Sometimes your first college choice isn’t the right fit. You might start your education at a two-year college with intentions to continue at a four-year school. Or maybe your college unexpectedly closes. Whatever your reason, take these steps for a smooth transfer: 

Research Success Rates at Your Prospective School

Check graduation rates, graduates’ average earnings and graduates’ average debt on the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. Check students’ loan default rates at Federal Student Aid.

Keep Your Grades Up

Even if you don’t plan to stay at your current college, continue to go to class and turn in assignments. Your prospective college will want your most recent transcripts and might have a grade requirement, even if you were previously admitted. Many schools won’t accept transfer credits for grades lower than a C-minus.

Make Sure Your Credits Will Transfer

All schools have the right to establish their own transfer credit policies, so work with advisors at both your old and new campuses. Questions to ask:

  • How are the schools accredited? Schools might be regionally or nationally accredited. While both types of accreditation are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, many regionally accredited schools accept transfer credits only from other regionally accredited schools.
  • Is there a limit on the number of credits? Some schools cap the number of credits you can transfer.
  • Is there a limit on the type of credits? Examples of credits that might not transfer include those awarded for life experience, pass/fail courses and courses at government agencies or corporations.

Request an Official Transcript

Your new school might offer an unofficial transcript evaluation based on your own copy of your current transcript, but don’t rely on this unofficial evaluation. The official evaluation, which happens after your new school receives an official transcript directly from your old school, will tell you exactly how much of the new program you need to complete so you can determine what it will cost. You might want to delay registering at a new school until you receive an official transcript evaluation. Note: Many schools will not release an official transcript if you have outstanding charges.

Apply for Admission

Check the admission requirements at your prospective college, even if you were previously accepted. Some colleges will want a copy of your prior college coursework regardless of whether you intend to transfer credits. Ask your admissions officer about placement exams, registering for classes and signing up for orientation. 

Apply for Financial Aid

Add your new college to your FAFSA, and notify your current financial aid office of your plans to transfer. Some types of financial aid cannot be awarded by your new college until the old college cancels your aid. Contact current scholarship donors to see if scholarships can be transferred. If you plan to borrow, you might need to complete new loan applications. Contact your new school to discuss the process and ask if you need to submit a financial aid transcript. 

Transferring from a Two-Year to a Four-Year School?

If you know you want to transfer from a community college to a four-year school, read your prospective college’s policy on transfer credits even before you enroll in classes at the community college. Look for community colleges that have credit transfer arrangements with four-year schools.

The Transfer in Iowa website is a one-stop resource for transferring credit between Iowa's community colleges and Regent universities.