Navigating College Transfer Credits


We’re a few weeks into the new school year, and some of you freshmen or sophomores out there are already considering transferring. It’s good to get an early start! Looking ahead, one major consideration is whether the classes you’re taking will transfer over to your new, future college. Not getting enough transfer credits could add up to more time as an undergrad and more dollars on your tuition bills. Before you decide on which colleges to apply to, do some homework on whether your colleges of interest will give you transfer credits. The tips below will help start you off.

College Websites

General information about the transferability of credit is usually offered on a college’s website, which is probably the best place to start. As an example, Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences lays out some general guidelines for incoming transfer students. If you have further questions after reading the information, don’t hesitate to email or call the admissions office to see how you can gather more information.

Special Courses and Requirements

Many liberal arts colleges and universities have special writing course requirements, such as first-year writing seminars. That means you might not get credit for the writing course you’re taking as a freshman at your home institution. Again, start by looking at the website of the college you want to transfer.  You might need to look at the college’s writing program website or speak to someone that works in the writing program.  For example, Cornell University’s writing institute determines whether external writing course credits can be transferred to Cornell.

College Specific Online Tools

Some colleges have websites where you can check the transferability of credit from your home institution. See for example, these online tools from the University of Virginia and the University of California system. You’ll notice that such online tools are mostly not available from private institutions.

Department Offices

Depending on the college, the individual departments might be open to speaking with you about transfer credits. If you took (or are taking) an introductory art history course to fulfill a general education requirement, consider contacting the Art History Department of the colleges of your interest to check the transferability. Remember that whatever the department says isn’t necessarily final. Take the information they give you as an approximation, because it’s rare for a college to approve transfer credits before you actually transfer into the college.

Looking into transferability is not easy, and you may come across guidelines that are difficult to understand. Don’t hesitate to call the admissions office for clarification. If they don’t know the answer, they can at least point you in the right direction.

(Photo: Thomas Abbs)