One of the hidden truths in higher education is that only the final university name really counts. You can complete much of your coursework at an inexpensive school, transfer in to a big brand name university, and graduate with a name-brand degree to bolster your resume for pennies on the dollar.
To do this effectively, you need to do some research and planning in advance. It is possible to cut your education costs significantly with this strategy, but you’ll want to be sure all your credits transfer and that there are no hidden administrative hurdles waiting for you. Here are some of the top tips for combining the cost savings of a community college with the name-brand recognition of a traditional university program.
Research Credit Transfer Policies
Community college credit transfer policies are known as “articulation agreements”. These are the formal arrangements that govern how – and how much – community college credit can be transferred to another school. Articulation agreements reflect the accreditation of both the community college and the four-year school in question, and work with relevant state or local laws about credit-transfer arrangements.
In some states, accredited community college coursework automatically transfers at full value to in-state universities. In other areas, you may have to produce letters from the Dean’s Office, copies of a syllabus, or statements from professors. Online classes and or specialty courses might not transfer at all.
By understanding how transfer policies work, you can make the jump from a community college to another university without having to re-do classes. This can help you choose the best school for your long-term goals and ensure you’re not wasting time or money.
Look for “Feeder School” Programs
Another research area is finding out about feeder school programs. This might mean that one community college has a clearly mapped path into a corresponding four-year school, or that a specific degree program is pre-approved for transferring into the four-year school. Enrolling in these kinds of programs can keep you on track and ensure that there is no problem validating your initial education experience.
Ask About Financial Aid
Traditional universities are more expensive than community colleges, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer breaks to transferring students. Many universities and private schools have a specially set aside pool of funds designated for transfer aid. This can include scholarships and grants as well as traditional loans.
Don’t be afraid to ask about special programs for transfer students – you may be pleasantly surprised about the amount of work-study, scholarship, or tuition assistance actually available. You may also find great programs for ensuring aid received at the community college level transfers over to your new university.
Double-Check Program Policies
At four-year schools, there are sometimes different admission policies between the school itself and specific degree programs. Double-check these policies to ensure you don’t jump hurdles to get into a school only to get hung up in the bureaucratic red tape of an individual department. Call and talk to program heads in addition to talking with the university’s general admission staff.
This additional research may also help guide your community college class choices. If you know the university requires one set of general classes, but your expected major looks for students with additional coursework, you can be sure to hit both sets of requirements up front. Otherwise, you may have to play catch-up, miss out on key opportunities, or have to go to school longer to get what you want.
Attend All Orientation Events
In addition to maximizing your coursework values, attending all orientation events will help you integrate into the university community. You’ll find out about library rules, campus activity programs, and all the other little quirks and bonuses of your new school. Rather than continuing to operate like you’re still at your community college, you can blend in to the university scene.
Feeling like you are a part of the school will help you network and make connections that will help you after graduation. After all, a key part of getting a brand name school on your diploma is making the name work to your advantage in the job market. If you make sure you are integrated and connected at your new school, you’ll get all the benefits of the brand name while enjoying the savings of your community college foundation.
©2012 Off the Grid News