2 Years At Community College Then Transfer to University

Many students prefer to start their university education at a community college. And, yes, it is a good idea to start 2 years at community college then transfer to university. Start at a community college (CC) at first. It’s cheaper, and the general education requirements won’t differ much anyway. One drawback is that transfer acceptance isn’t guaranteed when you are ready to switch.

I noticed that community college classes are more demanding, as professors try to match the standards of a 4-year college that wasn’t present at the 4-year institution. However, this typically leads to a deeper understanding of the material. Community colleges usually have smaller class sizes and easily support students. Many students use their time at community colleges as a stepping stone to transfer to prestigious four-year universities. This really helps for those who want to obtain a bachelor’s degree. So, you spend the first two years at a community college, where you complete your lower-division general education courses. After this, you can transfer to a university for the remaining two years.

At the university, you will enroll in upper-division courses to complete your bachelor’s degree. This method is frequently referred to as the “2 + 2” approach. However, it can sometimes take longer than 4 years to fulfill all the requirements for a bachelor’s degree.

Is it Okay to Transfer Colleges After 2 Years?

Absolutely okay. Just ensure that all the courses you take will be accepted by a four-year college. It doesn’t matter if you spend two years at a community college; in fact, it’s a wiser and cheaper option that will save you a ton of money. Most of the basic courses are similar, depending on your major.

As a transfer student, you have the opportunity to gain admission to more prestigious schools. Focus on earning the credits and maintaining good grades to minimize your debt. Community colleges offer plenty of resources to ease your transition to a four-year university.

Choosing to pursue an education is always a good decision. Ultimately, it depends on your personal goals. Many university advisors actually encourage students to start their higher education journey at community colleges through college transfer programs. After completing these programs, you can then move on to a university for the final two years. A common example of this is students from Santa Monica College, a community college, transferring to UCLA after they receive their two-year transfer degree.

2 Years At Community College Then Transfer to University

So, a two year in CC and another two in a university is possible but there is no 100% guarantee. But you can increase your chances if you know the correct process on how to transfer credits from community college to university without issues.

1. Begin with where you’ll complete

Understand the admission requirements for the school and the specific program you aim to transfer into. Then, select your current courses accordingly, keeping in mind the requirements you’ll need to meet in the future.

2. Get Ready to Work and Stay Organized

The process of looking into colleges and universities for a future transfer can be both exciting and challenging. It requires diligent effort. You’ll need to be aware of general admission criteria, such as the number of credits you’ve taken and your overall GPA.

There is typically a minimum GPA you need to maintain to be eligible for the transfer program. Also, there might be extra requirements for getting into your preferred major, such as taking certain classes, preparing a portfolio, writing a personal essay, or even participating in an interview.

3. Work with Your Advisors

Make sure to work closely with advisors both at your current institution and, if possible, at the university you plan to transfer to. Make sure to clearly communicate your transfer goals to ensure that you and your advisors are all aligned and working together effectively.

4. Participate in New Student Orientation

Don’t overlook the importance of attending an orientation program for new students, even if you’ve already been to college before. As a transfer student, you’re new to the institution and need to familiarize yourself with how to navigate its systems and resources, despite bringing college credits with you.

5. Have a Backup Plan

If you have always dreamt of 2 years at community college then transfer to university that is nationally recognized and highly selective, go ahead and create a dedicated transfer plan for that institution and pursue it passionately. However, stay realistic and keep your options open. There are numerous excellent colleges and universities out there.

Sometimes, a less well-known institution might turn out to be the perfect fit for you, ultimately becoming your new dream school.

When You Transfer from a Community College to a University Does Your GPA Start Over?

Yes, it’s a bit of both when you start 2 years at community college then transfer to university. When you transfer to a new school, your transcript from there will show you got credit from your previous school, but usually, it won’t list your grades from there. But, there’s a sort of “secret” overall GPA that counts everything. This GPA is important because it decides if you graduate with honors like summa cum laude, magna cum laude, or cum laude. Also, if you’re thinking about grad school, remember you’ll need to send transcripts from all the schools where you got credits.

So, about losing classes, it works like this: if you don’t need certain classes for your new major, they might not transfer. Say you only need half of your credits for the new major. The school will likely transfer the needed ones first, focusing on those with the highest GPA. This means the classes with lower grades and less relevance might not make the cut.

