How to Transfer Credits from One College to Another: A Comprehensive Guide

October 26, 2023

Based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the probability of losing a portion or all of your previously acquired college credits when transferring is 70%. This loss of credit can result in significant financial consequences, amounting to thousands of dollars. The primary cause of this situation is attributed to transfer policies that are often beyond your control.

Students save time and money by choosing the right college that accepts the credits from the previous institution. Students do not repeat the same course curriculum as they pursue higher education. Without losing a single credit, transfer students can achieve faster degree program completion and greater flexibility in choosing a higher study program.

Given the fact that one-third of the students in the US transfer college credits each year, this step-by-step guide will explain how they should approach college transfer and still hold their credits from the previous one. However, some colleges use a quarter system, where each course is worth four credits, and a minimum of 160 credits are required to earn a degree.

Step-by-Step Guide to Transferring College Credits

Step 1: Researching Potential Receiving Institutions

  1. Exploring College Websites and Resources

Each educational institution publicly discloses its policy regarding credit transfer, specifying the courses it accepts and those it does not. To determine if the education courses you have completed will meet the graduation requirements of the new college, it is advisable to thoroughly examine the credit transfer policy provided on their official website. It is highly recommended to prioritize schools that offer a favorable and accommodating credit transfer experience.

Other than the college website, you can find this information inside admission brochures and credit transfer guides or through transfer counselors. Some college transfer credits that may apply to you are –

  • On-the-job learning through trade, business, or a job.
  • Military training and corporate certifications.
  • National tests such as College Level Examination Program ® (CLEP).
  • Standard tests such as DSST.
  1. Contacting Admissions Offices for Information

Do not shy away from directly contacting the admissions office of the new college. The job of the admissions advisor is to answer all your questions, including those from credit transfer.

Email or call them for an appointment and have your questions ready. Some of the questions you can consider asking are –

  • Do you accept credits from the courses in the military?
  • Do you accept AP courses from high school?
  • Do you accept credits for on-the-job or life experiences?
  • What is your credit transfer policy in general?

If the college counselor says they cannot accept certain credits, ensure that you ask the reason for it. By asking this, you may be able to prove that the credits cover the same content as that in the new college. You can show the course catalog or transcript from the previous college to convince the admission officer.

Step 2: Requesting and Submitting Official Transcripts

To obtain an informal academic record from your present or previous university, you can either place an order through the website or personally visit the registrar’s office. This transcript will assist you in determining which credits your prospective institution may recognize. Your current university will send the transcript directly to you rather than forwarding it to the new college. The transcript provides a comprehensive overview of the credits you have achieved, along with the corresponding course codes.

Remember to get the transcript on time so that you can show it to the new college at the time of appointment with the admissions officer.

Step 3: Evaluating Credit Transfer Eligibility

  1. Analyzing Course Equivalencies and Acceptance

You need to analyze if the credits from your current college will meet and satisfy the needs of the new degree requirements. Compare the classes you have taken with the ones your new school is offering. If you need help doing this, you can speak to the admissions counselor.

If the credit system of the new school is the same as the old one, you may be in luck, and the transfer will be straightforward. But often, it is not a 1:1 match. Let us look at this with the help of an example.

Typically, the majority of college courses carry a value of 3 credit hours, and in order to complete a degree, you would need to accumulate 120 credit hours or complete 40 courses. However, some colleges use a quarter system, where each course is worth four credits, and a minimum of 160 credits are required to earn a degree. Various credit systems exist in colleges throughout the United States. To determine equivalency between the credit systems of the two colleges, it is necessary to engage in calculations and have discussions with the admissions counselor.

A simple calculation is as follows. If you switch from a quarter to a semester credit system, your 4-credit class will now be worth 2.68 semester hours.

  1. Reviewing Credit Evaluation and Transfer Process

Compare your credits on the transcript with the new college’s admissions catalog. Understand which transfer courses match the courses the new college offers. Compare course codes, prerequisites, titles, and descriptions.

Understand the requirements of the desired degree as it is available online. Know if the degree you seek has room to accept the transfer credit. At times, the new college may accept transferable credits in general, but they may not apply to the specific degree you are looking at.

