As an admissions representative, I talk to a lot of people interested in starting a degree program at my college, American Public University. One of their main concerns is transfer credit. How many academic credits do we accept? Do we take professional, military, law enforcement, or other types of training or certificates? What about college-level exams, such as AP, CLEP, or DANTES? Do we evaluate non-academic prior learning experience toward academic credit? Will we perform a preliminary review on their transcripts to give an estimate of what might transfer in?
A school’s transfer credit policy is an important area to investigate when researching your options. Here are some areas to consider.
- Residency requirements. All accredited institutions have a residency requirement that determines how many credits you can transfer toward a degree at their school. Transfer credit residency requires that you earn a certain number of credits at the “home” school; this limits the number of credits you can transfer in from outside sources.
- Accreditation. Did you earn your credits at a school that was accredited, either nationally or regionally? This is probably the most important factor in whether another school will accept your previous course work. Some schools will only accept credits from a regionally accredited school. Visit the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to check your school’s accreditation.
- Passing grades. Most schools will accept transfer credit for classes on which you earned a C or higher on undergraduate classes and a B or higher for graduate classes.
- ACE. The American Council on Education (ACE) publishes recommendations on military, civilian, and professional training, providing an academic equivalent for non-academic training. Most schools will accept training that has an ACE evaluation. For more information on ACE, check out www.acenet.edu.
- Credit by Examination. Did you take AP courses in high school? Depending on your score on the test, you may be able to transfer in that course. Many schools also accept CLEP (College-level Examination Program) tests, which evaluate mastery of college-level material. Check www.collegeboard.com for information on both these tests. DSST tests are similar to CLEPs; check http://getcollegecredit.com/about/ for more information.
- Prior Learning Portfolios. Some schools allow students to earn academic credits for what is called variously prior learning, work experience, nontraditional experience, and similar names. This allows you to show that your experience working, operating your own business, serving as a volunteer, pursuing a hobby, or engaging in independent study is the equivalent of college-level learning. To this end, you might prepare a portfolio with materials that show how your experience is the equivalent of a specific college class.
- Preliminary transfer reviews. Check to see if you can get a preliminary review on your transcripts or other forms of credit before you apply. Many schools offer this estimate to help you determine the number of classes you might be able to transfer in. This can be a great tool in selecting the school that gives you the best transfer rate.
If a school’s transfer-credit policy is the deal maker or deal breaker for you, be sure you know before you go!
Hunter Barrat is a senior admissions representative at American Public University System. She has more than 25 years of writing and editing experience on a wide variety of publications, including books, magazines, newspapers, and corporate communications. She has a B.A. in English from Kenyon College and a M.A. in English from California State University, Hayward.