Transferring from community college to a university with your Associate of Arts degree is one of the best benefits of community college, and most students report that is their very goal upon enrolling at a community college.
However, it’s not always easy.
I just met with a friend and superstar community college graduate this morning who told me she just found out (a year before graduation from her 4-year university) that she’d have to take chemistry because her university and major required a physical science and she had taken two non-physical sciences at her community college.
Her community college education plan was matched with the university’s education plan for her particular major, but unfortunately the science requirement wasn’t communicated.
This happens a lot. And not only to community college students. I’ve had so many friends who’ve had issues with their transcripts, transfer credits, and graduation applications.
The credit-system is not perfect and advisors are swamped with so many students and reliant on computer systems that are not immune to both technological and human error.
While institutionally this should improve, you don’t want to just wait for things to get better or cross your fingers and hope this doesn’t happen to you.
As in all my content, I’m a big believer in giving you the tools necessary to advocate for yourself. So below are 5 things you can do to make sure you are only taking the classes you need to graduate on time:
1. Choose your transfer university and major ASAP
As soon as you can decide on your top-choice* transfer university and intended major at that university. Look online at the college catalog** and print out the degree plan for that major and bring it with you to every appointment with your community college advisor.
*If there are a few colleges you’re considering look at the course catalog education plans for all of them to see if there are any differences. If not, choose one to work from; if there are differences, choose the one that would best fit all the universities requirements.
**If this all sounds confusing to you ask a college graduate to help you navigate the university’s website or call the admissions office to ask for help looking for the education plan for the major you’re interested in. Don’t stop asking for help until you get what you need.
2. Meet with your advisor every semester to talk about your educational plan and graduation track
Show your academic advisor your four-year college catalog plan from the university and ask for help to map out your community college courses to meet those requirements. Check in every semester to ensure you’re still on the right track to graduate on time with the requirements your transfer university requires.
3. Review your transcript closely every semester and match it with your transfer university’s course catalog
This can be difficult at first but ask your academic advisor for help translating the transcript and understanding how it relates to your four-year educational plan. Get used to how it looks and pay attention to your progress towards graduation so that you’ll be attuned to notice if things get off track.
4. When possible meet with an advisor or admissions person at your transfer university to double-check that you’re on the right track
If you can’t meet with someone from your transfer university before you’re admitted, try bringing your transcript to a professor you trust as a mentor and ask for help. Professors have graduate degrees and can be a great second-eye on your transcript and educational plan.
5. Partner with a friend to do a transcript review exchange
Buddy up with a friend (ideally with the same plan as you, but it doesn’t have to be) and review each other’s transcripts every semester along with each other’s four-year educational plan. Getting a second or third eye on your transcript and degree progress is SO helpful.
My advisor at my 4-year university told me I was going to have to take 17 credits my final semester. I was all signed up for a ton of classes until a friend looked at my transcript for me and saw there was a mistake – I only needed 12 credits and was able to drop a class!
This may seem like a lot of extra work, but it’s the only way to ensure you graduate on time. No one cares about your educational plan and progress more than you.
Be your own advocate and be diligent in ensuring you are on the right track. Ultimately this is your life, your education. There are tons of people who will help you all along the way – it’s just up to you to ask and keep on asking.
Good luck and happy transferring. Remember that this journey, while complicated, is an exciting opportunity.