Online colleges are designed to cater to students who may not fit the traditional mold. This includes returning students, those with full time jobs, or students with families or other obligations that keep them from being able to attend classes on a campus. These courses are flexible enough to work for most students, but some may choose to take just a few classes online before deciding to complete their education at a college campus. Online courses can also be great for students who want to complete college faster by working over the summer break or who want to supplement their schedule with relevant courses. Some students may even decide to begin a degree with one online program and then decide to transfer to another program that may be a better fit for their needs.
If you plan to transfer colleges, whether from one online program to another, or from a community college to an online program or campus location, understanding what types of courses and credits transfer will ensure that any coursework you complete will count toward your degree, regardless of which institution it is from. Though some students set up a long-term goal of starting at one college and transferring to another, there may be other factors that force students to have to change schools. Some common factors that could cause students to transfer between schools include:
- Transferring from a junior or community college to a four-year institution
- Moving or relocating to another city or state
- Change in employment
- Change in military status or location
- Transferring from an online school to a traditional campus
- Transferring from a brick-and-mortar college to an online university
- Change in major of study
The Importance of Accreditation
What accreditation means for you is that your school has met the necessary requirements to prove that they are equipped with professional faculty, proper curriculum, and support to provide you with a strong and practical education. This also means that the school and its programs are well-established and reputable. Though online degrees are becoming increasingly popular and more widely accepted, it is not likely that a future employer will accept a degree from an unaccredited institution. Accreditation information can be found through the school’s website, by speaking with their admissions department, or through various online organizations.
It is important to look for an online college that is accredited; this is vital before attending any online school. There are dozens of organizations that accredit colleges in the United States, along with many that work specifically to accredit online programs. Online colleges, as all other colleges, must meet certain educational standards, which prevent you from getting a degree from a so-called diploma mill. Accreditation can be done at the regional or national level, and many of these agencies re-evaluate schools after a certain number of years.
Accreditation not only affects the quality and legitimacy of your education, but it also affects your financial aid opportunities, as well as your ability to transfer credits to another school. If your online classes aren’t part of an accredited program, chances are that they will not transfer to a campus college or any other accredited school. And if the school is not accredited through a proper agency, you will not be eligible for any federal financial aid. Be careful of the college you choose, so you don’t end up spending time and money on courses that won’t be accepted. There are plenty of online accredited programs, so do your research and find a good one!
Transfer Credit Requirements
To learn about credit-transfer, you need to look at the requirements of your specific college. Some colleges are extremely lenient and accept transfers from just about any other school. Others have very high standards, and only accept transfer credits if you meet certain conditions. Before deciding on a school to transfer to, thoroughly research their transfer policies to ensure that you are able to transfer the highest amount of credit hours possible. Some conditions for transferring college credits between schools could include the following:
- The credits you are transferring are from a course that is very similar to a required course at your new college.
- The credits you are transferring are from a course that fulfills either general education or elective requirements, but not from a course that you want to use to replace one of the classes directly related to your major.
- You got a very high grade point average (GPA) in the course and can prove that you were held to high academic standards.
- You are only transferring a small number of credits; most colleges will not allow you to transfer more than 30 to 50 percent of your total credits, so if you go to college online for more than two years, you may have to repeat some classes. Most courses accepted will be the basic courses you complete in your first two years of school.
- The credits were earned within the past few years. Many colleges will not accept credits that were earned more than six to eight years ago, but it depends on your program and your specific college. You can check with the school to find out their exact policy on this.
Not every college accepts transferred credits, but schools that allow transfers generally do not differentiate between credits earned from a traditional college and credits earned from an online program. The important facts are that they are from an accredited college and that you otherwise meet your school’s specific transfer requirements. Again, it is important to speak with an adviser about the specific requirements for your school and program. They can walk you through the process and ensure that you meet the necessary guidelines.
Transferring Credits to an Online College
Remember, you can transfer credits from a campus college to an online college as well. The challenge in either case is that online colleges and campus colleges often have fundamental differences that require you not just to coordinate the transfer credits, but also to change how you think about education. With an online class, you have to be extremely motivated and self-reliant, and the education is more focused. This learning style requires students to work at their own pace and keep up with the material without constant supervision. Some students may even finish programs online faster than is possible at a traditional college because of the time they are able to commit to their coursework.
On the other hand, when you go to school on a college campus, you are expected to interact more with other students, completing more group projects and participating in classes. You also have a more rigid schedule, as you are required to attend classes in person at specific times every week. These major differences often throw transfer students for a loop, so be prepared for these differences as you learn about transferring your credits. Be sure that you are comfortable with your decision to attend a traditional school or to learn online. In the end, it comes down to which learning style best suits your needs and schedule. You will obtain a complete and credible education through either type of institution, and as long as the college is accredited, your degree will be accepted by future employers.
Thoroughly researching your school and program can help you better prepare for your education. It is important to understand the requirements not only for the school you begin your degree program with, but also any school that you may potentially be interested in transferring to. Knowing transfer policies ahead of time and mapping out your degree plan will help ensure that any credit hours you take will actually count toward your degree. Be sure to set yourself up for success, so you don’t lose credit for courses you have already taken. Some factors that could cause credits to not be transferrable to another school include:
- Attempting to transfer credits from a nationally accredited school to a school with only regional accreditation.
- If a course does not meet the same standards of quality.
- If the course is not relevant or does not apply to a particular degree plan.
- The minimum grade required for the course was not met.
- There is no comparable course in your transfer school’s degree program.
Receiving Counseling Advice from Admissions Offices
You should get in touch with the admissions office from each college to facilitate the transfer. You will need official transcripts from your current school, and you may need letters from your college as well as proof that your online college is accredited. All of this information should be submitted when you apply to the college you wish to transfer to, as this information can actually help you be accepted into the program. Every school is different (here’s one example of transfer requirements), so work with staff from your college of choice to find out more about the process.