Undergrad Application & Transfer Guide

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 9% of all postsecondary students in the United States attended more than one institution during the 2014-15 academic year. In other words, nearly one in ten college students transferred from one school to another during a single year.

9% of all postsecondary students in the United States attended more than one institution during the 2014-15 academic year. NSC Research Center

Another study found that more than 35% of high school students considered taking a gap year before applying to college. Additionally, a report from the Online Learning Consortium indicates that more than one in four students attending a college or university enrolled in at least one online course. And roughly a third of postsecondary students attend school on a part-time basis.

Together, these figures point to a growing trend of students straying from the traditional four-year path to a college degree. Some of these students may hope to limit the amount of debt they will incur with continuing their education. Attending a community college to meet general education requirements and then transferring to a four-year university can help students save thousands of dollars in tuition. Other students may begin their studies at a larger institution but decide to finish their degree at a smaller school with a more intimate learning environments.

Whatever your reason for considering moving from one school to another, it is important that you understand how to transfer without disrupting your education. You can also access financial and other resources to help ease your transition. Review this page carefully to learn more about applying and transferring to Christian colleges.

How to Choose an Online Christian College

When choosing a college, make sure to ask yourself what you want from your educational experience, and try to find a program that matches your expectations.

For example, how long do you plan to attend school? Most full-time students earn a bachelor's degree in about four years, but some online programs allow you to graduate faster or work at a slower pace to balance other responsibilities. How much do you want faith to shape your life at college? Some Christian schools require students to take Bible courses and attend religious services, while others allow students to optionally participate in these classes and activities.

Most full-time students earn a bachelor's degree in about four years, but some online programs allow you to graduate faster or work at a slower pace to balance other responsibilities.

What kind of career do you want? You may want to prepare for a career in medicine by learning about anatomy and chemistry, but not all schools offer coursework or programs in these areas. How much can you afford to pay for tuition? Private institutions often cost more than public colleges and universities. You should also remember to factor in other educational expenses, such as room and board and the cost of course materials. Do you want to engage in experiential learning? For jobs in fields like social work or teaching, you should make sure that your chosen school offers internships or practica to help you meet entry-level experience requirements.

Will a school accept your transfer credits? If your new college does not honor credits from your old institution, you may find yourself retaking courses. You can contact a school's admissions department to learn more about their transfer policies.

Typical Entry Requirements

Admission requirements vary from school to school, but most bachelor's programs require students to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some schools may waive this requirement under exceptional circumstances.

A state college may require students to earn at least a 2.5 GPA in high school, while more prestigious universities may require a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Many programs set minimum academic standards for applicants as well. For example, a state college may require students to earn at least a 2.5 GPA in high school, while more prestigious universities may require a 3.0 GPA or higher. Schools may also require minimum scores on a standardized admissions exam, like the SAT or ACT.

Admissions departments often look beyond your educational background. Professional experience, community service, and hardships you have overcome can all improve your chances of admission. If you have struggled academically, make sure to emphasize other forms of experience. If requested, an application essay can help you do this. Review Christian college application essay examples to learn about how other students described their non-academic qualifications.

Finally, many Christian colleges ask students to agree to codes of conduct to enroll. These codes may bar students from engaging in certain activities, like drinking alcohol, or require commitment to particular faith-based activities, like regularly attending religious services or participating in Christian service groups. Read these agreements carefully to make sure you want to and can adhere to the school's expectations for your behavior.

Applying to a Christian College or Seminary

Application Materials

The application materials a school requests will vary. Exclusive schools may require more information to make an admissions decision, while community and state colleges simply want you to demonstrate that you can succeed academically at their institution. The following list represents some of the most common items that students submit as part of their Christian college application packages.

College Application

All schools require some form of college application. More than 750 colleges and universities around the world use the Common App, which makes applying to multiple schools easier.

High School Transcript

You often need to submit your high school or GED transcript. This allows schools to review your overall GPA and individual grades and determine if you meet their academic standards.

Letters of Recommendation

Some schools require letters of recommendation. Use this as an opportunity to allow former teachers, coaches, employers, and community leaders to highlight your strengths and encourage schools to closely consider your application.

