Can You Transfer Credits to Online College?
thebestschools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Are you ready to discover your college program?
Transferring from one college to another isn't always easy. Every school has its own policies when it comes to accepting credits, recognizing degrees, or counting your prerequisites.
The good news is that transferring between colleges has become increasingly commonplace, especially for students making the transition from the traditional campus to an online college. Many of the best online colleges have simplified the transfer process to accommodate the growing population of aspiring transfer students.
If you are currently attending or have attended a traditional on-campus program, but you're considering a transfer to an online school, there are plenty of accredited online colleges that accept transfer credits. This means you can complete your degree online, even if you started on a traditional campus. If you are currently enrolled in an on-campus program but you feel like an online degree program might be a better fit for your lifestyle and needs, you have a ton of options.
Do Online Colleges Accept Transfer Credits?
Yes! Online colleges that accept transfer credits are quite common. Many online colleges operate on the premise that they are serving busy, non-traditional students who may have prior educational experience, and even prior degrees. This is why most online colleges allow students to transfer college credits, often in large quantities. Whether you’re currently in a traditional degree program, have been out of school for a few semesters, or you've just completed an associate degree program, transferring into an online bachelors degree program should be easy. You just have to meet a few basic criteria first.
Featured Online Colleges
Are my credits transferable?
Transferring college credits is a commonplace scenario. However, not all credits are created equal. While there are plenty of online colleges that accept transfer credits, they do have standards.
First and foremost, any accredited online college will typically only allow transfer credits from a regionally accredited institution. Regional accreditation is extremely important, and while some nationally accredited schools offer quality educational programs, most credits from nationally accredited schools won’t transfer to another institution. National accreditation can also be a gamble when it comes to quality, and many national accrediting agencies are not reputable. This should come into consideration when choosing schools at any point.
Regional accreditation, on the other hand, is a gold standard for quality, approved by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. If your credits are from a regionally accredited school (and they probably are), that’s a good start.
Beyond accreditation, there are a few things to keep in mind. Your GPA does play into whether or not your credits will be accepted. Generally speaking, you need at least a 2.0 (C average) for your credits to count. You also need enough credits to qualify as a transfer student. Typically the minimum is 30 credit hours (roughly your first year of college). Less than that and you will likely be treated as a new student, rather than a transfer student. This means your application will be more complex, and will take into account factors like standardized test scores and an admissions essay.
It’s also important to remember that it is generally easier to transfer an entire two-year degree than a basketful of loose credits. The majority of students who will transfer do so after completing an associate degree program and subsequently transferring credits from a two-year or community college to a four-year university program. This can be a cost-effective way to complete your first 60 credit hours before going on to earn a bachelor's degree. Provided your original school is regionally accredited, your new online college is more likely to accept the full sum of your credits in the neatly wrapped package of an associate degree, rather than as a hodgepodge of unrelated credits.
However, the credits from your associate degree do need to be relevant to your online bachelor's degree. If you are transferring from a general Associate of Science program to a Bachelor of Science program, you are probably fine. On the other hand, if you are jumping into a new field—for instance moving from a Bachelor of Science in Physics to a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Languages—your general education credits may transfer, but your advanced physics credits probably won't count for much.
Finally, some community colleges and universities have articulation agreements in place. These agreements make is much easier to transfer credits from a community college or accredited two-year program to a four-year university or online bachelor's degree program. In cases like this, a community college and university have partnered, allowing you to complete your first two years of study at a community college before seamlessly transferring your credits to a four-year university where you can then complete your bachelor's degree program. If you are already enrolled in a community college, or considering one, this is something to keep in mind.
What is the maximum number of credits you can transfer?
The rule of thumb for college transfer credits is 90/30. This means that, at most, online colleges will accept 90 hours in a college credit transfer, and will require that you must complete 30 credit hours in their program in order to earn your degree there. More likely, however, the college will accept around 60 college transfer credits, leaving you to complete another 60 credits at the school to which you have transferred.
You will notice that the above ratios add up to 120 either way. This is because the average bachelor's degree program requires 120 credit hours for completion. The 90/30 rule assumes you will need to complete at least one year (two semesters) of study at the institution to which you transfer. It is also assumes that the credits being transferred are standard credit hours (which are used by most schools) and not quarter-credit hours.
If you have attended a school that utilizes quarter-credit hours, transferring can be a bit more complicated. Quarter-credit hours can be converted to standard credit hours, but different schools have different ways of doing this. If this situation applies to you, contact the office of admissions or registrars office at the school of your choice to learn more.
When you transfer, does your GPA start over?
A perk of transferring colleges is that while you will transfer college credits, you won’t transfer your GPA. Sure, your GPA is used to help determine your admission eligibility, but after being accepted to the new school, your GPA becomes a blank slate. What counts, in the end, is your GPA at the institution where you will ultimately graduate.
This factor makes transfer credits from community college programs particularly attractive to many students. It’s no secret that community college programs allow you to complete general education courses at a reduced cost, but they also allow you to get a few difficult but required courses out of the way. For example, if you want to enter a sociology program but dread college algebra, earn your math credits in community college. As long as you get a C or better, your credits should transfer, but your GPA won’t take a hit in the end. Transferring credits from community college to university programs can be a great way to help ensure that your final GPA reflects your knowledge and skills in your area of study, and not your struggles in outside fields or unrelated prerequisites.
Otherwise, get started on your transfer process today by checking out this year's Best Online Colleges.
More topic-relevant resources to expand your knowledge.
Header Image Credit: Cavan Images | Getty Images
Popular with our students.
Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.
Take the next step toward your future with online learning.
Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.