Undergrad Application & Transfer Guide

Plotting a course through college can overwhelm anyone, but the chances of mapping the right program increase with research. A single career path may require different degrees, diplomas, or certificates, each of which can take years to earn. Other factors that add to the time it takes to enter a career include taking a break between studies or completing your education on a part-time basis. Some students even find that they need to transfer to a different school to more closely accommodate their career interests.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, during the 2014-2015 school year and in the preceding three years, 9.5 % of students transferred institutions at least once.

Your choice to transfer could arise from a variety of factors. An appealing program from an institution less costly than your current choice may prove advantageous. Moving for professional or personal reasons could uproot your academic plans and force you to find an alternative. You may even need to rethink your concentration or degree type, leaving you to find alternative education options. Whatever the case, transferring to a different school should offer you a chance to reevaluate your priorities and enhance your education.

How to Choose an Online Nursing Program

Students transferring nursing programs need to weigh several factors. For starters, they need to determine how long a given program will take to complete. A nursing program can take from two to six years to complete, depending on the level of credentialing. Additionally, students should research whether or not a particular program offers specialized coursework within their area of interest. Higher-level degrees give you more degree customization through concentrations such as pediatrics and critical care.

Tuition, on-campus requirements, practicum requirements, location, and graduation requirements should also come under consideration. The cost of tuition and the number of required credits should factor heavily into your final decision. Likewise, whether programs require nurses to attend in class on site at the school determines whether some out-of-state students can attend. Similarly, students should seek out programs with practicum or clinical requirements complementary to their career goals and location, as some programs require specific locations for completion. Finally, programs sometimes require a final project or thesis. Students should select a program with graduation requirements that closely match their career path. Whether or not you choose an online or hybrid program on either a full-time or part-time basis will also depend on what fits with your location and schedule.

The kind of accreditation a prospective online nursing program boasts should also take high priority. The National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) serve as the two main accrediting bodies in nursing. Unaccredited nursing programs, or ones accredited by organizations other than these, might prepare you for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing's (NCSBN's) examination for Registered Nurse licensure (NCLEX-RN), but they may present problems when transferring credits.

Type of Nursing Degrees

Prospective nurses pursue specific credentialing depending on their desired track. A diploma of nursing (DN) takes about two years to complete and prepares you for the National Council's examination for Licensed Practical Nurse (NCLEX-LPN). Schools may use an associate of science in nursing (ASN) and an associate degree in nursing (ADN) interchangeably; however, the ASN degree label may come alongside an associate of applied science in nursing (AASN), signaling more general education coursework and more utility as a bridge to a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. In contrast, an AASN serves as a pathway to the NCLEX-RN and immediate employment. The ADN serves as the umbrella term for both, as well as a standalone name. An associate in nursing takes two to three years to complete. A four-year bachelor's in nursing will not only prepare you for RN licensure but give you a path to continue on to postgraduate work leading to licensure as a nurse practitioner.

The path you choose depends on how quickly you want to get to work and at what level. Higher levels of education and licensure lead to higher salaries in both the short and long term, as evidenced by the table below.

Average Salary by Degree and Years of Experience

Degree 1-4 Years 5-9 Years 10-19 Years 20+ Years
Diploma of Nursing (DN) $46,979 $56,712 $65,539 $68,886
Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) $59,695 $64,109 $70,053 $70,955
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) $60,733 $65,684 $69,503 $71,853
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) $70,172 $74,801 $80,841 $84,090

Source: PayScale

Typical Nursing School Entry Requirements

The requirements for nursing school vary by institution. At the undergraduate level, applicants typically need a high school diploma or GED with a minimum GPA of at least 2.5 -- though some schools require a 3.0 or greater. An associate degree may require students to complete foundational work in topics such as chemistry or biology or to demonstrate math competency on the SAT or ACT. Some bachelor's programs may require applicants to hold RN licensure or an associate degree in nursing. Prerequisite courses may include microbiology, anatomy, and statistics. Applicants may also need to meet with administrators or fill out a pre-screening questionnaire. Some programs require students to complete drug screening or to present documentation of up-to-date Hepatitis B immunization shots.

Applying to Nursing School

Application Materials

Application materials vary depending on the school and the level of degree. Some schools require more intensive application materials than other schools who, for example, may not even include an application fee. However, you can anticipate the following requirements for nearly every program to which you apply.

College Application

Schools typically make the application available through their website. The form will ask for personal, academic, and payment-related information.

