FAQ About Transferring College Credits

Do you have some old college credits and you're not sure if they still count if you go back to school? These are some of the most common transfer questions answered.

March 18, 2022 · 2 Min Read

FAQ About Transferring College Credits

Dropping out of college can feel a lot like turning back after climbing halfway up a mountain.

Luckily, going back to college isn't as difficult as scaling Mount Everest. If you've passed college-level classes in the past, you've earned transfer credits that can help you pick up more or less where you left off.

Schools award transfer credits based on your academic transcript, which you can request from your previous college. Your number of transfer credits helps determine where you'll land on a path to a degree.

This process helps shorten the time and reduce the money it takes to complete a degree. But not everyone knows how it works.

Here, we answer the most frequently asked questions about transferring credits and the rules most schools use to evaluate them.

Frequently asked questions about transferring credits

What are transfer credits?

A transfer credit represents a course successfully completed at one institution that learners can apply to another school. Transfer credits allow students to switch schools, maintain their academic status, and complete their degrees without redoing previous courses. Typically, a school reviews transcripts to determine which credits are transferable.

What college credits are transferable?

Though transfer policies vary, a few common factors determine which credits are transferable:

College-level courses completed at regionally accredited institutions are usually transferable (accreditation means a school meets minimum quality standards). A course needs to be similar in content and depth to be considered for transfer credit at a receiving institution. Typically, you need a "C" grade or passing grade for a course to transfer. A "D" grade may be accepted on a case-by-case basis but doesn't count automatically.

Can you transfer college credits to an online program?

Yes. Many online colleges accept transfer credits from a brick-and-mortar university. Online colleges recognize transfer credits are beneficial for busy, non-traditional students who want to resume their education and earn a degree. As long as you earned the credits at a regionally accredited institution, there should be no issues transferring them to an online school.

How do you transfer college credits?

There are several steps you can take to transfer college credits:

  • Research schools offering a degree that aligns with your college credits, as well as your personal and career goals.
  • Look into the transfer policies of your selected institution to determine how they evaluate coursework, both in general and in regards to your particular program.
  • Request an official transcript from your previous institution. Your academic record will help a receiving institution determine how many credits count toward your degree.
  • Ask an admissions counselor to give you clarity on the admission process for transfer students at your selected school.
  • Start your transfer request. Each school has different rules, but you will most likely have to submit an application, an official transcript, and information about your previous coursework.

Do transfer credits expire?

In general, college credits don't expire. Most credits stay valid for years or even decades. But there are two notable exceptions:

  • Credits in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) often have a 10-year shelf life due to rapid changes in the field.
  • Graduate courses tend to have a 7-year shelf life to prevent older course curriculum from being outdated by new methodologies.

General education or core credits, on the other hand, are less likely to become outdated. But remember that each institution has its own transfer credit policies, so rules may vary.

How many credits can I transfer?

Typically, students can transfer up to 45 credits to associate degrees or 90 for bachelor's degrees. But there's no set standard. Minimum and maximum amounts may vary between schools.

Because each institution evaluates credits differently, it's not uncommon for students to lose credits during a transfer. Issues may come up when transferring from a private for-profit school to a public institution or going to a school in a different state.

How many credits do you need to complete a college degree?

The number of credits needed depends on the degree:

  • At least 60 credits for an associate degree
  • At least 120 credits for a bachelor's degree
  • Between 36 and 60 credits for a master's degree

Will transfer credits impact my GPA?

No, transfer credits will not impact your grade point average (GPA) at your new school. Although your previous grades matter for admissions decisions, transfer credits don't come with a grade designation. Your GPA will be a blank slate at your new institution.