In celebration of National Transfer Student Week, we connected with Batanya Gipson, Common App's Program Director, Transfer and Community College, who shared critical information for students considering transfer.

What are some of the reasons a student would want to transfer to a 4-year college or university?

Batanya Gipson: Students may choose to transfer to a 4-year college or university for many reasons. The most obvious reason a community college student may choose to transfer is to pursue a bachelor’s level degree. For students transferring from one 4-year institution to another, reasons may include location or proximity to home, family obligations, or financial situations. They may also be seeking a specific degree program not found at their current college. The list of reasons why students choose to transfer is long and varied.

There are so many pathways to college. Can you talk about some of the known transfer pathways to a 4-year institution?

Batanya: Students transfer for many reasons, including:

  • Vertical transfer: transferring from a 2-year to a 4-year college or university
  • Lateral transfer: transferring from one 4-year college or university to another 4-year college or university
  • Reverse transfer: students attending a 4-year college or university who transfer to a 2-year college to complete coursework; or students who transfer their academic credits from a 4-year college or university to a 2-year college to complete the requirements for an associate degree.
  • Swirling transfer: students who attend and transfer courses between more than two institutions.
  • Concurrent enrollment: attending two institutions at once.
  • Dual enrollment: students who take college courses during high school to transfer them to a college or university when they graduate
  • Transient students: students who establish academic residency at a home college, transfer to other institutions to complete coursework, and transfer that coursework back to their home college to complete their degree requirements.

In what ways do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students wanting to transfer?

Batanya: COVID-19 has affected students seeking transfer in many ways. Many students transfer to be closer to home, concerned about their personal health and that of their family. Other students face difficult financial decisions because of the pandemic that dictates their need to transfer. 

In addition, many students received alternative grading scales for courses taken during the pandemic. Students who chose the alternative grading scale may worry about how these courses will transfer to their new school.

Common App for transfer provides students space to describe any COVID-19 related circumstances that have affected them during the pandemic. This question is separate from the Common App essay and is there to help colleges get to know students better and provide them with a deeper understanding of each student’s situation.

Common App for transfer provides students space to describe any COVID-19 related circumstances that have affected them during the pandemic. This question is separate from the Common App essay and is there to help colleges get to know students better and provide them with a deeper understanding of each student’s situation.

Batanya Gipson, Program Director, Transfer and Community College, Common App

What important questions should students consider as they begin the transfer application process?

Batanya: One of the main issues transferring students are concerned about is transfer of credit. We know that loss of credit in transfer can lengthen the time it takes students to graduate. We also know that loss of credit can be expensive, since students may then be forced to pay to retake courses or complete unplanned coursework to fulfill the requirements of their new degree program. Students should talk with an advisor at their home college as soon as they start considering transfer. Advisors can help with course selection and inform students of any credit transfer agreements they have with other institutions. 

Once students are aware of the degree program they want to pursue at their transfer college, they should contact an advisor there for further guidance on how their credits will transfer. They should be sure to have transcripts available from all previously attended schools and ask to see if the transfer institution will provide an unofficial evaluation of their credit. This evaluation will give students an idea of how their credits will transfer before they apply. 

Another major issue transfer students face is cost. While tuition and fees are obvious areas to consider, students should also consider other factors like:

  • Aid: Students need to understand how their transfer credits affect satisfactory academic progress (SAP) toward their degree program at their new college. SAP can affect their eligibility for federal or state student aid. Other questions include: Will the student’s scholarships transfer to their new college or university? Are job opportunities and internships more plentiful in the area?
  • Travel: Is your college further away from home? Will you need to buy plane tickets to get home during holidays, or pay to store your things over the summer?
  • Cost of living: Do you have to pay for parking? Are the dorms or area housing and food more expensive?

These are a few factors that affect the cost of transfer. Be sure to consider them all as part of your transfer decision.


If you had to offer several key terms that a transferring student should know, what are they and why are they so critical to understanding and navigating the application process?

Batanya: The following are four key terms that are important for students to understand when preparing to transfer:

Guaranteed Admission: an agreement between colleges that allows students transferring to be automatically accepted if they meet specific academic requirements. These agreements may also be referred to as Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG), Automatic Admission, or Guaranteed Transfer. How does guaranteed admission help?

  • Students have a clear understanding of what is required to be accepted into an institution.
  • Students can plan for their next academic steps with confidence.

Articulation Agreement:  a partnership between colleges that gives students a clear plan of how their credits will transfer. How do articulation agreements help?

  • Students know exactly which courses to take in their current degree plan that will transfer to their new institution and their new degree plan. 
  • Articulation agreements help transfer students stay on track toward their degree and graduate on time.
  • Articulation agreements can save transfer students money by minimizing loss of academic credit.

Credit Evaluation: Colleges review prior academic coursework and, in some cases, prior work, military, internship, or other experiences, for credit toward a new degree program. Credit evaluations can be unofficial or official. 

  • Unofficial credit evaluations are sometimes provided before students submit their application to give them an idea of how credit and experiences will apply toward a new degree program.
  • Official credit evaluations are typically completed after the application process and once students are accepted. The official evaluation tells students exactly how credits will apply toward a new degree program.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP): Schools determine whether students are making sufficient grades and are taking enough classes to make satisfactory academic progress toward a degree within a reasonable amount of time. If not, the student may risk losing federal or state financial aid. The U.S. Department of Education defines satisfactory progress as a school’s standards for satisfactory academic progress toward a degree or certificate offered by that institution.

  • Students should check with an advisor at their transfer institution to understand its specific standards.
  • Students with many transfer credits may be more at risk.

You have a wealth of experience working at both the community college and 4-year levels. How can colleges support students looking to transfer?

Batanya: Colleges can best support transfer students by making their transfer policies clear and accessible to their students through various media - website, social media, print, etc. Step-by-step guides are also useful to keep students on track during the transfer process. In addition, it is helpful to have clear points of contact to transfer advisors or transfer counseling centers. Students can benefit from upfront, quick evaluations of their credit (unofficial or official) to better understand how their prior coursework will apply toward a degree. Finally, connect transfer students to resources tailored to them like scholarships, social groups, mentors, and programs. 

What college search tools can help students choose their next path?

Batanya: Common App offers many tools to help transfer students navigate through the application process.

Our Explore Colleges platform can help you search for colleges that meet your specific needs. Students can filter by colleges that accept the Common App for transfer, then narrow it down further by choosing various other parameters. Common App just introduced a new Guaranteed Admissions filter that allows students to explore Common App colleges that guarantee admission to transfer students who meet their requirements.

Common App ready for transfer is a complete toolkit for tips, best practices, and resources to help you through the transfer process. Other helpful tools are Common App’s Plan for College checklists to help community college and service members and veteran students plan for your transfer journey. Finally, Common App has an application guide to walk you through the process of submitting your transfer application to any of its over 650 institutions that accept Common App for transfer.

The transfer experience can be a challenging and uncertain one for so many. What words of encouragement would you offer to students at any stage of the process?

Batanya: I have the following advice and encouragement for our transfer students:

  • Be sure to communicate early and often with your transfer advisors. They are there to help you. 
  • Seek every opportunity to connect with your new school and become an active part of the student body.
  • You are not alone. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 37% of students transfer at least once in their college careers; of those, nearly half change schools more than once.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your experience! It is valuable and you have so much to offer.