High School Transcript

Undergraduate programs may require students to submit their high school transcript. Admissions needs to determine your academic performance in high school and look over your completed coursework.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation from teachers or non-family relationships reassure admissions that you possess academic and social achievement. Admissions wants to know that responsible adults can vouch for your character.

SAT or ACT Scores

Admissions will want to see applicants' SAT or ACT scores. They may require a specific score on one section or on the entire test or they may offer ways to work around a poor score.

College Transcript

Graduate and sometimes undergraduate students may need to submit college transcripts. Admissions will want to get a sense of your overall performance and coursework selections to make sure the program will work for you.

Application Fees (or Fee Waiver)

Schools often require a small fee, usually around $30-$50, to accompany the completed application. Students may complete a request for admissions to waive the fee and submit it with their application.

When Should I Begin the Application Process?

Starting soon allows you to perform research on the institutions to which you apply. Four year colleges often recommend that students initialize the transfer process a year in advance. Giving yourself enough time will allow you to take advantage of available financial aid, visit the campus, and talk with advisors.

How to Transfer Colleges

Transfering to a new college consists of more steps than just submitting the completed application. The decision requires careful deliberation on the student's part and methodically working through a checklist to ensure a smooth transition.

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

What Are Nursing School Transfer Requirements?

Different nursing programs stipulate different requirements. For instance, the BSN program at UCLA's nursing school requires 90-to-105 transferrable quarter units and a 3.5 cumulative GPA -- as well as foundational coursework in anatomy, biology, and chemistry. Other schools may simply require a B or C in all transferable coursework. The majority, however, will require at least some foundational coursework in topics such as biology, chemistry, and statistics.

Types of Transfer Students

You might transfer for any number of reasons. You may want to upgrade your degree, study abroad, or simply stay on track with your degree after moving to a different location. Keep in mind that your circumstances in transferring will influence the transfer process.

Community College to Four-Year College Transfer

A community college student may want to begin the transition towards a bachelor's by transferring to a four-year college. They need to ensure that all or the majority of credits will transfer first.

Four-Year College to Four-Year College Transfer

A transfer from one four-year institution to another may result from dissatisfaction, a move, professional obligations, or academic reasons.

Military Transfer

Through the American Council on Education (ACE), many schools offer college credit for military experience. This can get a surprising amount of lower-division credit out of the way for these students.

International Transfer

International students may desire the chance to study abroad and absorb a different culture while working on a degree. They may even wish to move to their host country eventually.

Transferrable Credits

How can a student assuredly know their credits will transfer? Transfering between public institutions tends to go smoothly, since they often boast agreements with each other. Ultimately, the school gets to decide whether they will accept your credits. Different factors complicate the transfer process. Students should research the school's policies on course equivalency, including course-level transfers and moving from a quarter system to a semester system.

Course Equivalency

Though students may take the same basic regiment of coursework, different schools often feature important differences in their program emphasis or available curricula. For instance, a course on information technology and nursing from a student's BSN curriculum may not count for either nursing major requirements or general elective credit at another school where an equivalent course does not exist.

Course Level

Students should also pay careful attention when transferring between course levels. Lower-division courses at the 100 and 200 level will likely transfer. However, upper-division courses may not transfer as easily, and 100- or 200-level courses will not transfer up to the 300- or 400-level -- even if they focus on similar topics. Upper-division courses provide more of a challenge to students and cover more ground than lower-division courses. The program may require transfer students to take the school's upper-division courses to guarantee that students receive the full experience.

Quarter vs. Semester Transfers

Students should also consider whether or not their prospective school operates on a semester or quarter system. Though you should always confirm first that your credits will transfer, you should also try to work out the credit conversion. Typically, five credits on the quarter system satisfy three credits on the semester system.

What if My Credits Don't Transfer Over?

Unfortunately, credits do not always transfer. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), “students who transferred from 2004 to 2009 lost, on average, an estimated 43 percent of their credits.” This failure for credits to transfer amounts to a waste of both time and money, so students should try to avoid it. Additionally, students transferring from private, for-profit institutions to public institution lost 94%. Details like this should remind you of the importance of doing the research to make sure that credits transfer. You may find that some credits either fail to transfer or only transfer as general electives. In this case, you may file an appeal. Different schools follow different appeal processes; some may require students to complete a form such as this one, and others may expect a written request such as this.

