Undergrad Application & Transfer Guide


During the 2014-2015 academic year, transfer students accounted for nearly 10% of the total undergraduate population in the United States. This number has remained fairly constant for the past three years. Transferring colleges can be confusing and stressful, but with careful planning, it does not have to be. To lessen the confusion, try breaking the process down into small steps. This makes the task more manageable and simpler to track. Additionally, you get a sense of accomplishment with every small step you complete, which provides motivation to keep moving forward.

Avoid stress by ensuring you allot enough time for the entire application process. Schools take time to respond to requests for information or documents, especially during busy periods such as enrollment and graduation months. Some schools also have strict deadlines regarding these matters, so you cannot always expect to receive an immediate reply. You will be less anxious when you know you have ample time to wait for schools to respond.

Students decide to transfer colleges for many different reasons. No matter what your reasons are, arming yourself with knowledge is key to making the transition as smooth as possible.

How to Choose an Online Social Work Program

Thanks to modern digital technology, students have many more education options than their parents did. Although the concept of distance learning is not new—it started out as correspondence school about a hundred years ago—technology radically altered the distance education landscape. Earning an online degree is now a viable option for millions of students all over the world.

Like many other fields today, social work uses online learning to allow students and social work professionals to reach their educational goals. Several brick-and-mortar colleges and universities countrywide now offer online social work programs. Programs vary greatly between colleges and universities, so be sure to research each one to find a program that suits your needs and supports your goals. If you’re already juggling work, college, and family responsibilities, you may want to opt for an online program that offers asynchronous classes so you can take classes as your schedule permits.

An online program with a generous transfer policy will save you time and money. For instance, some online social work programs accept relevant professional experience as credit toward a degree, while others have scholarships for active-duty or retired military personnel or veterans. There are numerous options depending on the type of student you are, such as part time or full time; the degree level you are interested in obtaining; and the amount of time, money, and energy you have to invest in the program.

Type of Social Work Degrees

Most schools with social work programs offer the following undergraduate degrees: associate of arts in social work(AASW), bachelor of arts in social work (BASW), and bachelor of social work (BSW). An AASW is a two-year degree that prepares students for entry-level positions in the field. It can also prepare students for a four-year bachelor’s program in social work. In most states, AASW graduates can work in social work support positions, such as case management aides, community outreach workers, and social work assistants. BASW and BSW programs offer similar classes, but a BASW program usually includes a two-year foreign language component, while most BSW programs do not. Both programs prepare graduates for generalist social work practice. If you plan to continue on to a master’s degree in social work (MSW), having a BASW or a BSW may qualify you for advanced standing. This means you might be able to earn the MSW degree in one year.

Social workers face good job prospects and steady salaries after graduation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 16% growth rate for social work jobs through 2026. The 2017 median annual wage for social workers was $47,980.

Featured Online Programs

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Average Salary by Degree and Years of Experience

Degree1-4 Years5-9 Years10-19 Years20+ Years
Associate of Arts, Social Work$33,751$37,331$35,932$48,500
Bachelor of Arts, Social Work$41,558$44,858$53,734$66,411
Bachelor of Social Work$38,330$45,953$52,080$58,046

Typical Social Work Program Entry Requirements

Every school has its own transfer policy. Social work transfer requirements typically include completing at least 60 semester hours of general education courses before students can enroll in upper division social work courses. Several social work programs also require the completion of liberal arts foundation courses in general psychology, U.S. government, and sociology.

If you completed any upper division social work courses, do not assume that these will readily transfer to a different school. Few schools automatically accept upper division courses that an applicant completed at another institution. The receiving school often requires the submission of a course syllabus and other materials related to the class for evaluation. Additionally, you must earn at least a 2.0 in the class for it to be considered as a transfer course. Most schools will count these types of courses as electives if they are not approved as transfer units for the major.

Fieldwork is part of a social work curriculum. Most social service agencies require upper division students completing fieldwork under their supervision to undergo a background check, drug screening, and fingerprinting. In many instances, the student is required to cover the costs of these procedures. Most schools require students to submit a statement of purpose or a social work application essay along with the official transfer form and other documents.

Applying to Social Work Programs

Application Materials

Most schools require applicants to submit the following materials and documents, but you will find more detailed information on requirements specific to your prospective school on the school’s website. Be sure to submit a complete application since most colleges and universities will not review an application unless all the requested materials are submitted.

  • College Application: Most colleges now prefer students to submit their college application electronically. However, you can still submit a printed copy of the application along with your other documents and send them through the mail.
  • High School Transcript: Applicants must request transcripts from all the secondary schools they attended, not just the high school they graduated from, to be sent to the colleges they are applying to.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Colleges typically request at least one letter of recommendation from every college applicant or transferee. Colleges usually prefer a recommendation letter to come from a professor who taught the student or from a professional member of the school, such as a coach or a school counselor.
  • SAT or ACT Scores: Students applying directly from high school and transferees with fewer than 24 completed credits must request their SAT or ACT score to be sent to the school to which they are applying. Most schools waive this requirement for transferees who completed the general education units with satisfactory grades.
  • College Transcript: Transfer students must request transcripts from every post-secondary school they attended to be sent to the college or university they are applying to. Schools charge a fee to send out transcripts, which vary between institutions.
  • Application Fees: The average college application fee in 2017 was $43. Applicants who can prove financial need can request a waiver for the application fee. Some colleges waive the application fee for students who apply online.

