Understanding Transfer Credits

Understanding Transfer Credits
  By Anne Maclean

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Many students begin their post-secondary studies at one college or university and complete them at another. You might be one of them. Understanding what transfer credits are and how they work can help make your transfer as smooth and stress-free as possible.

A credit is the value given to a specific course and is usually based on the number of hours of instruction. For example, three credit hours equal three hours of lectures per week for one term, and six credit hours equal three hours of lectures per week for two terms. A few places use the term "unit," which is the same as a credit, although the value might be different; for example, at some schools, one unit might equal two credits.

A transfer is based on course equivalency. When the "receiving" post-secondary institution determines that the courses you've taken at the "sending" post-secondary institution are similar to its own, it is giving you credit for what you've already learned. (See the Glossary for an explanation of these terms.) You may be able to enter a program at the receiving institution at a higher level. For example, if you already have a post-secondary credential (such as a trade or career training certificate or diploma), you might be able to "ladder" your credits - that is, obtain advanced standing - into a degree program.

Generally, the minimum grade for transfer credit consideration is at least a passing grade, although it's often higher. A transfer can be internal (switching to a different program or major at the same college or university) or external (switching to a different college or university). If you're planning to make an external transfer, remember that eligibility for admission to the institution itself does not guarantee admission to a specific program; you'll still need to meet that program's requirements, especially if it's a professional faculty or school.

So how might transfers and credits actually work? Let's consider a couple of hypothetical yet highly plausible examples:

Scenario A - Jane the Lawyer
Jane has been taking arts courses at a community college in British Columbia for the past two years. She now wants to transfer to University X to become a lawyer. Which courses will she get credit for?

Jane has earned 24 credits and therefore meets University X's requirement for transfer student status, so she can transfer to 2nd year undergraduate studies at University X. She will also meet University X's residency requirement by completing at least 50% of her credits there in order to receive her degree. (Residency requirements vary from one institution and program to another.) She should get credit for most of her community college courses, including English, history, political science, and philosophy, and she plans to take Latin and French at University X along with upper-level history and sociology courses. The University X Law School accepts applicants from different fields, so she can study subjects that interest her and at which she excels. Since they also accept applications from students who have completed three years of undergraduate study, Jane

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