College Transfer Q&A: Too Many Course Credits?

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August 5, 2011 in Admissions, All Transfers, Community College Articles, Credits, Four-Year Transfer Articles, Q&A

Question:

I’ve just finished one academic year at my current university. Because of my heavy course load during both fall and spring semesters, I’ve accumulated 3 semesters’ worth of credit. I want to apply to transfer Spring 2012. Should I apply as a sophomore or junior transfer? If I don’t get into any school for Spring 2012, I want to apply for Fall 2012, but I’m afraid that I’ll have too many credits by then. Should I take a semester off while applying to transfer?

Answer:

Depending on which college/university you apply to, the answer may be different, but we’ll offer a general response that applies to many schools. If you will have 3 semesters of coursework by the time you enter as a spring transfer student, then you should apply as a sophomore. If you will have 4, then you should apply as a junior. You should avoid going beyond 4 semesters of coursework credit because then you would have a higher standing than junior status, and many schools don’t accept transfer students who are beyond junior standing.

You currently have two shots at applying to transfer: the Spring 2012 round of applications and the Fall 2012 round. Here’s a road map that you may follow:

  • Continue attending your current university during Fall 2011, and take a regular course load.
  • Complete transfer applications for Spring 2012, applying as a sophomore.
  • If you don’t get into any of the schools you apply to, take the Spring 2012 semester off and do something productive: intern, work, conduct research, etc. The more closely the work aligns with your major or area of expertise, the better. In the meantime, work on your transfer applications for Fall 2012.

Call each school you’re interested in to confirm that this plan makes sense. There may be a school out there that wouldn’t mind if you had more than 4 semesters of course credit, allowing you to avoid taking time off.

Notes about taking time off: taking time off during college may sound like a scary prospect. However, doing so may actually be quite beneficial. Lan took two terms off while she was an undergrad at Stanford (Stanford is on the quarter system and has 3 terms per academic year, plus the summer term). During one term, she studied Japanese language in Japan. During another term, she took time off to intern at a major electronics company, again in Japan. She found those experiences worthwhile, and they were not detrimental to her record. If anything, those experiences bolstered her profile, not to mention the fact that they provided her with opportunities for great professional, academic, and personal development. Just be sure to do something meaningful and productive during your time off. Also, before returning to school, prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to again immerse yourself in college life.

(Photo: Lee J Haywood)

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11 responses to College Transfer Q&A: Too Many Course Credits?

  1. Great advice about taking a semester off. I personally know that UCs and Columbia don’t mind applicants having more than 2 years worth of credits as long as they are all from lower division courses.

    • Well about that, it’s not 100% true for the UCs. I know in basically every other case they are very flexible about accepting all lower division courses which is great because that’s how a lot of students can save money. I just wanted to point out that in my case it’s an entirely different story.

      Last year, I enrolled in a private out-of-state four year university but this year I decided to take classes at my local community college here in the Bay Area while I am waiting to apply to transfer to a UC as a junior transfer. It’s not posted anywhere on their transfer website since the majority of the prospective transfer students that they deal with are coming from two years of community college, but for anyone like myself, we are only allowed to transfer 60 semester units/90 quarter credits. If you have more than that, then it puts you at another disadvantage when the admission officer is reviewing your application. Also, it’s really important to also point out I’ve been told that it is really hard to get into a UC as a transfer student if you’ve spent time at another four-year institute since the transfer system is really set up to aid students that couldn’t afford to go to college as freshmen for whatever reason.

      All of this I learned after talking to several college counselors at my school and admissions officers at both UCLA, Davis and Berkeley.

  2. The new common application asks about Education Interruption. I am about to graduate from my community college in december with an associate’s degree and right now I am in the process of applying to schools, as a transfer student, for either spring 2012 admission or fall 2012 admission. I graduated high school in June 2007 and then took two years off, personal reasons and then volunteer work in Africa, before I enrolled in community college. I also switched high schools more than once. What is the best way to write about my “educational interruptions” without having to divulge too much information?

    • That’s a good question. Our advice is to be very open with the admissions officers. If you don’t explain anything, you may come off as just a slacker with no excuses, but often the stories that we’re embarrassed by are the best things to talk about. For example, say those years spent away from school were caused by a drug addiction. Overcoming something like that is an incredible thing to have done, and something that deserves discussion.

      Don’t ask for pity or anything like that, but just come forward with the truth in plain and simple language. If it helps, remember that you’re highly unlikely to ever meet the officer(s) that admitted you.

