Undergrad Application & Transfer Guide

Attending college is a life-altering decision for any student. While a significant number of students enroll immediately after high school, many others take gap years or return to school after a hiatus. Some students enroll full time to finish their education as quickly as possible. Others enroll part time while they work to reduce tuition costs. More and more students are straying away from the traditional four-year path and choosing a path that complements their lifestyle.

Nearly 10% of college students enrolled in more than one school during a single year. NSC Research Center

The college application process can be long and tedious. Researching schools, visiting campuses, talking to admissions counselors, and completing applications take time. To streamline the process and save money, many students attend a local community college before transferring to a four-year institution. Many local colleges and universities forge partnerships with community colleges to help students easily transfer credits. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center discovered that nearly 10% of college students enrolled in more than one school during a single year. Community college students have the highest transfer rates, with nearly 12% enrolling in more than one school each year.

Students change schools for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, finances play a part. Transfer students may also seek a different academic structure, a particular major, or simply a change of scenery. This guide explores the transfer process and how it affects students. The page also examines online programs and their benefits.

How to Choose an Online Public Health Program

Selecting the right online program requires you to examine your needs and availability. Most online students have full-time jobs or families. These students need flexible programs that allow them to complete work at night or on the weekends. Some students choose accelerated programs that make it easier to graduate early, while others opt for part-time programs that allow them to work at their own pace.

When researching programs, students should consider program length and curriculum. Learners must also consider tuition and fees. Some schools charge tuition per-credit, while others charge a flat rate. Another major factor is program format. Hybrid courses require students to occasionally meet on-campus. Fully online courses do not have any on-campus requirements.

When researching programs, students should consider program length and curriculum.

Students should speak to a program adviser to learn if an online format works for them. These advisers can describe features of the program and ask students question to determine if they have the characteristics necessary for success. Many programs, especially graduate options, require an internship or practicum. Advisers can help students locate sites and secure placement. Advisers also help graduate and postgraduate students learn about the thesis or capstone project.

Some students worry that employers will not accept an online degree. In reality, most transcripts and diplomas do not state whether you took your courses online or on campus. As long as your school holds proper accreditation, you can transfer credits and find gainful employment.

Typical Public Health Program Entry Requirements

Many universities gear their public health programs towards master’s students. A few schools offer an undergraduate degree in public health or allow students to minor in the discipline. Students can also select a dual bachelor’s/master’s program in public health. In these programs, students graduate with both an undergraduate and graduate degree. Unlike traditional undergraduate programs that take three or four years to complete, dual programs take five years. Students dedicate the last two years of the program to master’s-level coursework.

Entry requirements vary for each school and degree level. Undergraduate students typically need ACT or SAT scores, a 2.5 GPA, and letters of recommendation. Applicants should also submit their transcripts and a personal statement. To enter a traditional MPH program, students need an undergraduate degree and a high GPA, typically 3.0 or better. Depending on their concentration, applicants should have already taken courses in the social sciences, biology, chemistry, or calculus. Students do not need to have a degree in biology or health to enter the program, but should have at least some coursework in science and math. In addition to transcripts, applicants also submit GRE scores and references.

Applying to Public Health School

Application Materials

To apply to each school and register for courses, students must send certain documents to the registrar and the admissions office. Officials usually ask transfer students to fill out a general application, but some may require a specialized form such as a public health associate program application. Students should have the following documents on hand:

College Application

Transfer students interested in public health must complete the correct application. Students must pay the application fee regardless of whether or not they gain admission.

High School Transcript

Schools want to see the courses the applicant took in high school and their GPA. Even though transfer students already have college credits, schools may still request to see a high school transcript.

Letters of Recommendation

A letter of recommendation from a former teacher, coach, or employer shows a student’s work ethic and capabilities. Some schools request up to three letters from a non-relative.

SAT or ACT Scores

Students take the SAT or ACT during their junior or senior year of high school. The tests evaluate each student’s skill set and preparedness for college-level courses.

College Transcript

Transfer students that have taken at least two college courses must submit a college transcript to their institution. The college or university reviews the transcript as part of the application and credit transfer process.

Application Fees or Fee Waiver

To complete an application, students must pay a fee or present a fee waiver. Most low-income students qualify for fee waivers to help them apply for schools.

When Should I Begin the Application Process?

Students should begin the transfer process as soon as possible. Some experts recommend students begin the process a full year before they leave their current institution. It takes time to apply for schools, receive an admission offer, and register for courses, so students should plan to apply at least six months in advance. Starting the transfer process early alleviates the pressure students feel when when trying to secure a spot for the following semester.

