let’s dive in and explore everything you need to know to maximize your online college transfer credits.
Transfer credits are previously earned college or university credits that can be applied toward your degree program at a different institution. When you transfer to a new college or university, your completed courses from your previous institution are evaluated to determine their equivalency to the courses offered at the new institution. If the credits are deemed transferable, they can be counted towards your degree requirements, allowing you to potentially accelerate your progress toward graduation. Transfer credits can be a valuable asset, saving you time and money by recognizing your prior educational achievements and enabling a smoother transition between institutions.
When you transfer to a new online college, your previously completed courses, or other forms of transferable credits, such as credit for workplace training, military training, certifications, exams, etc., are evaluated to determine their equivalency to the courses offered at your new institution.
The transfer credit process involves a thorough evaluation of your transcripts, course descriptions, and other relevant documentation. Academic advisors assess the content, rigor, and learning outcomes of your completed coursework to determine if they align with the requirements of your new program. If the credits are deemed transferable, they will count towards your degree, allowing you to bypass redundant coursework.
While transfer credit policies may vary across institutions, most colleges and universities have established guidelines regarding the minimum and maximum number of credits that can be transferred. Generally, colleges require a certain minimum grade in each course for the credits earned to be eligible for transfer.
Every institution has its own transfer credit policies, so you should take some time to research and understand the specific guidelines of the online colleges you’re considering. Or use our free college match tool to find colleges with flexible credit transfer policies.
When it comes to maximizing transfer credits for your online college journey, there are several factors to consider. By understanding and evaluating these factors, you can make informed decisions to enhance your credit transfer experience. Here are key factors to keep in mind:
An important factor to consider is the accreditation of the online institution you are transferring to or from. You should verify that recognized accrediting bodies accredit both your current college and the one you plan on transferring to. The U.S. Department of Education (DoE) has a detailed list of recognized accrediting agencies (see Sections 3 and 4 in their table of contents).
Accreditation can be national, regional (which can vary by state), or programmatic (which can vary by subject and program). You should make sure that your online college and program are both accredited by bodies that are recognized by the state government and the university you wish to transfer to. For instance, Grand Canyon University (GCU) has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and its predecessor continually since 1968.
Ensure that your online college holds and maintains institutional accreditation, and look for possible programmatic accreditation for certain programs from such recognized bodies to maximize your transfer credits for the future.
Another important consideration is the alignment of the curriculum between your current institution and the college you wish to transfer to. ‘Class equivalent’ refers to the concept of matching or equating courses taken at one educational institution to those offered at another institution. It’s like trying to find a match or a similar class in terms of content and difficulty level.
The new school wants to make sure that the classes you already completed are comparable to the classes they offer, so they can give you credit for what you’ve already learned. They will carefully review the course descriptions, content, and learning outcomes to determine if there is a similar class at their school that aligns with what you’ve already studied. If they find a match, they’ll consider it a class equivalent and count it towards your degree requirements. It’s a way of recognizing the work you’ve already done and making sure you don’t have to repeat material you’ve already mastered. Class equivalency can contribute significantly to maximizing your online transfer credits.
Review course descriptions, syllabi, and program requirements to ensure that your online courses align closely with your target institution’s courses. The more closely the curriculum aligns, the greater the likelihood of maximizing your online transfer credits. Some online colleges have course equivalency tools that let you check how many credits you can transfer towards your current degree.
You should familiarize yourself with the transfer credit policies of your online college, ideally even before enrolling. Each institution has its own set of guidelines and requirements regarding the transfer of credits. Look for clear information on the maximum number of credits that can be transferred, any limitations on specific courses or programs, and the minimum grade required for transfer eligibility. Understanding these policies will help you plan your course selection and ensure a smoother credit transfer process. Ensure that you understand what your online college defines as an ‘approved credit.’ Online colleges tend to have flexible transfer policies to make higher education more accessible for you.
