Cardinal Stritch UniversityCardinal Stritch University

Top Three Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Transferring

Your four years of high school went by pretty quickly, didn’t they? You were encouraged to begin thinking about college as early as junior high. You may have, but for most students, it’s easy to wait until junior or senior year to begin seriously thinking about it. If you’ve opted to attend a 2-year college first, and know you’ll be transferring, the same suggestion applies: it’s never too early to start thinking about it.

Community college students like you may be juggling classes, a job, practice and maybe even commuting back and forth to school. It’s easy to focus on the day-to-day activities and lose sight of the big picture—the next step. That’s why it’s important to use the resources available to you to make the process easier, and hopefully less time-consuming. 

Here’s a few tips from those who have transferred before you. Perhaps if you know what they wish they had known, you’ll be well-prepared.

1. “I would have used the resources available to me in the transfer services office.”

Have you stopped into the Student Services Office at your school? You may find a Transfer Services Office. Ask to have a conversation about your goals and interests. You will find a highly-knowledgeable counselor who can help direct you to colleges and universities you may not have even considered, based on the information you disclose. You will discover what institutions are coming to visit your campus. You can find information on what questions to ask about financial aid, transferring classes credits and admissions requirements. Your community college may even host a transfer fair. Do your research so you can ask the right questions.

Just like in high school, admissions representatives visit community colleges, hoping to connect with you and help you find the right fit. The difference is, the admissions representative can talk to you in depth about your goals, the courses you are taking, transcript evaluations, and admissions and financial aid requirements for transfer students, which can be extremely different from the requirements necessary to attend the institution right out of high school. It’s important to do research early.

2.“I wish I knew about Articulation Agreements.”

Oftentimes, students go to a community college first and try to figure out what they are interested in studying. It may be the most cost-effective way to take the general education courses you need, while exploring a variety of areas you may be interested in pursuing.

Did you know more than 100 colleges and universities in Illinois are part of the Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI), a statewide transfer agreement, which is transferable at participating institutions? If you don’t know what you want to study, schools participating in the IAI agree to accept a “package” of general education courses, replacing their own 100 and 200 level general-education classes.

If you know what you want to study, but are not sure where to go, the IAI can be beneficial for you. The IAI actually recommends classes to take during your first two years at a community college, based on many popular majors. This way, your transition into a four-year school is virtually a seamless process. For more information, visit www.itransfer.org.  Many other states have similar initiatives and websites and 4-year universities may have articulation agreements with your community college, so check with your transfer advisor for more information.

3.“Once I transfer, how do I make the most out of my two-year campus experience?”

College is what you make of it. The same can be said for your high school experience and your community college experience. Are you enjoying it? Having fun? Are you looking to challenge yourself and try new things? Make the most out of every opportunity you are given. When looking for a school, think about the aspects you enjoyed about your high school and your current community college. Do you thrive at a large school, with countless extra-curricular opportunities and academic programs? Are you looking for a university with hundreds of programs to choose from? Do you prefer a smaller environment where everyone knows your name and offers a personalized educational experience? Interested in the liberal arts? Graduate school opportunities? Transferring provides you with a clean slate, so you can figure out what works best for you and find a school that has it.

When you’ve selected your school, make sure to attend orientation. It’s the best way to meet new people. You will meet people going through the same experience as you. Join an organization. You have years of college experience and a new perspective to bring to the table. Check out the Office of Career Services. Similar to searching for a college, it’s never too early to see what you should be doing to prepare to graduate and find your career. If you’re still not sure you picked the right major, take a career assessment and find out how best to use your talents. Even if you’re continuing your education and searching for graduate school, Career Services can help. Finally, pursue opportunities. It’s not too late to study abroad and find the funds to help. Get connected with internship opportunities and make sure to network. College truly can be the best years of your life. Best of luck.