      Hope that helps, if you’ve got a follow-up question, let me know!

  3. In my first year of college, I received good grades overall, even managing to make the Dean’s List first semester at my four year university. In one class, however, I received a 1.5, although the rest of my grades were nearly solid 3.5s. A lot of this was due to struggles I was having with depression; three of my best friends died in a car crash in the middle of the year. I explained that (making sure I did not sound like I was trying to elicit pity) in the additional information section of the Common App. Overall now, my GPA is a 3.18. If I have a solid essay and good extracurriculars, do I still have a decent chance at being accepted? I’m applying to some small, more selective liberal arts schools (Furman, Loyola Marymount, etc.) 

    • Hi Celia, sorry to hear about all that. I would say you’ve got a decent shot as long as everything makes sense: the low grades came during the aftermath of the crash and all your other grades were strong before and are back up again now.

      Best,
      Chris

      • Would it have been appropriate in the application to mention her depression and how it effected the rest of her life? In general I mean, would admission officers see that and understand or would they just think that you’re just giving excuses for bad grades or dropped classes? I’m just wondering because my transcript definitely suffered from the depression I developed during my freshmen year. Thanks!

  4. I’m in my senior year of college. I have more than 90 credits in Criminal Justice and I like it, but I wish to have a second major in Political Sciences. My university doesn’t provide that option, so I was considering transfering. I know it’s late, but my question is, is it still possible? I don’t care if I have to spend two years in my new institution (the normal residence requisite), I just want to know if some strong academic university (Emory, for example), will accept me with this quantity (more than 100 by December) of approved credits. I must say that for health reasons, my GPA my freshman year wasn’t good, but right now, I’m at ~3.65.

    • Hi Flying, thanks for the comment!

      As you mention, the standard that many colleges follow is to require a minimum of 60 credits to be taken at their school after the transfer (this usually equates to about 2 years), and some schools actually won’t take students who have completed a certain number of credits, even if the students are willing to give those up.

      Those strictures are particularly true/stronger at the most selective colleges, but at the less selective ones you’ll find that even if they have stated policies like the ones I just mentioned, there’s more leeway to make an exception, especially if the reason for the transfer is compelling enough. With transfer admissions (and probably life in general, actually), you’ll often find that most of the stated rules go out the window if you can make a convincing enough argument as to why you should be the exception.

      Unfortunately, you’ll have to research the policy of each school you’re interested in by going to their websites (I can’t think of any schools off the top of my head that don’t care how many credits you already have). If it’s unclear or not mentioned, don’t be afraid to email or call the admissions office (if you’re calling, ask to speak with someone who can handle questions about transferring into the school).

      If you’re really interested in going to the school you’re calling/emailing, be prepared with a strong, reasonable argument about why they should take you regardless of the fact that you’re already a senior.

      One last suggestion: why not just get a masters in political science? Especially abroad, such degrees may take only one year to complete, and so might actually be cheaper than spending another two years in college (not to mention the fact that they’re a higher degree). For example, the London School of Economics offers a one-year MSc in Political Science and Political Economy: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/study/graduate/taughtProgrammes2012/MScPoliticalScienceAndPoliticalEconomy.aspx

      Hope that helps, sorry there isn’t an easier answer! If any colleges tell you they will take you regardless of the number of credits you have, please let us know, as we know there’s other people that definitely have the same question as you.

      Thanks!
      Chris

  5. Hi!

    So I did my freshmen year at Northwestern where I completed 10 units. At NU, the usually had us doing 4 units per quater and there at three quarters so typically, I’d had 12 units but I ended up taking only 2 my last quarter there. Anyways according to our official transcript “once course during the academic year should be considered to be the equivalent of four quarter hours or 2 2/3 semester hours.” So I have about 40 quater units or 23 semester hours. 

    Right now I’m taking a full load and my local community college in California and will probably finish the year out there. I’m just taking a lot of lower division pre reqs but I’ll have a total of 40 quarter hours from just this school year.

    So when I apply to colleges during the spring, should I apply as a sophomore or a junior? It makes sense to me to apply as a junior but at the same time it doesn’t. A lot of the courses I took at Northwestern were very specific to my major and the ones that I’m taking this year are very general. How does that all add up? I get that it really depends on the school in the end but I’d just really like a general idea. Thanks! 

    • It’s usually a good idea to check with the specific school(s) you plan to apply to.  This is a topic we can talk about.

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