How to Transfer to a Four-Year School


Many motivated students begin their higher education at a two-year college before transferring to complete a bachelor’s degree. Colleges and universities are increasingly expressing an interest in recruiting transfer students, so it’s a great idea to learn how the process works and make the most of your time at community college.

Unsure of how to start the transfer process? Here are three steps that the Foundation’s educational advisers share with community college students:


1. Build relationships.

Get to know your academic adviser and the transfer specialist at your community college. The Foundation maintains a list of Campus Representatives, and your institution may also have an online directory. These professionals know the ins and outs of transferring and have helped others like you before.

Join organizations and honor societies like Phi Theta Kappa, which can help connect you with networking opportunities, scholarships, and other resources. Your membership also demonstrates that you meet a high academic standard and that you’re involved with your community.


2. Build your college list.

Does your community college have articulation agreements or guaranteed admission programs with any four-year institutions? Taking a look at these colleges and universities can be a great starting point. If they look like a good fit, add them to your list!

Be sure to build a balanced list that includes institutions that you are “likely” to be admitted to, as well as some that are on “target” for you, and some that might be a bit of  a “reach.” Aim to have 2-4 options from each category:

  • Reach Schools: You fall at or below their academic profile in terms of grades and standardized testing (if required). The Cooke Foundation strongly encourages high-achieving students to apply to rigorous, highly selective schools, as these institutions often have more generous financial aid packages, comprehensive student supports, and provide exposure to greater postgraduate opportunities and overall earnings.
  • Target Schools: You fit their academic profile in terms of grades and standardized testing (if required) and the acceptance rate is around 30%-60%.
  • Likely Schools: You are at or above their academic profile in terms of grades and standardized testing (if required) and the acceptance rate is 60% or higher.

As you consider colleges and universities for your list, stay organized with our Creating Your College Transfer List worksheet.


3. Plan ahead.

Figure out which courses you’ll need to take in order to be accepted at your target colleges, as well as which credits will be transferable. Your major or program of interest may also have specific course requirements.

Sometimes this information can be found on a university’s website, but it is worthwhile to reach out to a transfer coordinator or the university’s office of admissions to help you navigate the process. They may be able to schedule a phone call or an in-person meeting to look over your transcript and provide more in-depth recommendations.

Start early and keep your academic adviser updated on your transfer plans. Together, you can ensure that you are picking the right classes and making the most of each semester at your community college.