When Should I Begin the Application Process?

Since every school follows its own schedule regarding credit transfers, you should set your application timeline according to the deadlines of your prospective school. Generally, one year before your expected date of transfer is ample time. Starting the transfer process early also allows you to explore and apply for any financial aid offered by the receiving school.

How to Transfer Colleges

There are steps you should take before you submit your application for transfer. Review the list below to make sure your application does not cost you more time and money than is necessary.

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

Social Work College Requirements

Most schools require social work transferees to have a 2.5 GPA or higher. Transfer students are also often required to complete certain pre-social work major courses in areas such as social science, American government, and quantitative reasoning. Additionally, some schools require transfer students to show proof of completion of at least 50 hours of volunteer or paid work experience in a social service agency. Each school has its own requirements, so check with the school you are interested in to make sure you meet all of them.

Types of Transfer Students

Most U.S. colleges and universities are equipped to handle each type of transfer student’s needs. However, requirements vary greatly between institutions, so you should always check with the school you are interested in transferring to for their current transfer policy.

  • Community College To Four-year College Transfer: Community college transferees have often already completed their general education requirements and are ready to begin coursework on their preferred major.
  • Four-year College To Four-year College Transfer: Some reasons a student may transfer from one four-year college to another include receiving a better scholarship offer, finding a more suitable curriculum in their preferred major, or a residential move.
  • Military Transfer: The GI Bill allows active military personnel to attend more than one college at a time as long as students enroll in courses that count toward their degree.
  • International Transfer: International students usually have added transfer or admission requirements, such as passing an English proficiency test and providing proof of ability to pay for their education.

Transferrable Credits

The procedure for students transferring from one public institution to another within the same state is typically simple and straightforward. However, the receiving school will always make the final decision regarding the transferability of each course. To ensure a smooth transition, familiarize yourself with the school’s policy regarding course equivalency and transferring between course levels. There are also additional factors to consider if you’re transferring from a school that follows a quarter system to a semester school.

Course Equivalency: Each school determines whether a course taken at another institution is the equivalent of a similar course it offers and can be included in a transferee’s credit tally. In general, schools accept foundation courses in a related field that a transferee completed in another school, such as an introductory psychology class for a social work major. Some schools offer credit for courses in non-related fields toward a student’s general elective requirements, such as an art appreciation class for a science major.

Course Level: Some schools allow students to transfer upper division courses, which are courses offered in the student’s major. These schools usually require transferees to submit materials related to the course to support the request for transfer. Additionally, transferees must have a good grade in the course, typically at least a 3.0. Generally, it is easier to transfer credits for introductory or lower division courses than upper division courses.

Quarter vs. Semester Transfers: Students attending a college that uses quarter credits complete three sets of classes during the academic year. Students attending a school that uses semester credits complete only two sets of classes in one school year. When converted, quarter units add up to fewer credit hours than semester units. Discuss this matter with your prospective school’s admissions officer to make sure your acceptable transfer credits are sufficient to meet the completion requirements for your program.

What if My Credits Don’t Transfer Over?

A recent study conducted by the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered that students who transferred schools from 2004 to 2009 lost about 43% of their credits. Students transferring from private for-profit schools to public schools accounted for only 4% of all transfer students, but close to 94% of their credits did not transfer. Almost 50% of the 2004 to 2009 transferees received federal aid in the form of Pell Grants or Federal Direct Loans, which means the government lost money every time credits did not transfer. Transferees can exhaust their financial aid eligibility by re-enrolling in courses that do not transfer, leading to greater out-of-pocket costs. Whenever possible, get in touch with the transfer adviser at your prospective school before enrolling in a class to make sure your credits will transfer.

You can file an appeal when a school denies your request for a transfer of credits. This process is different between schools. Some require students to fill out a form, while other schools direct students to file a written request for reconsideration. Note that most schools only consider courses where students received a grade they deem satisfactory, which is usually 2.0 or higher. If the basis for denying your request for a transfer of credits is a low grade, the admissions panel will likely uphold its decision. You then have the option of retaking the course or finding another school with a more lenient transfer policy.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Transfers

Every state controls the public colleges and universities within its borders. Tuition rates vary greatly because they are set by the state, rather than the federal government. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average 2010 to 2011 tuition for an in-state undergraduate at a four-year public school was $6,752, while the average tuition for an out-of-state undergraduate at a four-year public school was $15,742. The table below shows the differences in the cost of attending a public four-year in-state college, a public four-year out-of-state college, and a private four-year nonprofit college.

Many community colleges have articulation agreements with public colleges and universities in the same state. Articulation agreements between schools make transferring credits much simpler and easier.