How to Transfer Colleges

Transfer students need to do more research than students entering school for the first time. Transfer students must ensure that most or all of their credits will transfer to the new school, with few or no credits going to waste. Each transfer student’s financial aid package needs to be restructured to meet the needs of their new institution. The following checklist gives a brief overview of the transfer and application process.

  • Research Your Prospective Transfer Schools

  • Check Accreditation Status and Articulation Agreements

  • Contact School Advisers

  • Confirm That Your Credits Will Be Transferred Over

  • Research Financial Aid Options

  • Begin Application Process

Public Health College Requirements

Public health programs carry strict entry requirements to ensure applicants meet their academic standards. Students must hold a 3.0 GPA or higher and complete coursework that demonstrates an advanced understanding of math and science. Students who previously earned a degree in another field can still qualify for admission as long as they meet prerequisites. Sometimes, social work students decide to transfer into a public health program or vice versa. Some universities offer a dual degree in public health and social work that incorporates courses from both curricula into one program. Usually, students apply separately to the school of social work and public health to gain entry into these programs. Check with each individual school to determine exact requirements.

Types of Transfer Students

There are many types of transfer students, including community college graduate and international students. Each student fits a profile that includes unique needs and circumstances. Knowing the type of student you are can help you find a school that fits your needs.

Community College to Four-Year College TransferMost community college students decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree after receiving their associate degree. These students tend to have an easier time transferring because they have completed general education requirements but haven’t fulfilled any upper-level coursework. Many community colleges maintain articulation agreements to make transferring even easier.
Four-Year College to Four-Year College TransferThese students already attend a four-year institution but for whatever reason, they decide their school is not the right fit. Usually, these students transfer to an out-of-state school or a school with specific majors. These students may have difficulty transferring upper-level coursework and should check transfer policies for their new school.
Military TransferMany armed service members decide to go to college after returning from overseas or receiving a discharge. The military provides members with financial aid and offers incentives for pursuing certain majors. These students may consider military-friendly colleges that grant credits for prior service.
International TransferInternational transfers come from countries with different educational systems than the U.S. These students may already have college degrees but need to retake courses due to the differences in systems. Some schools offer special services and incentives to international students.

Transferrable Credits

The transfer process differs for each type of student. Generally, in-state students transferring from one public school to another have the easiest time moving credits. Once a student applies for credit approval, the school uses its own system to assign different weights to the courses. Some courses transfer over with no problems, but others do not transfer over at all. Ultimately, it is up to the school to decide what courses to accept and deny. Students need to research course equivalency and the school’s transfer policy to understand how it affects them.

Course Equivalency

Course equivalency refers to courses at one institution that hold the same weight at another institution. For instance, an English composition 101 course at a community college may be deemed equivalent the same course at an in-state institution. Students receive full credit for equivalent courses. Schools with reciprocity agreements maintain almost full course equivalency. Other schools grant equivalency on a case-by-case basis.

Course Level

Transfer policies differ for lower-division and upper-division courses. Lower division courses are basic or introductory courses taken mostly by college freshmen and sophomores. Upper-division courses, by contrast, cover advanced major-specific coursework. Schools accept credits from lower-division courses at a higher rate than upper-level credits. Since each school focuses on specific topics and features its own specific coursework, many upper-division courses don’t perfectly transfer.

Quarter vs. Semester Transfers

Some schools run on a quarter system instead of a semester system. That means they divide the school year into several different quarters and distribute credits accordingly. Students under the quarter system may have difficulty transferring credits into the semester system. This guide helps students understand the conversion process and further explains the quarter/semester system. To learn more about a specific school’s quarter vs.semester transfer process, contact a program adviser.

What if My Credits Don’t Transfer Over?

While many schools accept transfer credits, they may not accept every course. A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that students face challenges when transferring credits between schools with no partnership in place. Students from private for-profit schools lose the most credits. The study found that learners transferring from a for-profit school to a private institution lose up to 94% of their credits. Public school transfer students lost more than 30% of their credits. Although most schools list their transfer policies on their website, up to 29% of them did not list their partnerships with other schools. This means students must do research themselves.

Schools are more likely to accept credits from regionally accredited schools, but students from nationally accredited schools may also receive partial credit. Each school weighs credits differently. Students should hold a “C” grade or better in the course they want to transfer. Core courses such as science, math, and English are often easier to transfer. If a class doesn’t have full course equivalency, schools may offer to grant elective credits. If the school doesn’t accept the credit, the student must retake the course.