SAT or ACT Scores

Make sure to check whether your chosen school requires any sort of standardized test scores. Some may accept either the SAT or ACT, while others may only take one. Even when not required, a high score can improve your chances of admission.

College Transcript

If you have previously completed college-level coursework, you should submit college transcripts as part of your application. This helps with credit transfers and demonstrates your ability to academically succeed at a postsecondary institution.

Application Essay

Some schools may request that you write an essay explaining your qualifications and why you hope to attend. Make sure to review seminary application essay examples to find out how other students positioned themselves for admission.

Application Fees

Most schools charge a small fee to apply. If you face financial hardship, schools may agree to waive this fee or provide a discount. Schools may also waive application fees for certain groups, like military veterans.

When Should I Begin the Application Process?

The application timeline depends on the individual school. Generally, you should begin thinking about applying or transferring to a school at least one year before you plan to enroll. This ensures you can meet all deadlines and qualify for all financial aid opportunities.

If your school requires SAT or ACT scores, you may consider taking these tests even further in advance. This allows you to retake the exams if you do not perform well. Similarly, start brainstorming potential letter of recommendation writers as soon as possible. Teachers, in particular, need to write many recommendation letters and always appreciate having more time to do so.

How to Transfer to a Seminary

When you transfer to a seminary, you must do more than submit an application. Make sure to allot time to fully research potential programs and communicate with school officials to discuss issues like financial aid and credit transfer. Here is a checklist of tasks to complete prior to beginning the seminary application process.

  1. Research Your Prospective Transfer Schools
  2. Check Accreditation Status and Articulation Agreements
  3. Contact School Advisors
  4. Confirm That Your Credits Will Be Transferred Over
  5. Research Financial Aid Options
  6. Begin Application Process

Types of Transfer Students

You may decide to transfer from one school to another for a variety of reasons. For example, you may hope to save tuition by beginning your studies at a community college before transferring to a four-year university. Or, you may need to transfer due to a residency change. Your reason for transfer can affect how you go about switching schools.

Transferrable Credits

Individual schools can choose whether or not to accept credits from another institution, so you must diligently research your own situation before making a transfer decision. Typically, transferring within a particular state, from one public institution to another, or between schools that share accreditation, offers the easiest path for transfer students. You should also consider school policies on course equivalency, limits on upper-level course transfers, and schools' credit systems, such as whether they award quarter or semester credits.

What if My Credits Don’t Transfer Over?

According to an estimate from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), students that transferred schools between 2004 and 2009 lost, on average, 43% of the credits they earned at their previous institution. Students who transferred from private for-profit schools to public schools lost even more credits. The GAO estimates that this population, which makes up only 4% of all transfer students, lost an estimated 94% of their credits.

Lost credit translates to wasted time and money. For some students coming from private for-profit schools, it essentially means they need to restart their postsecondary education. It is common for schools to reject some credits, but you can minimize the damage by researching school policies before deciding to transfer. If you do not understand these policies, or need more information, contact a school's admissions office. Some schools may have a dedicated transfer advisor to help students in your situation.

It is common for schools to reject some credits, but you can minimize the damage by researching school policies before deciding to transfer.

If schools deny your transfer credits, you have several options. First, you can request that schools award you general education or elective credit for some courses. You will still need to retake courses, but this can save you time and money. Second, you can appeal a school's decision. For example, West Chester University in Pennsylvania allows students to submit an appeal form requesting that the school reconsider their decision. Other institutions, like Thomas Edison State University, asks that students submit a written request detailing their rationale for appeal.

Finally, most schools require students to earn a C or better in order to transfer credits. If you struggle academically, you should consider seeking out and transferring to a school with more lenient transfer policies.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Transfers

If possible, you should consider transferring to another school in the same state as your current institution, which allows you to continue to qualify for in-state tuition rates. The table below shows average tuition prices at three types of colleges. As you can see, students who qualify for in-state tuition at a public college pay roughly one third of what students attending out-of-state or private colleges pay.