Step 4: Consultation with an Academic Advisor

  1. Discussing Degree Requirements and Transfer Options

Your admissions advisor/counselor at the new college will be highly resourceful and helpful in advising the right path. They can suggest a degree with similar or fewer credit requirements. The admissions counselor will point out any educational or life experience you may have overlooked.

Discuss the credit transfer options with the admissions advisor, show them the transcript, and ask for guidance on the degree requirements you want to enroll in. This can save thousands of dollars on the fee of the new degree.

  1. Creating a Transfer Plan and Course Selection

Not every student will have the same path of credits transfer. As we discussed above, colleges in the US have a range of credit options. Once you understand the transcript well and have discussed it with a few admissions counselors, you will know where you stand.

From the discussions, you can select the course and the college and create a credit transfer plan. You may be able to take the course entirely online, thus saving the cost of living on campus. With virtual education, you can continue working and earning while you attend college.

Step 5: Applying for Admission and Submitting Required Documents

Once you know where you stand and the list of colleges willing to accept the credits, create a transfer information package. This package should summarize your academic history, official high school transcripts, and a diploma from a recognized high school.

  • Transcripts and the course catalog description.
  • Proof of previous college certification from an official accreditation agency.
  • Certifications you have from work or military service.
  • Job description from past employers in detail.
  • Test certificates and scores from CLEP, DSST, or other exams.

Now you can apply to the colleges that offer the courses you want, accept the credits, and have an affordable fee structure. Be sure to complete the work and submit your application before the deadline.


Efficiently navigating the process of transferring college credits requires careful planning. By following a step-by-step approach, you can avoid unnecessary duplication of subjects and save valuable time and money. Here is a concise overview of the essential steps involved in transferring college credits:

  • Conduct thorough research on the colleges that interest you.
  • Obtain an official transcript from your current or previous college.
  • Assess the transferability of your credits and align them with the requirements of the new college.
  • Submit your admission application to the desired institution.

Lastly, it is crucial to seek guidance from the admissions counselor to maximize the utilization of your credits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can All College Credits be Transferred?

Credit transfer procedures lack a standardized framework. In uncommon instances, you can directly match your credits to specific courses at the new college. However, more frequently, you will need to align them with the criteria set by your target institution. The transferability of your credits may depend on several factors, including:

  • The origin of the credits (the school from which you earned them).
  • Your academic performance in the corresponding classes.
  • The policies and requirements of the school where you plan to transfer the credits.

How Do Transferring Credits Affect GPA?

Transferring credits typically does not have a direct impact on your GPA. When you transfer credits from one institution to another, the grades earned in the transferred courses are usually not factored into your GPA at the new school.

However, it’s important to note that individual institutions may have their own policies regarding the treatment of transferred credits and GPA calculations. It’s recommended to consult with the specific college or university you plan to transfer to for accurate information on how transferred credits may affect your GPA in their system.

What is the Timeline for the Credit Transfer Process?

The timeline for the credit transfer process varies depending on several factors. It can range from a few weeks to several months. The duration is influenced by factors such as the responsiveness of the transferring and receiving institutions, the complexity of credit evaluation, and the availability of documentation. It is advisable to start the credit transfer process as early as possible to allow ample time for the evaluation and processing of credits.

Contacting the admissions or registrar’s office of the receiving institution can provide more specific information regarding their timeline and any deadlines to be mindful of.

Can Community College Credits be Transferred to Four-Year Universities?

Yes, it is possible to transfer your credits from a community college to a four-year university program. All schools have different levels of credit transfer guidelines.

Are There Any Fees Associated with Credit Transfers?

The process of transferring course credits from one college to another typically does not involve direct costs. Many colleges are willing to help you make the most of your existing credits, allowing you to save both time and money by avoiding the repetition of coursework.

However, there are some indirect costs to consider. These may include expenses related to visiting the new college and meeting with the admissions counselor, acquiring a copy of your transcript from your current college, and completing the application process. While these costs are not directly tied to the transfer of credits, they are associated with the overall process of transferring to a new institution.