The admissions office can help by connecting students to program advisers or department administrators that understand the transfer process. Schools also allow students to appeal the credit transfer decision. Students either fill out a form or send a written request to administrators. The university reviews the request and comes to a resolution. If students will lose a large number of their credits at their desired college, they may decide to look for other schools with more transfer-friendly policies.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Transfers

College students can either transfer to a four-year college in their home state or a four-year college in another state. Tuition for in-state students at public institutions costs significantly less than tuition for out-of-state students. To save money, many in-state students live at home and commute to campus. This strategy eliminates the need for expensive on-campus room and board. Most in-state schools maintain articulation agreements with at least one or two local colleges. These agreements allow students to easily transfer credits and enroll in programs.

Out-of-state schools, on the other hand, may not accept as many transfer credits. Policies vary widely from school to school. Students interested in out-of-state schools must therefore invest more research into each transfer process. Out-of-state schools also tend to cost more. However, many schools allow online students to pay in-state or discounted tuition regardless of residency status. The table below lists the average tuition prices for in-state and out-of-state institutions.

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

Many students earn an associate degree from a community college and then transfer to a four-year school. Learners know that community colleges cost less than four-year institutions. With less staff, no on-campus housing, and smaller campuses, community colleges significantly reduce their overhead costs. To further reduce costs, state governments fund community colleges and help them with operational expenses.

Associate degrees may take less time to complete, but the quality of education a student receives at a community college rivals that of a four-year institution. Professors at public and private institutions often teach at community colleges and develop similar curricula for both programs. Professors can also help community college students transfer into a four-year school by providing letters of recommendation and general advice about the school. The table below shows the difference in tuition for two-year and four-year state schools.

Other Factors to Consider When Transferring

Studying at a community college can save students thousands of dollars in tuition payments, but it does have its drawbacks. For starters, these students miss out on the traditional college experience. Most college students look forward to living in a dorm, having a roommate, and meeting new friends. At a community college, students come from all walks of life. Many learners are adults in their 30s or 40s. This age difference can be difficult for teenagers to adjust to. The transfer process can also be difficult. Applying to schools as a transfer student requires more documentation, and many colleges have limited transfer spots open.


Accreditation ensures that students receive a quality education that adequately prepares them for the workforce. Accrediting bodies evaluate the curricula and staff of each college and university. The accrediting body then assesses if the school’s curriculum meets standards created by the agency. Once approved, schools receive national recognition and federal funding. Accrediting agencies visit schools every three to five years to review their credentials.

Six regional accrediting bodies oversee schools in the East, West, South, and Midwest. Regional accreditation requires a strict set of standards and a multi-year process. Most public schools and academically-focused universities receive regional accreditation. National accrediting bodies work differently. These bodies do not have a strict system or uniform set of standards. Most trade and for-profit schools undergo the national accreditation process. Due to the difference in evaluation standards, students have trouble transfering credits from nationally accredited schools to regionally accredited institutions. To help students research programs, the CHEA maintains a database of the country’s accredited institutions.

Scholarships for Transfer Students

Students seeking financial aid should research scholarships to offset tuition costs. Scholarships award money to students from all backgrounds and in all different majors. Transfer students may receive grants and scholarships from local businesses, their universities, national organizations, or state agencies. The following list contains information about a few possible scholarships for transfer students.

eQuality Scholarship

  • Amount: $6,000

Northern California students that show a vested interest in the LGBTQ community may apply for this award. Community college transfer students must graduate from a local college and plan to attend a four-year institution.

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HEEF Architecture and Engineering Scholarships

  • Amount: $3,000

The Hispanic Education Endowment Fund grants scholarships to second-year community college students planning to transfer to a four-year institution. Recipients should plan to study architecture or engineering. HEEF prefers Latino students, residents of Orange County, and first generation college students.

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Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarships

  • Amount: $40,000

The scholarship helps undergraduate students from community colleges pay for a degree at a four-year institution.

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Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship

  • Amount: Varies

The National Honor Society awards members that transfer into another institution. Phi Theta Kappa also runs a website named Collegefish.org that provides resources to transfer students.

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All USA Community College Academic Team

  • Amount: $5,000

The scholarship recognizes community college students with exceptional academic records. Students must receive nomination from their peers. Winners attend the annual convention.

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Hispanic Scholarship Fund

  • Amount: $500-5,000

Transfer students of Hispanic descent with a 2.5 or higher GPA can apply.

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American Indian College Fund Think Scholarships

  • Amount: Varies

The scholarship program provides funds to American Indian students attending a tribal or non-tribal college under the Jay Treaty. Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA.

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Anna N. Dosen Serbian Education Fund

  • Amount: $3,000

Applicants of Serbian descent that plan to pursue a degree in the sciences can apply for this award. Candidates should have a 2.0 or higher GPA.

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Stegall Charitable Education Foundation Scholarship

  • Amount: $500

Transfer students in Tennessee with a 3.0 or higher GPA qualify for this renewable scholarship.

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