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Transferring Credits to an Online College

Q: I'm currently working on a Web design degree a traditional university, but I'm having a difficult time finding the courses I need at times that work with my schedule. I'm considering transferring to an online college so I can finish my degree and continue working full time. How do I go about transferring college credits? Thanks!

Great question. I get a lot of students in my classes at the local college who are upset that so many of their credits from other schools won't transfer. Yet, a 2010 article in U.S. News & World Report says that a third of students wind up transferring to other colleges or universities, according to information from the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

What to know about transferring credits to an online college

Transferring college credits can be a tricky matter, even when it's between two very similar schools, so it can be even trickier when you're talking about transferring credits to online colleges. You're lucky, in that Web design is actually a great field for a jump to online -- the subject naturally lends itself to online study. Some programs, such as engineering, aren't such easy fits. Plus, while the acceptance rate for transfer students is slightly lower than the acceptance rate of first-year students (usnews.com), online colleges often accept more transfer students from what I've seen. After all, a large percentage of their students are like you -- they work and need degree-completion programs.

Now, my first tip for how to transfer credits to an online college is to make sure that you select a program that can actually lead you to your chosen degree and also one which is accredited. Now, a note about accreditation. There are, unfortunately, many online colleges that are not accredited, which is the seal of approval from a regional or national agency that a program has met certain standards. Among those that are, the accreditations vary, which can be confusing. And it can have a lot to do with what transfers and what doesn't. Say you're attending a regionally accredited college now and the online college you're interested in is nationally accredited. One kind of program may not accept courses from another -- check first with your intended school to determine its policy.

The next thing to be sure of when considering transferring credits to online colleges is that your grades are up to snuff. Some colleges transfer students with GPAs of 2.0 or higher, but others are more selective and require a 2.5 or even a 2.75.

Still other schools won't let you transfer if you're too far along in your program. They want you to have been a student for at least a full year or even two before you can earn a degree at their institution. So if you're a senior with three classes left, you may not be able to transfer and still graduate on time.

Finally, know that while your new online school may not enable you to transfer your credits, many colleges offer credit through alternative means -- for example through challenge exams like the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), or by giving credit for your real-world experience.

Be sure to discuss transferring college credits with an admissions counselor at your chosen school. He or she will go over all your options and look at your credits to discuss what might transfer and what might not. Also see our guide to transferring community college credits for more transfer advice.

Thanks for your great question! As always, keep following my advice here on OnlineColleges.com or Google+, and submit more questions to me here!


Sources:

"Transfer Students: 8 Things You Need to Know," usnews.com, November 16, 2010. Lynn O'Shaughnessy

"Finding your competitive advantage as a transfer student," usatodayeducate.com, January 19, 2012, Shannon Dauphin