What Is Credit Transfer?


Colleges and universities have their own credit transfer policies for newly enrolled students.

Credit transfer is the process by which anyone who has earlier completed college courses or any other college-level learning is able to quickly and inexpensively transfer those credits toward their new college degree. Some colleges are strict with credit transfer, whereas others are more liberal in transferring credits.

Apart from individual courses that were taken in a college classroom, there are are a few other accredited forms of credits that are eligible for transfer. But not all credits will transfer and this is largely determined by the individual colleges and their transfer policies.

What is Meant By Credit Transfer in College?

Credit transfer is one of the first few activities that take place when a student enrolls into an US college or university. The student is required to submit a course-by-course listing of all the college courses s/he has previously completed.

The following are the documents that usually need to be submitted to the college for credit transfer:

1) Official college transcripts: This can be requested or ordered from all the previous college/s where you took credit courses. Each transcript will generally have the name of each course, the date on which it was completed, along with the score or grades awarded.

In the US, students are usually not allowed to submit a xerox copy of their student transcripts. Instead, you need to order a new official transcript which will be directly sent by them to your college for the credit transfer.

2) A college brochure for the year when the course was completed: This will have a detailed course description of all the topics that were covered in each course.

In case you took multiple courses in different dates or years, it’s best to submit course curriculum brochures for each year when you completed the college courses. This will ensure that the exact course description that was followed when you took the course is available for your new college for the credit transfer evaluation.

3) Foreign credential evaluation: In the case of college courses you completed abroad, you will need to submit a xerox copy of you transcripts/ mark sheets along with the course brochures to the foreign credential evaluator.

Your college will provide you a list of their recommended US foreign credential evaluators.

The evaluator will submit the final report to your college which will be used by your college for the credit transfer.

Credit Transfer Timeline

It usually takes 3 or more weeks for a credit transfer to be completed once you’ve submitted your documents. This time duration also depends on how many credits you intend to earn from the credit transfer and also on the complexity of the courses that are to have the credits transferred.

Can credits transfer from one college to another?

Credits from a regionally accredited US college will usually transfer to another regionally accredited or nationally accredited college; this is true as long as:

  • The course content as per your degree requirements at the new college matches or is related to the course you completed at the previous college.
  • You have not exceeded the limit on the maximum number of credits that the new college will allow to be earned by credits transfer.

How do you transfer credits?

The process of credits transfer usually happens when you enroll into a new college or degree program. You will need to submit your course transcripts and the college brochures or write up on the course description.

After the documents are submitted, you will likely have to wait for a few weeks for the report or updates to your new college transcript.

Depending on the college policies, there might be a small fee for every credit awarded by credit transfer. Most colleges do not charge anything for credit transfer, or simply charge one flat fee for transferring a fixed number of credits.

How do I know if my credits will transfer?

The best way to know whether your credits will transfer is to simply submit all your old course transcripts and course descriptions to your new college, and then let them make the determination. This is the only official or sure-shot way of knowing which of your credits will transfer.

But for an initial personal estimate of credits transfer, you can simply compare your old course description with the course content requirements for your new college degree. This is likely to be only an estimate and the final decision is always with your new college.

You might sometimes be pleasantly surprised and earn many more credits by credits transfer than your initial estimate. This can certainly happen if the rigor and level of your previous course is much more advanced than what is required for your new degree.

How do transfer credits affect GPA?

In most regular US colleges and universities with classroom or online learning, though previous credits can transfer to the newer college, these are likely to be awarded only a Pass on the transcript without the transfer of any scores or grades. Therefore, in most general cases, transfer credits will have no effect on the GPA.

Colleges are also generally strict about the credit transfer and will allow only a 5 to 10% of credits to be earned by credits transfer. This is so even if you completed a large number of courses in other colleges before enrolling in your current college.

The only exception here is with degree completion colleges such as Excelsior, Charter Oak and Thomas Edison State college. Most degree completion colleges not only allow unlimited credits by transfer, but most of them award a score or grade for each set of course credits awarded by credit transfer.

Percentage scores are usually translated into a letter grade in the transcript upon credit transfer, and if the previous course content was much more advanced than what your current degree requires, you could even be awarded a higher grade after the credit transfer.

This happened to be at Excelsior college where many of my previous college credits where I scored over 60% were translated into an A grade.

Can you start your college GPA over?

