Transferring from a community college to a four-year university is a path many students take for different reasons. Planning and preparation are a big part of a smooth transition from one school to another. Here are a few steps to follow to help you reach your destination:
Earn an associate degree. If you are taking classes in the same degree plan you will pursue for your bachelor’s this may be a good option. Students who earn an associate degree can expect to earn more in wages than students who left college without a degree. Also, many employers require applicants to have some level of post-secondary education, and having a degree can set you apart from another applicant. So, if you are able to earn your associate degree before you transfer it may be helpful to you in the long run.
Choosing the right school. Look at public and private four-year institutions to decide which school will be the best fit for you. Check the College Scorecard to find out a college’s cost, programs, graduation rate, and employment rates. If you are deciding on different colleges, compare award offers from each school to help you make your decision.
Check deadlines and apply for admission. Most schools will have transfer checklists on their websites that list the documents you must submit to apply for admission. Be sure to meet the school’s application deadline. Schedule a meeting with an admissions advisor to learn more about the school and tour the campus.
Deciding on a major. Meet with an academic advisor. They are there to help you manage the transfer process and choose the right classes to meet your academic and career goals. If you are still deciding on a major, visit Occupational Outlook Handbook to explore job duties, education, training, and pay for different occupations. “Major Choices” is a tool that gives you an idea of what you may earn in your first year after graduation. Keep in mind that salaries vary widely based on your level of education and where you live.
Getting financial aid. Fill out the FAFSA and be sure to include the schools you’re considering transferring to. You should also contact your loan servicer and notify them of your plans to attend a new college. In order to keep your loans in an “in-school” status, you must be attending school at least half-time. If you are not sure who your loan servicer is, you can log in to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to find out. Some schools offer scholarships for transfer students, so be sure to check the school’s web site or the financial aid office.
Create a Budget. Since you’ll likely pay a higher tuition at a four-year school, you may want to more closely manage your finances. Using a budget can help you do that, and of the first steps to creating a budget is to list all your income and expenses. You can use our Spending Plan to help you get started. If your expenses exceed your income, then you may have to look for places where you can spend less to make sure your bills are paid on time. Remember to put money into your savings to start building an emergency fund for any unexpected expenses.
In the end, your hard work and dedication have brought you to this point. Staying motivated and focused on your goals will help you successfully transfer to a school that meets your needs. We’re just here to help you along the way!
I am a Financial Coach for college students and parents. I am an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) and received my BBA in Management from Texas State University. I help students understand their financial aid and help them develop a plan to achieve their educational and financial goals. I was a first-generation college student, so I have a personal understanding of some of the struggles students face.
Working in the financial aid industry for 13 years has given me the opportunity to work with students at different points in their life from starting college to graduating and finding a job — all the way through helping them repay their student loans and save for the future.
This service is not intended to constitute any tax, investment or legal advice. If you need investment, legal, tax advice, and/or credit counseling, please consult with a professional within those areas.
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