Planning to transfer to a four-year college or university? Not all transfer students will have the same timeline, and not all transfer students will realize they want to transfer with two full years to plan it. So even thought this timeline is based around community college students who are preparing to transfer in two years, it’s comprehensive enough to help any transfer student wherever in the process you are of deciding to transfer and going through the transfer admission process. Use the four-part timeline below to keep track of what you need to do—and when you need to do it!
Year one, fall semester
- Think about your interests, aptitudes, and career goals. The better you know yourself, the more likely you are to find the right college for your transfer.
- Meet with an advisor at your current school to discuss your transfer plans. Most community colleges offer extensive resources for students, including experienced transfer counselors who can help you navigate the process.
- Start researching colleges and universities you might be interested in. Consider such factors as location, size, degree programs, cost, academic and social environment, and job/internship opportunities.
- Look for schools that offer articulation agreements with your current school. Articulation agreements can greatly facilitate your transition to a new institution by guaranteeing transfer of your earned credits, as long as you maintain a good academic standing.
- Attend transfer fairs. They are a great way to make contacts and get details on many different colleges.
- Focus on your schoolwork and grades. Your performance at your current school is factored heavily into the transfer admission process.
Year one, spring semester
- Continue your college research. The more you know about different schools, the better your chances of choosing a college that’s the right fit for you.
- Meet with your advisor regularly. Be sure to keep him or her updated on your progress.
- Develop a “short list” of four or five schools that match your goals, priorities, and academic record.
- Contact the schools you’re most interested in and determine which of your credits will transfer to their degree program.
- Consider satisfying most of your general education requirements before you transfer. This will allow you to focus more on your area of interest once you’re at your new college.
- Visit the colleges on your list, if possible. Nothing will give you a better sense of what a campus is like than visiting it yourself.
- Talk to an admission counselor and at least one professor in your academic interest at the new school. Be sure to bring a list of questions.
- Collect applications from the schools you plan to apply to. Start thinking about essay topics, recommendations, and other materials you’ll need to prepare. Be sure to give your recommendation writers at least a month to complete their letters.
- Carefully record and keep track of all application and material deadlines. Plan to apply as early as possible, especially to schools that admit students on a rolling basis.
- Start researching financial aid. Look for scholarships, loans, and grants, especially within your specific degree program.
- Consider taking summer courses and/or internships. You’ll get an academic jump-start, gain valuable work experience, and bolster your transfer application.
Year two, fall semester
- File your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1.
- Request a copy of your transcript, and review it carefully. Make sure the information is accurate and complete. In most cases, the school you’re currently attending will send your transcript directly to the colleges you’re applying to, so it’s important to ensure that the details are correct before it is sent.
- Schedule an interview at any schools you haven’t already visited. If you can’t visit in person, talk to admission staff via phone or online. It’s also helpful to contact professors, students, and alumni for questions on courses and campus life.
- Send applications. Make sure each application is filled out neatly, completely, and on time, and that all required materials, including application fees, are submitted.
- Keep a copy of all materials you send. Create a separate file for each college. Include your application, essay, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and any other materials. Note the date you sent each application.
Year two, spring semester
- Analyze your credit evaluation and equivalency statements, which list the courses and credits that will transfer toward your bachelor’s degree, before you decide on a college or send a deposit.
- Review your financial aid package and compare the bottom line for each college.
- Consult with your transfer advisor before you make a final decision. He or she can help answer your questions and clarify details that might affect your choice.
- Double-check deadlines for deposits, registration forms, and other materials, and get them in on time.
- Take advantage of orientation programs and other opportunities for transfer students at your new school. Meeting other transfer students and getting acquainted with campus life will help ease the transition.
Not every transfer student journey is going to look the same. So if this timeline doesn’t perfectly fit the experience you’re going through, that’s okay. Use it as a general guide to help you complete everything you need to get done. In the end, your transfer will be worth it—but first you need to put in the effort to make sure you prepare yourself and ease your way through the process with the help of the resources at your disposal.
Find more great advice that will fit your transfer journey in our Transfer Student section.