Cons of Two Years of Community College Then Transferring to a University to Get Your Degree

1. The Experience

In the first year, everyone usually stays in dorms, but by the second year, many students move to apartments with roommates, which is also an option at a community college (CC). Initially, you might feel like a new character joining a TV show in its fifth season, but this feeling fades. If you’re really into sports, you might miss the chance to join competitive college teams, like walking onto the football team.

2. Not All Credits Transfer

To plan your courses, email an advisor at the four-year university you’re interested in and ask for the degree curriculum. Try to take as many matching courses as you can at the CC, keeping in mind that some universities only accept up to 60 transfer credits. Check with the four-year university’s advisor if they accept credits for specific courses. Also, if you’re considering graduate school, look at the prerequisites and try to complete them at the CC. The most important thing is to ensure your credits will transfer; many students find that not all their CC credits are accepted at traditional universities.

3. CC Classes are Easier Compared to a 4-Year

The coursework at CC might seem easier, but this could be due to transferring to a highly competitive university later. The transition can be a big shock, especially if you’re moving from online classes to in-person classes.

4. You Miss Out on Scholarships

Starting at a CC means you might miss out on many freshman-specific scholarships. While there are still good scholarships for transfer students, getting a full ride can be more challenging.

5. Stigma

There’s a stigma associated with community colleges, particularly when it comes to pursuing graduate education.

6. Advisors Might Not Be 100% Helpful

Advisors at CC might not provide the guidance you need. You don’t want to waste money on credits that don’t transfer or on courses you could have taken at the CC. To avoid this, focus on a couple of universities you’re interested in:

  1. Check their transfer and graduation requirements.
  2. Use the four-year university’s transfer credit tool or their transfer services department to see what courses will transfer.
  3. Don’t rely solely on your CC’s academic plan, as advisors often base their advice on this.
  4. Seek help from the transfer services and advisors at the four-year universities if your CC isn’t helpful.

Will You Spend More Than the Remaining 2 Years in the University?

This really depends on the university and its policies. Ideally, from your perspective, the university would consider all your community college courses as equal to their own. This means they would count as two years of credit, allowing you to complete your degree in another two years.

On the other hand, the worst scenario would be if the university finds your courses have no value. In this case, you’d need to start from scratch and spend four years. However, this is very unlikely. If the university really felt this way, they probably wouldn’t accept your transfer in the first place.

Usually, the reality is somewhere in the middle, but closer to the best-case scenario. The university is likely to recognize most of your community college courses. Exceptions might be remedial courses (like those others might have done in high school) or not relevant. So, on average, you might expect to spend around 1.5 more years to finish your degree.

Look for Ways to Simplify the Transfer Process

Many colleges and universities have established special arrangements known as “articulation agreements” or Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) partnerships with other educational institutions. These articulation agreements ensure that the courses taken at a community college are transferred easily to partner institutions. So, this will reduce the loss of credits and time.

For instance, the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges in Phoenix, Arizona’s metropolitan area, have a close working relationship with the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University. Therefore, courses from Maricopa easily transfer to these universities.

Transfer Admission Guarantee partnerships offer a guarantee of admission to a community college student after they meet specific criteria set by the university. These requirements might include maintaining a certain GPA, completing specific coursework, and achieving a required TOEFL score. However, some majors may be excluded from TAG agreements. For example, Business Administration is not included in the TAG agreements with the University of California, Irvine.

Typically, articulation and TAG agreements are made between community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities within the same state, but there are exceptions. A notable example is in California, where all 115 community colleges have articulation agreements with both the California State University (CSU) system and the University of California (UC) system. For instance, a student who completes the general education requirements for either the California State University or the University of California at Santa Monica College can then transfer to one of these universities to complete the final two years of their bachelor’s degree program.


Choosing to spend 2 years at community college then transfer to university is a smart way to cut down the total cost of your four-year undergraduate degree. But, there’s a catch… The community college you choose can provide all the classes you need, on time, and within the planned two years. Make sure to talk to both the community college and the university to confirm that credits will transfer, and find out if you can take any courses at the university that the community college doesn’t offer. Stay organized and keep the lines of communication open.

I bring this up because, in my area, it’s quite common for a “two-year” associate’s program to actually take three to four years to complete due to high demand for certain classes.

If you’re sure that people in your area can complete their two-year program in two years, then that’s great! Go for it.

However, if that’s not the case, you need to think about the financial impact of delaying your degree completion. If it takes you an extra year to finish your undergraduate degree, consider the income you could have earned if you had started working a year earlier. This is known as the “cost of lost opportunity” in financial planning. It’s a real cost, similar to a student loan, but it’s not as easily seen.

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