Beyond lower cost, students often find it logistically easier to transfer between schools in the same state. Community colleges and public schools often have articulation agreements with one another, meaning that they are committed to accepting credits from partner schools and have systems in place to make that transfer as simple as possible. If you plan to transfer out-of-state, you will likely need to do additional research to ensure your credits transfer and you qualify for financial aid.

Benefits of Transferring From a Community College to a Four-Year School

Many students begin their education at a community college before transferring to a four-year university. Typically, they earn an associate degree in roughly two years and then transfer to another institution to complete the final two years of a bachelor's program.

This path can save you a great deal of money. Almost universally, two-year and community colleges charge less than four-year universities, but they offer many of the same introductory and general education courses. For a bachelor's in business, you can meet some of the graduation requirements by taking coursework in math and science at a community college. You can then transfer to a four-year school, take two years of upper-level business courses, and earn a diploma from that institution at a fraction of the overall cost.

The chart below illustrates the difference between tuition at public community colleges and public four-year institutions.

Other Factors to Consider When Transferring

You may encounter some challenges when transferring from a community college to a four-year school. Aside from the risk of credits not transferring, you also miss out on the unique educational experience of a university. You have less time to make friends and develop relationships with members of the faculty. Perhaps most importantly, you need to apply to two separate colleges, which may add to your stress and waste time you could otherwise devote to your studies or a job.

Not all students should attend a community college first, especially if they do not have financial concerns about enrolling directly in a four-year institution. Make sure to carefully consider the pros and cons of such an approach.


Accreditation ensures that schools meet minimum educational standards and adequately prepare their students for careers in their chosen field. For transfer students, accreditation has even more importance. If you attend a school that has not received accreditation, you may not qualify for all forms of financial aid. Additionally, the school to which you hope to transfer may reject credits you earned at an unaccredited institution.

Schools may also not accept credits from a college or university with a different form of accreditation. For example, a regionally accredited school may not allow transfer credits from a nationally accredited school. On the other hand, nationally accredited schools typically allow students to transfer credits from a regionally accredited institution.

Check the Department of Education's database of accredited programs and schools to find out whether your school has received regional or national accreditation.

Scholarships for Transfer Students

Because you do not need to pay back any of the money that you receive from them, scholarships are among the best ways to help finance your postsecondary education. Here are ten scholarships that specifically benefit students transferring from one college or university to another.

Scholarships for Transfer Students

Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Up to $40,000/year

Who Can Apply: All students transferring to a four-year college or university from a community college can apply. View Scholarship

Hites Transfer Scholarship $7,500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Phi Theta Kappa members transferring from a community college to a four-year institution. They must also have a 3.5 GPA or higher. View Scholarship

Hispanic Scholarship Fund Awards $500-5,000

Who Can Apply: Community college students transferring to a four-year university may apply. Awards are based on academic achievement and community service. View Scholarship

Tau Sigma National Honor Society Scholarships Varies

Who Can Apply: Members of Tau Sigma who plan to transfer from one school to another can apply. Students should contact their local chapter for application details. View Scholarship

Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education $5,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Phi Theta Kappa members enrolled in community college with intent to finish their education at a four-year institution. View Scholarship

eQuality Scholarships $6,000

Who Can Apply: California residents graduating from community college and planning to attend a four-year university may apply. View Scholarship

Fisher House Foundations for Military Children $2,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be dependents of a veteran or active-duty military member. They must also be enrolled in a community college program that allows direct transfer to a four-year institution. View Scholarship

Material Handling Education Foundation Scholarships $6,000

Who Can Apply: To apply, you must be studying engineering, complete two years of postsecondary study, and be accepted as a transfer student at a four-year institution. View Scholarship

META Gold Scholarship $2,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be of Hispanic origin. Community college students qualify for these awards if they intend to transfer and receive a bachelor's degree from a four-year university. View Scholarship

National Society of Accountants Scholarships $500-2,000

Who Can Apply: Students must major in accounting or a related field. If they are enrolled at a community college, they must also plan to transfer to a four-year institution. View Scholarship