4 Questions Community College Students Must Ask Themselves Before Transferring

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Road sign with question marks at the ends of arrows.

These questions can help you figure out which direction to go.

As a community college student, it’s understandable if your primary focus is to “get out” as fast as possible while doing the bare minimum work required to move on to bigger and better things. However, in the dizzying rush to transfer, we may miss opportunities for success or, conversely, opportunities to avoid failure.

Now is the time to slow down and really look at what you’ve accomplished and where you’re headed. To help you along, here are the four important questions that every community college student needs to answer before transferring.


1. Did I Evaluate All Of My Transfer School Options?

Too many students neglect to do enough research on potential transfer schools. The result is usually a complicated financial aid nightmare where you have 5 weeks to earn $20,000 in scholarships or be forced to take out student loans.

Don’t put yourself in that position.

Before transferring, be sure that you’ve done your homework on transfer opportunities both in and out-of-state. At a minimum, research 10 4-year colleges (with at least four to five being out-of-state) before deciding which you’d like to apply to.

2. Do I Still Like My Major?

About halfway through the coursework for my associate’s degree, I realized that I didn’t like my major. However, I kept pushing forward in hopes that I would eventually grow to like a career in medicine. Big mistake.

I ended up dropping out of the first school I transferred to, going back to community college, majoring in business, and then transferring again a year later. Lesson learned: It’s OK to change majors (even drastically).

Community college offers you the opportunity to easily and inexpensively try out different majors until you find one you like.  Before transferring, do a gut check and ask yourself if you are really happy with your major—if not, start the process of figuring out “why” and “what else can I do instead?”

3. Do I Know What It Takes To Be Successful In My Intended Career?

This is a two-part question.First, do you know what success looks like in your intended career? Second, what does it take to reach success?

When I say “what does success look like?” I mean “what is the end goal?” For an engineer, perhaps success is working for Google or starting his/her own business. This goal might change over time as you get more experience in the industry, but it’s important to know where you are headed.

The second question relies upon the first question. If your goal is to work for XYZ Company, what will it take to work there? How much (and what kind of) experience will you need to be a great candidate?

The reason these are important questions is that they force you to research your intended career early on in the game. You may find, after researching, that it takes 15+ years of experience to be qualified for your dream job. Are you willing to put in that kind of time and effort into making that goal a reality? If not, then now (while you are still in community college) is the time to reconsider and alter course.

4. Did You Complete Your AA Or AS Degree?

While the idea of transferring after 1 year may be tempting (or transferring before earning a degree), here are some reasons why you may want to reconsider:

  • You’ll spend more money taking general education classes at a 4-year school than in community college.
  • There are generally more spots for transfer students as incoming juniors with 2 years’ worth of course work than there are spots for incoming sophomores with only 1 year of course work.
  • Many articulation agreements require completion of your AA or AS degree before transferring. If you are transferring to a college that has an articulation agreement with your community college, you could end up transferring fewer credits than you think.

My advice: Don’t transfer before earning your Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree first.

Former community college students: What did you ask yourself before you transferred? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: geralt)

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