How to Find Online Colleges Accepting Transfer Credits

Taking college classes online is becoming wildly popular. According to Aslanian Market Research and The Learning House, Inc., more than three-quarters of public universities and about half of private colleges offer not just online courses, but at least one fully online program. Traditional colleges and universities are recognizing the demand for flexible learning options and are meeting the need. Fortunately, many online college programs accept transfer credits in the same way that traditional schools do. This guide explains how to transfer credits from a traditional program to an online one.


What Matters to Students Entering an Online Program

Students interested in transferring into an online program are bound to have several questions and concerns. Here are just a few.

What costs are associated with transferring?

The biggest cost consideration is whether the applicant will be able to stay on track with studies and graduate on time. In many situations, a transfer student may have taken two years of college courses as a full-time student, but due to the new school’s transfer policies, cannot finish the bachelor’s degree in an additional two years, but rather, three years. This extra year of school can be expensive.

Another cost associated with transfer is the application fee. Usually ranging from between $20 and $100, this is a relatively small cost, but one that the applicant interested in transferring will still need to include in the budget.

What effect will transfer credits have on my GPA at my new college?

Depending on prior academic performance, a student might choose to focus on transferring to schools that will not only accept prior coursework for credit, but for GPA purposes as well. But that’s really never guaranteed. Daniel Haitz, founder of EDUSquared, advises caution with expectations. “The school you transfer to won’t weight it in their GPA calculation, because you didn’t take the course there. Don’t be thinking you’re a 4.0 student coming in. The clock resets and it’s a whole new ball game.”

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Choosing the Right Online College as a Transfer Student

The transfer process can be confusing, although the process can be made much easier if a potential school has a comprehensive website students can visit to get answers to common questions in a clear and concise manner. And if direct contact to the school to ask a question about transferring becomes necessary, getting a quick answer can reduce a lot of the stress of transferring.

Deciding on a school is a personal and situation specific decision, so the exact process will depend on the particular student. However, there are several points and questions to consider.

  • Does the potential school have special transfer arrangements already established?

    For the easiest transfer possible, choose a new school that has an arrangement or system in place to accept transfer credits. This can be a special agreement with the student’s current school or it may be an online program that primarily depends on accepting transfer students to fill its classrooms.

    Many community colleges have special arrangements (sometimes called articulation agreements) with state universities. These agreements allow students who complete their associate degree at the community college to quickly and easily transfer to the nearby state university. From there, they can spend the next two years working toward their bachelor’s degree, allowing them to graduate after four total years of schooling.

    “We tell our students to seriously consider a year at a community college,” Haitz said. “Community College credits come at about a 70 percent discount to typical college credits. A lab science is a lab science. For all degrees, there is a set of core curriculum that needs to be met and those core courses vary slightly by university. Lab sciences, mathematics, rhetoric, humanities, history and social sciences often find their way into these core set of classes. These types of classes are perfect for transferring.”

    For schools who depend on transfer students, there will be a streamlined process in pace. These schools are also more likely to be familiar with coursework from other schools. This means students who want to know if their earlier courses will transfer can get an answer much faster.

  • What is the reputation of the potential school?

    Generally speaking, students transfer into schools that have better name recognition and reputation. What if, however, the student is unable to attend that particular school? Students should look at accreditation, graduation rates, financial aid available and many other points to make a decision on which school might be best.

  • How similar are the academic term systems between the two schools?

    If the new school uses a different academic term system than the current school, the determination of how many credits will transfer will be more difficult. And once the determination is made, it’s possible the student will not receive as many credits as they hoped.

    This is common when a student transfers from a school with a quarter system to a school with a semester system. Courses in a quarter system can easily run several weeks to a month less than courses in a semester system. This means a student may not receive the same number of credits at a new school. For example, if a student took a 3 credit class at the old school, the new school may only give two academic credits.

  • Are there limitations on transfer credits?

    When it comes to transferring prior credits to a new school, there are two primary limitations. The first is the total number of credits a student can have transferred into the new institution. Depending on the school this can range from 15 to 88 credits.

    Second, there may be a limit as to how long ago a course may be complete for it to be accepted as transfer credit. Then there’s the particular type of course a student is seeking to transfer. For instance, changes in technology, methodology or accepted principles in an area of study can affect when and if prior coursework “expires.” Typical time limits, if there are any, are usually several years.

  • What can the transfer credits be used for?

    Each school and department will have its own policy and rules, but transfer students need to understand that even if a course is accepted for transfer, it’s possible it will only be accepted as an elective and not in the anticipated major or as a core course requirement. This policy can serve as a significant limitation on the total number of courses that can transfer since a student will only need so many electives to graduate.

  • Will the incoming student need to take any prerequisite courses?

    Even if prior coursework is accepted for transfer, the student may still need to take additional classes to get on schedule at the new school. One such example is when the incoming student hasn’t taken all the necessary courses to start a specific program. As a result, they may need to take prerequisite courses to be fully prepared for the new program.

