Attending community college for two years and then transferring to a full four-year college to complete a bachelor’s or other degree is an extremely popular strategy. It works particularly well for students who have financial constraints and can benefit from two years at a very low-cost community college. This route also works for lots of students who don’t know exactly what they want to do at the point they graduate from high school. Many of them (encouraged by their parents) want to take two years to get the foundation credits for a liberal arts or other degree, and then transfer to a full-scale university after they’ve had some time to “figure out” a career path.
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Many state universities, and some private schools, have transfer credit agreements with community colleges within their states. If your community college has such an agreement with the school you wish to attend, you’re likely to have a fairly easy time transferring all the credits from your first two years of school towards your four-year degree (unless you got very poor grades in your courses).
But what if you want to transfer credits from a community college in, say, Alabama to a state or private university in North Carolina? It’s unlikely that the North Carolina school will have a formal credit transfer agreement with your Alabama community college. But that does not mean you won’t be able to get a full credit transfer.
Community colleges generally enjoy a good reputation, and most often have accreditation from a major regional accrediting body (remember, regional accreditation is higher quality than national accreditation). The best approach is to talk to the registrar at the school you wish to transfer your credits to. Odds are they will be open to transferring “core” courses in your major. Elective courses are a bit less likely to transfer. But it may be possible if your elective courses directly mirror some courses in the curriculum at your new school, and appear to be a good replacement for them.
John O’Brien has been a writer, editor and consultant in higher education for over 14 years. His background includes writing for insidehighered.com and The Chronicle of Higher Education. As editor of College Degree Complete, he has advised hundreds of adult students on how to transfer colleges without wasting the credits they’ve already accumulated, to finish their degree programs in the fastest and most affordable way.