When you formally transfer from one college to another, or when you simply discontinue at a previous college and later on enroll into another college, your college transcript will start all over again. This means that all previous GPA or scores will be wiped out and once you apply for credits transfer, only those credits which meet the new degree’s course requirements will be recorded in your new college transcript.

You will be awarded a score or letter grade for each new course you complete at your new college. This will begin the work of recalculating your GPA all over again. In most cases, except in degree completion colleges, any credits awarded by credit transfer will be assigned a Pass in the new transcript and will have no influence on your new college GPA.

How long do college credits transfer?

College credits are likely to stay valid for about 10 years since when the courses were initially completed. Most rapidly evolving fields such as STEM fields, Business and Finance and so on would come in this category.

In some constantly changing technology fields such as cybersecurity or information technology, prior college credits can expire in as little as 5 years.

However some fields such as psychology, humanities or social sciences may have the credits valid for much longer. It also depends on the course content itself and just how much of the learning is still relevant and continues to be taught at current US colleges and universities.

What happens if my credits don’t transfer?

If some of your credits don’t transfer, you might want to talk to your college student advisor to figure out why. It is possible that the course content does not meet your new degree requirements in some way.

Another possibility is that you did not submit the old course brochures from the time when you completed the course and simply took the latest course brochures with modified course descriptions.

In some cases, colleges are able to work with one another and to share information on course content. But it is always in your best interests to trace and submit all the dated course brochures.

This becomes even more important if you are transferring foreign credits through a foreign credential evaluation. Your US college will completely rely on the foreign credential evaluation report for US equivalent credits.

Is it better to transfer with or without an associate’s degree?

Most major colleges and universities have articulation agreements with several community colleges in the state that make it possible to transfer all the credits from the associate degree to their transcript for a subsequent bachelors degree. So it definitely adds value to transfer with an associate degree.

However NCES data from Table 2.2-A indicates that the percentage likelihood of community college students completing either their associate or subsequent bachelors degree is very low.

So rather than working toward an associate degree, there are much better outcomes when students directly enroll into college for their bachelors degree.

Can you transfer college credits after 10 years?

In most cases, college credits are not valid beyond 10 years. But some colleges allow up to 15 years validity for credits for Business degrees or Public Administration degrees.

What happens to your credits if you change majors?

If you change majors in your college, any credits that are relevant to the new major or the general ed credits will automatically transfer over to the new degree major. So you will still be able to apply most of your credits to the new degree major.

Can I transfer with a 2.5 GPA?

Though a 2.5 GPA is nothing to brag about, the credits can still transfer to most public colleges as it is considered a passing score. But the more selective or higher ranked public or especially private colleges may reject any courses with a GPA lower than about 3.0.

So this is very college-specific, and if you have an overall GPA of prior courses that’s about 2.5, simply choose a mid-level and accredited public college or university.

Do credits transfer for second bachelor’s?

Credits can certainly transfer to a second bachelors degree from the degree transcript of your first bachelors degree. This is in fact a smart way to utilize curriculum that’s common across multiple bachelors degrees, especially when it comes to the general education/ core degree requirements.

All you will need to do then is to complete any remaining courses or learning that are specific to the degree major for your second bachelors degree.

How do I go back to college after dropping out?

Going back to college after dropping out years ago is more of an emotional challenge than a practical one. Getting yourself to restart an education which you feel you should have completed years ago can be very painful.

But on the positive side, many of the logical steps to restarting college have gotten much easier over the years.

Once you’re emotionally ready, here is how you can restart college:

1) Find a degree completion college that you’d like to attend and learn all you can about it. Though you can actually attend any college, for maximizing credits transfer and reducing college costs over 80%, enrolling in a degree completion college such as Excelsior is definitely worth it.

2) Gather up your old transcripts from before you’s dropped out of college. If these credit courses were completed less than 10 years ago, there is strong likelihood that you can transfer the credits to your new college degree for zero to minimal cost of credits transfer.

3) Pay the relevant enrollment fees and fix an appointment with your college student advisor to go over your degree plan for your remaining college credits.

4) Signup to take many credit-based online courses at Sophia, Study.com and so on.

5) Complete any remaining credits by taking credit-eligible exams such as CLEP or DSST.

6) Track your degree progress for all 120 credits of your bachelors degree until successful completion.

How long are transcripts good for?

Most transcripts for an active degree program are valid as long as you’re enrolled in the college as a student. But if you intend to transfer out to another college in the future, courses from your existing transcript will continue to be valid approximately for a period of 10 years from the time of each individual course completion.

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