What to Know About Transferring Old College Credits

If you’re considering returning to school after some time away, you may be able to transfer your college credits, helping you earn a new degree faster.  By transferring credits to your new school, you can avoid redundant courses that cover subjects you’re already familiar with. That gives you the freedom and flexibility to earn your degree sooner, without wasting valuable time and money. Read on to learn the basics of college credit transfers, including how transfer credits work, what factors determine whether your credits are transferable, and whether military experience counts toward your credit requirements.

How Many College Students Transfer?

If you’re thinking about returning to school after taking some time off, or transferring from one college to another, you aren’t alone. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) reports that roughly 37 percent of students — more than one-third — made one or more transfers during the period from 2008 to 2014. Nearly half of these students — approximately 45 percent — transferred “more than once,” according to the AACU. Research also revealed that:

  • Approximately 20 to 25 percent of all transfers crossed state lines
  • Transfers were most likely to occur “after the student’s second year” (37 percent)
  • Most transfer students — around 40 percent — “come from two-year community colleges,” where students can earn an associate’s degree
  • Over 90 percent of students transfer to a four-year college or university before completing their two-year (associate’s) degree

How Do Transfer Credits Work?

Each college course is worth a certain number of credits, or units. You need to earn a specific number of credits to graduate, which varies depending on your institution of higher learning, and even a specific degree program within your school.  If you transfer from one institution to another, you might be able to carry over some of your credits with you so that you don’t have to waste time and energy repeating familiar courses. Transferring credits increases your efficiency, frees up your schedule, and saves you money. Many institutions award credits in semester units. Others, including National University, award credit in quarter units, allowing students to move at a more aggressive pace. This is an important distinction to consider when calculating and transferring college credits. Earning your degree sooner can also help you apply it in a job-related setting, expanding your opportunities for a more rewarding and better-paying career path. Consider the following example.
You must earn a minimum of 90 quarter credits, or quarter units, to receive your associate’s degree from National University. However, you would need 60 semester credits, which is equivalent to 90 quarter credits, to graduate from a semester-based school. To offer another example, National University requires a minimum of 180 quarter credits to earn a bachelor’s degree, which is equivalent to 120 semester credits.  You can view specific program and degree requirements by browsing NU’s accredited programs, using our program finder, or checking our credit requirements (unit requirements). Or, learn more about our credit hour policy here.

Will My College Credits Transfer?

The answer to this question depends on a few different factors, which means some students may face more obstacles than others. Here are some of the most important points to consider if you want to transfer your credits:

  • Articulation agreements
  • Your GPA
  • Regional accreditation

Each of these factors — and how they could impact your ability to transfer credits — are explained in detail below.

Does Your University or College Have an Articulation Agreement with National University?

Some institutions enter into mutual articulation agreements with one another. When two colleges or universities have an articulation agreement, it means that both institutions have agreed to recognize credits earned toward the same degree. By setting clear, shared standards, articulation agreements can make the credit transfer process smoother, saving students time, money, and unnecessary stress. At National University, we recognize the value of efficiency. That’s why we’ve entered into articulation agreements with over 110 community colleges, making it faster and easier for transfer students to hit the ground running. To find out if your school has an articulation agreement with National University, browse our database or speak to our Admissions team.

What Was Your GPA?

Different institutions set different GPA requirements for transfer credits. For example, the new university might require an incoming undergraduate to have a GPA of at least 2.0, or an incoming graduate student to have a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Was the School You Attended Regionally Accredited?

Regional accreditation is important for many reasons, but one of the biggest is its impact upon your ability to transfer credits. Put simply, regionally accredited schools only accept credits from other regionally accredited schools. A college or university cannot become accredited unless it passes strict quality standards. These standards are evaluated by regional bodies, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), which accredits institutions located in the Northeast. Schools that are located in California — along with Guam, Hawaii, and Western Samoa — are regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). National University received WASC accreditation in 1977 and continues to meet the organization’s rigorous standards today.

Will My College Credits Expire?

While college credits generally do not expire, there are several exceptions to this rule. For example, National University does not accept credits earned for graduate-level courses taken over seven years ago.

How to Transfer College Credits

Ready to begin the process of transferring course credits to another college or university? The information below will help you take the first steps.

How Do I Transfer Credits to National University?

National University generally accepts transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions, subject to certain criteria. Here are some actions you can take to find out whether your credits will transfer:

  • Apply to National University today. If you’re ready to make a major change in your education, applying to a new school is the most important step you can take. Once your application is in our system, we can help you determine which, if any, credits are transferable
  • Contact NU Admissions for personal, one-on-one support from an enrollment advisor
  • Contact your school about having your transcripts sent to National University. The Registrar’s Office should be able to assist by providing us with your sealed official transcripts
  • Want to get a quick estimate of how many of your credits will transfer? Use our credit transfer calculator for undergraduate transfer students

Find out how to transfer college credits to National University.

Do Graduate Credits Count?

If you’re an incoming graduate student, you can potentially transfer up to 13.5 quarter credits to National University. However, you’ll need to meet the applicable criteria first. For example, the institution you attended must have been regionally accredited or your credits won’t be transferable. To see the full list of requirements, please visit our page for graduate transfer students.

Can You Get College Credit for Military Service?

As a Veteran-founded nonprofit, National University is proud to serve our servicemembers. Not only are we a Yellow Ribbon school that offers military tuition discounts, we also offer college credit for military experience in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, including active duty, Veteran, and reserve servicemembers. To learn more about military admissions and course credit, follow two simple steps:

  1. Download a copy of your Joint Service Transcript (JST) from the Department of Defense (DoD) website.
    • If you’re in the Air Force, this document will be called a Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcript
  2. Ask an enrollment advisor about your JST or CCAF. The advisor can look at your past experience, including skills or languages you learned in the military, and determine how your credits can be transferred.

What About Credit for Online Courses?

We’re glad you asked. Check out our detailed breakdown of this topic here.

Jumpstart Your Degree by Transferring Graduate or Undergraduate Credits to National University

You’ve already done the work. Now, make sure you get the credit. Talk to an admissions advisor about transferring your credits to National University, including military experience.  National University is an accredited institution that offers more than 75 on-campus and online degree programs, including dozens of certificate and credential programs. Whether you want to advance in your field or learn the skills to embark on a new career, National University will challenge you to grow.

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