5 Questions to Ask When Transferring Colleges

Seated student looking at tablet while considering transferring colleges
Category: Going Back to School

By Matt Rowley
Posted on

For many college students, the path to a degree isn’t always straightforward. You might begin your education at one school and later decide that a different option would be a better fit. Perhaps family, financial or career reasons required you to step back for a while. Maybe you chose an alternate path, opting to serve in the military or earn a professional license instead of going to school right away.

Regardless of your reasons for going back to school, you may have transferrable college credits, work experience that’s equivalent to college-level coursework, or both. Nearly every college and university allows transfer students to enroll and gain credit for that previous experience and learning.

That being said, students may wonder what it’s like to transfer colleges. To help guide you through that process, here are five questions to ask when transferring colleges.

1. How Many of My Credit Hours From Other Colleges Will Be Accepted?

It’s important to understand at the beginning of the process that you may not receive credit hours at your new college for all of your previous coursework. Even if, on paper, you appear to have most of a degree completed, you may not be as far along as you expected after transferring to your new college.

Every school has its own policy, but many colleges limit the number of transfer credits they will accept. For example, at Columbia Southern University, we accept transfer credits up to:

  • 45 semester hours for an associate degree.
  • 90 semester hours for a bachelor’s degree.
  • 18 semester hours for a master’s degree.
  • 9 semester hours for a doctoral program.

For more details, review CSU’s transfer credit policy.

2. Which of My Credit Hours Will Be Accepted?

Depending on the college, credit may only be granted when the courses you’ve completed are similar to the courses of the accepting school in terms of degree level and content. In other words, you might have taken a college-level writing course, but if the concepts taught in that course do not align with those at your new school, you may not receive credit.

As you make your plans, compare course descriptions and curricula to make sure you are comparing apples to apples; don’t assume you’ll receive credit for a course that isn’t comparable to one offered by your new school.

3. Will the Grades I Received in My Previous College Classes Matter?

Yes, the grades you earned in prior courses may also a factor in determining transfer credit. Generally speaking, many schools require a grade of C or better to be considered for credit; in some cases, schools may allow lower grades. For many master’s programs, transfer credits are only granted for grades of B or better. If your academic performance was lackluster in the past, you can expect to repeat some or all of your courses.

4. Can I Earn Credit Hours in Other Ways?

While the majority of transfer credits typically come from other higher education institutions, some colleges will accept equivalent credit hours from other sources.

At CSU, transfer students can earn credit hours through activities and experience like CLEP exams and other assessments, military training, professional training, certifications, and professional licenses. Students wishing to earn credits through experiential learning can submit documentation for a Prior Learning Assessment review.

It’s also important to ask how many credit hours can be applied to your degree program through these alternate ways. At CSU, transfer credit for experiential learning can count toward up to 25% of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program; experiential or equivalent credit cannot be applied toward doctoral programs, however.

Related: 5 Types of Transfer Credits to Count Toward Your Degree [Infographic]

5. How Should I Send My Transcripts?

No matter where your credits come from, the receiving school will need an official transcript from every credit source for review. This may be in addition to transcripts required for admission, so be sure to request an adequate number of copies.

In the event that you wish to appeal a credit transfer decision – which you have the right to do – you will need to provide supporting documentation like course descriptions, syllabi or coursework. Therefore, if you think that you may transfer at some point, keep meticulous records of your work and college information to avoid delays.

At CSU, our goal is to make transferring credits as easy as possible. That’s why we offer the transcript request service. CSU will request transcripts from your previously attended institutions on your behalf. All you have to do is complete the transcript request form and we will notify you once your official transcripts have been received.*

Related: Your Biggest Transcript Questions Answered


Transferring credits not only can save you time and money, but it can also allow you to build on skills and knowledge you already have.** Rather than starting over, you’ll have a head start. As you compare schools, admissions or academic advisors can help you evaluate your experience and plan the path that’s right for you.

To learn more about Columbia Southern University’s online degree programs, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu.

*The transfer request service cannot obtain transfer credits from international institutions.

**Amount of transfer credits is dependent upon transcript evaluation and pending Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) process.

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