College Tuition Prices

Public 4-year In-State College$9,670$9,970
Public 4-Year Out-of-State College$24,820$25,620
Private 4-Year Nonprofit College$33,520$34,740

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

There are many reasons why students begin their higher education journey by enrolling in a two-year community college. Some students are not sure of the field they want to earn a degree in or if they want to earn a four-year degree at all. Enrolling in a community college is an excellent way to explore academic options and career opportunities without making a four-year commitment. Students who struggled academically in high school, who are returning to the campus after a long hiatus, switching careers, or balancing other responsibilities may also benefit from enrolling in a community college. But the most common reason behind many students’ decisions to enroll in a community college instead of a four-year college is cost. As the table below shows, tuition in a public four-year in-state college is more than twice the tuition in a public two-year in-state college.

Two-Year and Four-Year College Tuition Prices

Public 2-Year In-State College$3,470$3,570
Public 4-year In-State College$9,670$9,970

Other Factors to Consider When Transferring

There are some drawbacks to earning your two-year degree first. If you plan to continue to a four-year college after two years, realize that you will essentially be applying for college twice; first at the community college, and again at the four-year institution you plan to attend. In many universities, the transfer acceptance rate is lower than the regular acceptance rate for a freshman class. This is because they can only accept as many transfer students as there are available slots. So, if you apply for junior status after completing your community college stint and the incoming junior class remained relatively intact, earning acceptance may be more difficult.


Although the U.S. Department of Education (ED) does not accredit schools directly, it does provide an oversight role in the post-secondary accreditation system. Together, with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), ED recognizes several regional accrediting bodies that accredit schools throughout the country. When researching schools, be sure to check the school’s accreditation status. If you’re enrolled in an unaccredited school or program, you will have a difficult time transferring credits to an accredited school or program. It’s much easier to transfer credits from one accredited institution to another. Accredited schools also offer more financial aid opportunities because ED administers its financial aid packages through accredited institutions. If you’re attending an unaccredited school, you are not eligible for financial aid, even if you meet the criteria for a federal loan or grant.

Scholarships for Transfer Students

Several public and nonprofit private institutions offer scholarships to transfer students. Be sure to ask whether your prospective four-year college has scholarship opportunities for transferees. There are also state-specific and countrywide scholarships for transfer students from private organizations. You can find some of them below.

Darrel Hess Community College Geography Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Distributed by the American Association of Geographers, this national scholarship accepts applications from students transferring to a four-year college or university with plans to major in geography. Applicants must have completed at least two courses in geography at the time of their application.
Amount: $1,500

Hispanic Education Endowment Fund (HEEF) Scholarships
Who Can Apply: HEEF welcomes applications from Orange County residents who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or Dream Act/AB 540 students planning to transfer to a four-year institution from a two-year community college. HEEF administers a diverse set of scholarships, including opportunities for architecture, engineering, and healthcare students.
Amount: $2,000 to $5,000

Jack Cooke Kent Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be enrolled as a sophomore in an accredited U.S. community college with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher. Applicants must be enrolled in a four-year college beginning their third year of study and demonstrate unmet financial need. Applicants can pursue a degree in any field.
Amount: up to $40,000 per year

Marketing EDGE Scholarship Awards
Who Can Apply: Students transferring from a two-year to a four-year institution and pursuing a degree in marketing can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Transfer students must show proof of acceptance to a four-year program or school at the time of application.
Amount: $5,000

National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship opportunity is open to community college transferees who were accepted into a four-year engineering program as a junior. Applicants must be a member of an underrepresented minority group with at least a 2.7 cumulative GPA.
Amount: $12,500

National Society of Accountants Scholarship Foundation
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be pursuing a program of study in accounting and be in their final year of enrollment at a two-year college at the time of application. Applicants must also have at least a 3.0 GPA and have U.S. or Canadian citizenship. Permanent residents are not eligible for the award, except for legal Arizona residents.
Amount: $500 to $3,000

Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be in their final year of enrolment in a community college at with at least a 3.5 GPA. Applicants must also show proof of acceptance to a four-year institution, complete the Leaders of Promise application, and submit their answer to the additional essay question.
Amount: $5,000

Phi Theta Kappa Hites Transfer Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship opportunity is open to Phi Theta Kappa members in good standing who are enrolled in a two-year college taking at least six semester credit hours. Applicants must have a cumulative 3.5 GPA and be admitted to a four-year college as a full-time student at the time of application.
Amount: Varies

Tau Sigma National Honor Society Scholarship
Who Can Apply: An organization designed for transfer students, the Tau Sigma National Honor Society provides financial assistance to members who rendered service to their chapter, the community at large, and the university where they are enrolled. Applicants must maintain an honors-level GPA, which is usually a 3.0 or higher.
Amount: $500 to $5,000

Teachers of Accounting at Two Year Colleges Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students currently enrolled in a two-year college with plans to pursue an accounting degree at a four-year college can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and submit a one- to two-page essay describing their academic and professional goals.
Amount: $1,000