How to Avoid Common Pitfalls When Transferring College Credits

How to Avoid Common Pitfalls When Transferring College Credits

5 minute read

Okay, so you’ve completed some StraighterLine courses – congrats! Or maybe you’ve already acquired college credits elsewhere or are currently in a degree program and are thinking of a change. Whatever your situation, if you have college credit and are shopping around for a degree program, be sure to learn the ins and outs of transferring college credits before you start. You don’t want to lose any of your hard-earned credits! There are definitely a few common pitfalls with transferring that you’ll want to avoid. Like many of today’s students, Jayney Wallick had already taken several college courses before starting her degree program. But her transfer process was anything but ideal.  

“All of my credits from two different schools counted for nothing. I thought I had 116 credits. I had 56. I very nearly gave up on completing my degree,” said Wallick.

In a study StraighterLine conducted with the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), we found that 61% of our respondents had only three quarters or more of their credits accepted. And when we asked what the biggest barrier or challenge they experienced during their transfer process, 17% said “difficulty transferring credits”—the highest percentage of responses. How can you better prepare yourself for the transfer process? These three steps will help guide you through avoiding common pitfalls so you can transfer your credits more smoothly. 

Step 1: Know what you’re looking for in a degree program

This may seem basic, but before you start looking at a degree program, it’s important to have a plan for yourself and to know your needs. What’s most important to you:

  • Proximity to home?
  • The cost of obtaining your degree?
  • The time it’ll take you to complete your program?
  • The reputation of the school?

For Jayney and many others, time and finances played the biggest factors.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “the school that accepted the most credits, was reputable, and got me a degree in the quickest time, won.”

For the students we spoke to in our survey, 71% cited tuition/degree cost as the main decision-making factor when transferring, followed by how many credits they would be able to transfer.  Another important factor to consider is just how easy or difficult it might be to go through a chosen institution’s transfer process. Our study found that for many institutions, the credit transfer process can be complex and cumbersome for students.  Other details you may want to consider are your class sizes, how the specifics of the coursework you’d be undertaking compare from program to program, and where the school’s graduates often start their careers after  completing their degrees.  Have a list of your priorities ready and get the answers you need so that you can make an informed decision prior to starting your program. 

Step 2: Know the ins and outs of transferring college credits

In our study, 61% of students reported being able to transfer three quarters or more of their credits to  their new institution.  While it’s important to understand the number of college credits you can transfer over to the degree programs you’re considering, it’s equally important to understand how to transfer those credits.  Three reasons why your credits may not be entirely transferrable: 

  1. You’re changing majors so the course credits are not applicable to your new degree program.
  2. Your credits are transferrable, but not toward your degree, so they can only be applied to elective credits.
  3. Your previous coursework is considered completely non-transferrable so cannot be used for any kind of credit toward your new institution’s degree program

Step 3: Do your homework to avoid credit loss when transferring

It’s of course ideal to have as many of your credits transfer as possible before you start your next degree program. So how do you make the most of your previous work? Shop around.  Surprisingly, only 50% of the students we surveyed shopped around and explored multiple schools to determine which institutions would accept their credits. The number of credits that can transfer—and the ways in which they might—can vary greatly from institution to institution. It’s important to thoroughly consider a range of options before deciding on the institution to complete your degree. Do your homework by getting concrete answers from each school about how your previous coursework will transfer.  Each credit you’ve earned has a direct impact on the time and cost that will be required for you to complete their program. Once you know how transferring your college credits will work, compare that information against what your prioritized as your top needs when looking for your degree program in order to make the most informed decision.

StraighterLine Credit Transfer Guarantee

When you enroll at one of our 150+ Partner Colleges, we guarantee that you will receive full course credit for StraighterLine courses within your degree plan. Our Partner Colleges are selected for their high-quality degree programs and commitment to your educational success.

Looking for more tips to help you transfer your college credits? Check out this great article: Do College Credits Expire? The Complete Guide.


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