Community colleges provide a valuable key to higher education.  Many times students will choose a community college as a stepping stone to a four-year university.  Community colleges tend to be closer to home, less expensive and have smaller class sizes than a university campus.  This is a great way to get your general classes completed, and move into a university when you’re done with all the 1000 and 2000 level courses.  But how can you be sure that you don’t waste your time at a community college, and ensure that all your credits will transfer evenly?

First, it is important to understand the policies of both institutions before you begin.  For example, if you’re studying to become a social worker, you want to be sure that the four-year university you want to attend will accept credits from the community college near you.   Community colleges will transfer their credits to any university, but it’s up to the university to decide which credits they will accept, and which ones they will not. Sometimes, taking a gap year from college might be beneficial.

Second, if your plan is to transfer after you complete your generals, it is in your best interest to actually graduate with your associate’s degree.  For example, if you take 50 credits from your local community college, and attempt to transfer those credits to a state university, the university can pick and choose which credits they will accept.  For this purpose, they will most likely not accept religion courses, remedial courses, orientation courses, etc.  However, if you complete 64 credits and receive your AA or AS degree, then the university will accept your associate’s degree as the total package and accept that degree as the equivalent of all general education requirements for the B.A or B.S. degree.

When you’re planning to transfer credits, it is important to choose carefully the classes you take at the community college.  For example, if you want to go into biology, be sure the classes you take at the community college level are working you towards the skills required in university level biology.  Don’t waste your time in community college by majoring in Art if you want to study science at the university level.  If you are not adequately prepared during your community college attendance, you might be overwhelmed and unprepared for the classes required at that level.

It is also important to take your community college classes seriously.  Most universities will accept any grades of “C” or better, some might accept a “D” grade, but it’s always a good idea to check with the university policy beforehand.

Each institution carries their own pre-requisites, standards and rules for transferring students.  It is important to discuss your plans with an academic advisor who will be able to help make sure you are setting yourself up for success.