Most schools require a student to hold a "C" or better in any course they wish to transfer, but this varies from school to school. Many four-year universities expect students to hold a “B” or better in a class in order to transfer it. A student may need to retake a course entirely to get the required credit. However, alternatives exist. You may want to consider transferring to a different school with more forgiving credit-transfer policies; online schools often handle credit transfers more leniently.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Transfers

Choosing to transfer in-state rather than out-of-state offers obvious financial benefits. Many institutions offer a lower tuition rate for in-state students. From 2016 to 2018, tuition and living expenses for out-of-state students reached nearly three times the cost of attending an in-state college. Additionally, special partnerships between public schools and community colleges within the state make transferring easier. Public state schools and community colleges both boast lower tuition and generally come with partnerships ideal for in-state transfer students.

College Tuition Prices

  2016-2017 2017-2018
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

Source: CollegeBoard

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

Starting at a community college and finishing at a four-year school can greatly reduce the time and money it takes to earn a degree. You can complete lower-division coursework at reduced tuition costs and often complete coursework faster. Many schools offer accelerated programs that make the transition from ADN to BSN even faster. Earning an associate degree ultimately costs less than earning a bachelor's not because one takes two years and the other takes four but because community colleges charge lower tuition rates than four-year universities. Additionally, transfering from a community college to an in-state public school often comes with articulation agreements that ensure that your credits transfer. The following table illustrates the difference in tuition between two-year and four-year colleges:

Two-Year and Four-Year College Tuition Prices

  2016-2017 2017-2018
Public 2-Year In-State College $3,470 $3,570
Public 4-year In-State College $9,670 $9,970

Source: CollegeBoard

Other Factors to Consider When Transferring

Starting at community college and transferring to a four-year school offers both advantages and drawbacks. Students may find the transition from the smaller classes of a community college to the usually much larger classrooms of a four-year institution challenging. Smaller classrooms offer a one-on-one learning experience, while larger programs tend to offer more support services. Additional stress from having to apply to another school all over again may also present students with difficulties. Students may even need to take some courses all over again, which could add additional stress.


Finally, students must consider the accreditation status of their prospective school. Accreditation ensures the maintenance of educational standards for credibility and competence. Regional accreditation serves as the most common and reputable form of accreditation, and nursing programs enjoy six accrediting bodies. The NLNAC and the CNNE offer perhaps the highest accreditation status. If the school you attended does not hold accreditation, your credits will not transfer to another institution. Additionally, you may find yourself ineligible to receive financial aid. Lack of accreditation could even affect your ability to get a job. For these reasons, attending an unaccredited institution often results in wasted time and money. Students can determine whether or not their school holds accreditation through CHEA's Database.

Scholarships for Transfer Students

Hites Transfer Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society offers this scholarship to Phi Theta Kappa fraternity members who plan on transferring full-time to a senior institution next fall term and who demonstrate academic excellence.

Amount: $7,500

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Guistwhite Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society offers this scholarship to Phi Theta Kappa fraternity members who plan on transferring full-time to a senior institution next fall term.

Amount: $5,000

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The Hispanic Scholarship Fund College Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Community college transfer students of Hispanic heritage may apply for this scholarship. Community college transfer students must hold a minimum GPA of 2.5 and plan to attend a four-year college full time.

Amount: $5,000

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The Herbert Lehman Education Fund

Who Can Apply: African-American students demonstrating financial need transferring to a four year university may qualify. Preference goes to students with a commitment to public service.

Amount: $8,000

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Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship offers scholarships to 45 sophomores at two-year colleges who demonstrate financial need. Students need a minimum GPA of 3.5.

Amount: $40,000

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META Foundation Gold Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The META Foundation offers its Gold Scholarship to students of Hispanic origin who attend high school in Southern California and who seek to transfer to a four-year school. Students need a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Amount: $2,000

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Pine Cone Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students with learning disabilities who demonstrate financial need and intend to transfer from a California community college to a four-year institution may apply. Students need a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Amount: $2,000

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Point Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Point Foundation offers a number of scholarships to LGBTQ students in community college who intend to transfer to a four-year institution.

Amount: $13,600

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Ford Scholars Program

Who Can Apply: Students in Oregon and Siskiyou County, California at a two-year institution and looking to transfer to a four-year school may apply for this needs-based scholarship. Students need a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Amount: Varies

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eQuality Scholarship

Who Can Apply: LGBTQ students residing in northern or central California seeking to transfer from a community college to a four-year university may apply to this scholarship. eQuality also offers scholarships specific to nursing and medical students.

Amount: $6,000

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