Transferring From a Two-Year to a Four-Year College

Trends in Higher Education Raise Critical Questions

The transition from community college to four-year college or university indicates an important trend in higher education. The practice is not new, but the number of students that opt for this collegiate track is growing and based on divergent data. In some cases students are ill-prepared academically, and in others just unwilling to pay the high cost.

Despite education’s best efforts statistics prove that a growing number of high school graduates are unprepared for a four-year college campus. Academics are just one way in which students exhibit lack of preparedness: many are not ready to administer their own self-discipline or make other important decisions that affect their early adult lives. I know. I was one of them.

Directly relative to the skyrocketing cost of college tuition is the trend in community college enrollment due to its affordability. High school students that may be perfectly qualified and academically talented, even, are choosing community college. Spend two years of college living at home and studying locally before you migrate to two costly years away from home and you could save many thousands of dollars.

Community College a First Step

Community colleges are more equipped than ever to deliver either a career or technical degree or provide the guidance and remedial assistance for students that plan to transfer. On the other side of the equation, four-year colleges have responded in kind to the trend. More and more four-year colleges that formerly thumbed their noses at community college transfers are welcoming a more stable, mature and academically prepared boatload of transfer students with open arms.

Not only was I remiss in high school to proactively pursue college, the affect was an indication of deeper problems. I had no idea what career track might interest me and my academics were uninspired, including my SAT scores. Unfortunately for most college-bound students the SAT or ACT scores hold the key to admission. I hadn’t studied and I didn’t care. I heard “lack of motivation” from my parents and my guidance counselor. But in hind-sight it was an overall lack of maturity that I completely accept.

Nurture Your Academics and Build Good Habits

Community college transfer programs offer students a second chance to nurture their academic scores, as well as kick-start their college courses. Students like myself without the personal maturity to manage finances and study habits may live at home and hone those skills. In fact career and academic counselors at my college helped me formulate better study habits and over time explore career options. Their doors are always open and they have much more time to offer personal attention than their four-year college counterparts.

A good relationship with a career and academic counselor is imperative to your transfer, anyway. You’ll need to map out your academic goals from the outset and at some point discuss colleges/universities, financial aid and applications, all the things you likely pre-empted during your high school years.

Relationships Between Community Colleges and Public Universities

A growing number of colleges and universities have forged working relationships with local community colleges. Public universities in many states welcome a huge number of community college transfers. For example, the University of California system reports that a “third of all UC bachelor's degrees were awarded to students who started out at community colleges.” In Virginia many of the state colleges and universities have “agreements” with the community college system that automatically oblige them to accept transfers with certain GPAs.

What about Ivy League?

It’s not just public institutions with open arms anymore. Various factors that affect higher education also have spurred on such reputable institutions like Cornell to broaden, even market to the community college population. Like CU’s Pathways to Success program, plan on many more similar opportunities to become quite commonplace in the near future.

Types of Transfers

Depending on the type of college and the program into which you plan to transfer you will likely face different obstacles. Some colleges and universities require a rather well-endowed GPA, such as the University of Virginia that requires a 3.4 and limits the programs into which state community college graduates may transfer. Others, like the UC system expect a 2.4 GPA, without limitations on majors or departments.

In most cases community college students are welcome to transfer in as juniors. However, there are some cases in which students may transfer into a lower standing. For example, UC offers a “Lower-Division Transfer” to community college students that opted for the community college program even though they qualified for immediate UC admission. This transfer is meant to capture that population of student that chose community college for its price tag.