How to Transfer Credits from One College to Another

Wondering about the details of transferring credits from one college to another? Discover how to find a college, transfer credits, and get financial aid.
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While most students graduate from the colleges they entered as freshmen, there are many reasons to consider a transfer, from the pragmatic to the personal. Transferring to a new college can seem like a daunting task, but following these steps to transfer credits from one college to another can help take the mystery out of the process.

The first step is to understand when transferring to a different college makes sense for your education.

Reasons for Transferring to Another College

According to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 1.3 million transfer students were attending college in the fall 2021 semester. Transfers can be upward (from two-year to four-year colleges), lateral (between two-year schools or between four-year schools), or reverse transfers (from four-year colleges to two-year colleges).

Some common reasons for transferring include:

Two-Year to Four-Year College

More and more students are getting their core credits and associate degree at a two-year community college, then transferring those credits and earning a bachelor’s degree at a four-year school. Many state universities have transfer relationships with community colleges. While all credits may not be transferable, this path can make a four-year degree more affordable.


The average cost of college in the U.S. was $35,331 per year, according to the most recent data from the Education Data Initiative. The organization also reports that, even with scholarships and other financial aid, such as work-study and grants, average student loan debt was $37,693. Some students make the financial decision to transfer to a less expensive program if their circumstances change.

Changing Education and Career Goals

College can be a time of discovery. After taking courses for a few semesters, students may find they’ve changed their minds about the major they chose at the start of freshman year, and want to pursue a different educational path. If they find a college with a program that is a better fit for their career goals, it makes sense to transfer credits.


Many students who go away to college experience homesickness, which can lead to a decision to transfer. However, there are other reasons to transfer to a college closer to home besides missing family and friends. A student’s family situation may change, or going to college while living at home may make financial sense. Students may also decide to get their degree in a city or region where they hope to live and work.

College Transfers: Important Considerations

There are plenty of important considerations when deciding whether to transfer to a different college. Students should take these considerations into account and research their options accordingly.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is a key consideration when thinking of transferring to another college. According to the Department of Education Federal Student Aid site, most financial aid will not transfer with students. Students should talk to the financial aid counselor at their current school to learn how to close their current account and reapply for aid at the transfer institution.

Credit Transfers

Colleges, universities, and community colleges have articulation agreements that explain which credits are transferable between institutions. Rarely do all earned credits transfer. Transfer students typically find that they lose some credits when they start at a new college, whether core or elective credits. Taking the time to research the articulation agreement between a current and prospective college can help support a transfer decision.

Total Costs

Transfer students are often eligible for scholarships at their new school. However, these scholarships, work study, or other financial packages need to be weighed against adding a semester or more to their education if not all of their credits transfer. Students may have to take out additional student loans to cover the cost of transferring to a new college.

Time to Graduate

Students who transfer from one college to another may find that they won’t graduate in a typical four-year period. Besides the additional costs of an extra semester or year (or longer), this could delay their entry into the working world.

The College Transfer Process

Knowing how to transfer credits from one college to another can help prevent missteps and save time. Fortunately, students have a number of resources at their disposal, both at their current school and at the transfer school. The following are steps in the college transfer process:

Research Colleges and Universities

First, students should identify what they’re looking for in a new program. They need to identify colleges that are the best fit. They should research the colleges’ transfer admission requirements, deadlines, and tuition and fees schedule. They should also find out if the schools have an articulation agreement. Once students have decided on the college or colleges they wish to apply to, they need to schedule a call with a transfer admissions counselor.

Look for Transfer Scholarships

Students should speak with their current college’s financial aid counselors. This is crucial to making sure that they understand the process for withdrawing from the school. Students must also understand their financial situation. Colleges can withhold transcripts if students have outstanding accounts. If students have federal or private student loans, they may have to return the money when they withdraw from their current school and then reapply for the loans when they apply to the new school.

Get Those Ducks in a Row

Transfer students have already been through the application process. They know they have to get their transcripts from their current school, fill out applications, and get letters of reference. Transfer admissions counselors look at college courses and grades and overall GPA when making decisions about whether to accept transfer students. Before applying, students should confirm with the school exactly what they need as part of the transfer process.