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Timeline & Tips for Community College Students Planning to Transfer

Students choose to start their higher education journey at community colleges for a variety of reasons. For some, it is a better financial fit to take general education and major pre-requisite coursework at a community college where the cost of classes can be in the single digits instead of in three or four digits. Other students need to strengthen, or restart, their course rigor and GPA from an anemic high school performance. While others may not have known what major they want to pursue and prefer to explore a wide variety of courses at a low cost while they figure that out.

Whatever the reason for beginning at a community college, the steps to transferring to a 4-year college are as detailed and confusing as the process of applying to 4-year colleges as a high school student. This week’s blog provides a recommended timeline for community college students to follow to prepare for the transfer process, as well as important resources that will help along the way.

Year one, fall semester

  • Think about your interests, aptitudes, and career goals. The better you know yourself, the more likely you are to find the right college for your transfer.

  • Meet with an advisor at your current school to discuss your transfer plans. Most community colleges offer extensive resources for students, including experienced transfer counselors who can help you navigate the process.

  • Start researching colleges and universities you might be interested in. Consider such factors as location, size, degree programs, cost, academic and social environment, and job/internship opportunities.

  • Look for schools that offer articulation agreements with your current school. Articulation agreements can greatly facilitate your transition to a new institution by guaranteeing transfer of your earned credits, if you maintain a good academic standing.

  • Attend transfer fairs. They are a great way to make contacts and get details on many different colleges.

  • Focus on your schoolwork and grades. Your performance at your current school is factored heavily into the transfer admission process.

Year one, spring semester

  • Continue your college research. The more you know about different schools, the better your chances of choosing a college that is the right fit for you.

  • Meet with your advisor regularly. Be sure to keep him or her updated on your progress.

  • Develop a “short list” of four or five schools that match your goals, priorities, and academic record.

  • Contact the schools you are most interested in and determine which of your credits will transfer to their degree program. Search schools’ websites under “Undergraduate Transfer Student Admissions.”

  • Consider satisfying most of your general education requirements before you transfer. This will allow you to focus more on your area of interest once you are at your new college.

  • Visit the colleges on your list, if possible. Nothing will give you a better sense of what a campus is like than visiting it yourself.

  • Talk to an admission counselor and at least one professor in your academic interest at the new school. Be sure to bring a list of questions.

  • Know each college’s admission requirements before you apply. Search schools’ websites under “Undergraduate Transfer Student Admissions”

  • Start thinking about essay topics, recommendations, and other materials you will need to prepare. Be sure to give your recommendation writers at least a month to complete their letters.

  • Carefully record and keep track of all application and material deadlines. Plan to apply as early as possible, especially to schools that admit students on a rolling basis.

  • Start researching financial aid. Look for scholarships, loans, and grants, especially within your specific degree program.

  • Consider taking summer courses and/or internships. You will get an academic jump-start, gain valuable work experience, and bolster your transfer application.

Year two, fall semester

  • File your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1.

  • Request a copy of your transcript and review it carefully. Make sure the information is accurate and complete. In most cases, the school you are currently attending will send your transcript directly to the colleges you are applying to, so it’s important to ensure that the details are correct before it is sent.

  • Schedule an interview at any schools you have not already visited. If you cannot visit in person, talk to admission staff via phone or online. It is also helpful to contact professors, students, and alumni for questions on courses and campus life.

  • Send applications. Make sure each application is filled out completely, and on time, and that all required materials, including application fees, are submitted.

  • Keep a copy of all materials you send. Create a separate file for each college. Include your application, essay, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and any other materials. Note the date you sent each application.

Year two, spring semester

  • Analyze your credit evaluation and equivalency statements, which list the courses and credits that will transfer toward your bachelor’s degree, before you decide on a college or send a deposit.

  • Review your financial aid package and compare the net price for each college.

  • Consult with your transfer advisor before you make a final decision. He or she can help answer your questions and clarify details that might affect your choice.

  • Double-check deadlines for deposits, registration forms, and other materials, and get them in on time.

  • Take advantage of orientation programs and other opportunities for transfer students at your new school. Meeting other transfer students and getting acquainted with campus life will help ease the transition.

Helpful Resources

1. – for California Community College Students The ASSIST program mission is to facilitate transfer from California Community Colleges (CCC) to the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) by providing comprehensive articulation information to students and to those who serve them.

The ASSIST system ( is the official statewide database and online resource that shows prospective California transfer students how courses they complete at a community college may be used to satisfy elective, general education and major requirements at a CSU or UC campus.

The ASSIST website ( only includes course transfer and articulation information for public institutions in the state of California. Course transfer and articulation information for out-of-state institutions, private institutions, and graduate programs is not included on the ASSIST website.

Articulation agreements are formal agreements between two institutions, most commonly a community college and a CSU or UC, that define how courses completed at one institution may satisfy requirements at another institution.

Example of articulation agreement between Orange Coast College and UCLA for History:

2. Parchment is the most widely adopted digital credential service, allowing learners, academic institutions, and employers to request, verify, and share credentials in simple and secure ways. Students will need to send their official transcripts to the colleges to which they are applying. Many community colleges utilize for this service. There is a small, under $10.00 fee to send each transcript.

3. This resource can help transfer students gather a lot of information in one-stop.

Transfer Profiles

Explore college and universities. See their transfer admission requirements, credit policies, financial aid and scholarship specifics, tuition, fees, contact info, and more.

Course Equivalencies

Find out how various institutions have reviewed, evaluated, and will accept the courses you have already taken, or plan to take, for transfer credit.

Transfer Agreements

Discover formal arrangements your institution has with their partner institutions. See what courses will map to and satisfy degree and major requirements.


Learn how your AP, IB, CLEP, DSST, ECE, or UExcel exams results will be accepted for credit at various colleges and universities.

Royal College Consulting has been successfully guiding Transfer Students to their best fit 4-year college for nearly a decade. We offer complimentary consultations to students beginning (or amid) the transfer process. Complete a request for a consultation below.


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This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.

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