Alternative Transfer Credits:
It is possible to earn transfer credits for academic or extracurricular efforts beyond regular classes or courses. You may be able to earn transfer credits for military training, professional experiences, recognized exams, and more, as we’ll get into further on in this article.
Your Academic Performance:
Many colleges require you to have earned grades of “D” or higher for the credits you wish to transfer. They may also require you to earn a specific minimum score on recognized exams.
Credit Shelf Life:
Generally, college credits do not expire. However, their transferability depends on the institution you wish to transfer to. This means that credits you’ve earned in the past are on your academic record forever, but they may not count towards your next degree. A few colleges follow 5-year or 10-year credit transfer rules, which only accept credits that were earned in the last 5 or 10 years, respectively.
Research the support services available to assist you with the transfer credit process. Online colleges often have dedicated transfer advisors or counselors who can guide you through the credit evaluation process and help you make informed decisions. They can provide personalized assistance, answer your questions, and ensure you have the necessary documentation for a smooth credit transfer experience.
Transferring can affect your financial aid. If you’ve received federal aid, such as Pell grants, you may need to update your FAFSA to add your new school information. If you’ve taken a loan, you may need to talk to your loan provider before transferring so that your repayment period is delayed until you graduate from the new school. Certain scholarships may only provide aid if you attend a particular school, in which case, transferring might affect your eligibility. Some online colleges do offer scholarships or payment plans specifically for transfer students. If you’re in need of financial aid, it may be good to consider these transfer-friendly online schools and talk to a financial advisor before enrolling.
By considering these factors, you can make better, informed choices and maximize transfer credits for your online college education.
While this may vary based on each college or university’s specific policies, most colleges tend to accept the following as transferable credits:
Many colleges let you transfer in approved credits that you earned from previous coursework.
Recognized exam/test scores
Most colleges count your scores earned on recognized examinations as credits that can be used to graduate from your current program of study. Many colleges may accept credits earned through exams like AP, IB, CLEP, DDST, etc. Some online colleges and universities also have ‘credit-by-exam’ policies, which let you earn credits through standardized tests conducted by the universities. These exams can help you maximize your online transfer credits, as long as there is no duplication of academic credit, and your scores meet the school’s standards.
Your military training may be evaluated for equivalency to graduate-level college credits. Some colleges, such as the University of Arizona, Global Campus (UAGC), accept these evaluated military training credits and let you transfer in as many as 90 approved credits towards a bachelor’s program and up to 9 towards a master’s. The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) has a Military Training Evaluation Program (MTEP) that evaluates a service member’s learning from military training, education, and occupational experiences. This evaluation is documented on a Joint Services Transcript (JST), which is an official academic record containing college credit recommendations based on military experience, exam scores, and courses completed while in the military. Many colleges use your JST to determine how many credits you can transfer from your military training.
If you’ve received professional, industry-specific training or completed a specialized certification from a reputed company, your college may consider that towards your current degree program, after evaluation, of course.
These are just a few of the ‘less traditional’ credits that many online colleges accept. Some colleges even accept credits earned through social work, ministry, or other voluntary activities. There are also a few colleges that accept all transfer credits. While the transferability of these credits and their class equivalency tend to vary with each institution, it’s good to check whether your target colleges count them as transfer credits.
Harnessing the power of online colleges can prove to be a game-changer when it comes to maximizing transfer credits and expediting your journey towards earning a degree. By leveraging flexible learning options and proactive credit evaluation processes, you can save time, money, and effort, while still receiving a quality education. Embrace the opportunities that online education offers and embark on a seamless educational pathway to success.
Not all colleges in the US are required to accept transfer credits. However, most colleges and universities do accept transfer credits, and some have specific policies in place to make the process easier for transfer students. Colleges may also have different limits on the number of credits you can transfer, which vary by degree level and program.
Yes, you may be able to transfer credits from a completed degree towards a second degree. This varies depending on the transfer policies of your previous college and those of the college you wish to transfer to.
Yes, but not all colleges in the US accept transfer credits from community colleges. Many online colleges and universities accept approved credits for transfer, but this varies with each institution.