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Steps to Transferring to an Online College Program

If you’re ready to transfer to an online college or university, below is a general list of steps to take to complete the process. Of course, every school will have its own set of policies and procedures, but this list provides a general idea of what you’ll need to do.



If you’re thinking about transferring schools, make sure you’re making the right decision. Speaking with your academic advisor can help you flesh out your reasons and may shed light on considerations you never considered. Your advisor should give you an idea of how the transfer process will work and answer any questions. And if they can’t personally answer your questions, they’ll give you the contact information of someone who can.



Once you have confirmed your choice school accepts transfer students, you’ll need to figure out the process. This information should be available on the school’s website and will include basic information such as:

  • How many credits can transfer to the new school
  • An explanation of the review process for determining if a course will be accepted for transfer credits and if so, what limitations that may exist, such as minimum grade required or how recently the course must have been completed
  • Whether the school accepts non-college course credits, such as work experience, military service, Advanced Placement high school courses or CLEP exam scores
  • The existence of any special arrangements or articulation agreements with other schools for ease of transferring

If you have additional questions, you should be able to get a quick response by e-mailing or calling the school’s admissions office.

To improve the odds of your old coursework transferring over, find out if your new school uses the same regional accreditation organization as your old school. If they are the same, then it can help the new school determine if they will accept your courses.



Before you apply to a new school or begin the transfer process, you’ll need to confirm what previous courses will be accepted. You’ll do this by sending a variety of information to the new school. Besides the official college transcript, you may need to send a course description and class syllabus for the courses you’ve completed.

When you receive an answer as to what you’ll be able to transfer, make sure you get it in writing. While your new school won’t go back on its word to accept your courses, the last thing you want is a misunderstanding after you’ve already enrolled!

What if it appears your hard-earned credits won’t transfer – and you think they should? “Even if your credits appear as if they won’t transfer, most schools have a waiver process where you can take in a syllabus and apply for the credits to count,” Haitz said. “Always worth a shot.”



Just because you’re transferring schools doesn’t mean your new school will figure out your financial aid situation for you. You’ll need make other arrangements to ensure you’ll have the ability to pay the tuition. If this includes applying for new scholarships or filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), make sure you get it done on time.



Transferring to a new school is very similar to applying to the school as a freshman. Letters of recommendation, personal statements and official transcripts will usually be par for the course. Make sure you plan ahead, especially for getting letters of recommendation.



Submit your applications before the deadline and engage in any follow-up activities, such as on campus visits. Even though you may be attending the school online, requesting a campus visit can help express your strong interest in the new school.

Advertisement 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.

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Online College Transfer Spotlight

  • Arizona State University
    Arizona State University, or more commonly known as ASU, is a one of the largest public universities in the United States and leads the way in classroom innovation. For example, ASU’s online undergraduate programs rank among the top online bachelor’s programs in the country, according to the US News & World Report annual rankings. Students also have a plethora of academic subjects to choose from with over 100 online degree programs to choose from. ASU also offers a comprehensive Transfer Credit Guide to help prospective students learn more about the transfer process, such as the status of ASU’s determination of which of their prior courses will be accepted for transfer.
  • Franklin University
    Franklin University has been around for over 100 years, but has recently adapted its curriculum to tailor to more nontraditional, adult students. This means Franklin University has well-developed online programs to offer the flexibility college students are now demanding. The transfer process is seamless, which explains how approximately 90 percent of its student body has college credits from other academic institutions. Franklin University has an innovative Transfer Credit Tool which allows students to add their prior coursework and see how it shortens the time it takes to get their degree.
  • Kennesaw State University
    Kennesaw State University, or KSU, is part of the University System of Georgia and offers over 70 fully online degrees, hybrid programs and certificate programs. KSU’s online courses are fully accredited and taught by KSU faculty. To help transfer students identify which of their prior classes will be accepted, what the equivalent courses are at KSU, the minimum grade required for transfer acceptance and for how many credits the student will receive, they can use KSU’s Transfer Articulation Search Engine.
  • Oregon State University
    Oregon State University’s online bachelor’s degree programs are ranked in the top 10 by US News & World Report. Online students can choose from over 20 online undergraduate degrees, 25 graduate programs and 20 online minors. With so many online options and from an internationally recognized university, it’s no wonder so many students are seeking to transfer. Therefore, Oregon State has a well-developed transfer process, especially for students from Oregon’s community colleges. Oregon State’s transfer page has several online tools to help with the transfer process, including Oregon Colleges and Universities Course EquivalenciesOregon Community Colleges Baccalaureate Core Course Equivalencies and the OSU Transfer Course Search tool.
  • Penn State World Campus
    Penn State World campus is Penn State University’s name for its online course and program offerings. With extensive experience in offering courses online dating back all the way to 1998, Penn State World Campus offers more than 125 online programs including graduate, undergraduate and certificate programs. Penn State World Campus is unique in that sets no limits on the number of outside credits that may be accepted for transfer.  Penn State offers a great Transfer Course Evaluation Guide that can help prospective students learn if their prior college credits will be accepted at Penn State.

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