Project Opportunity: Access to Washington's Colleges'

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Pacific Lutheran University


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Learn about transferring to a four-year college in Washington.

Continuing your education and completing your bachelor's (four year) degree is one of the best investments you can make. On average, you will earn $12,000 more each year than an associates degree graduate, and over $20,000 per year more than a high school graduate - that is significant money, especially over the course of your work life. give you detailed information about transferring to a four-year (also called baccalaureate) college or university in Washington. Types of degrees like DTA's and AS-T's and other important terms will be explained, and financial aid will be explored in depth.

We will also introduce you to independent colleges and universities to transfer for your bachelor's degree that may be similar to the smaller school environment that you may be used to at the community college.

Choosing a college

Paying for college

Transferring credits

Questions to ask

Transfer Basics

Use the navigation bars on the left or our sitemap for more specific topics

Composition of Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree includes three primary types of courses that generally add to 180 quarter/120 semester credits.

  • General education courses are meant to provide a well rounded background in a broad range of subjects including math, writing and speaking, science, history, and literature. This background is important no matter what major you choose. About one-third of your entire college work will be in general education courses. An example of the type of course work you will take while pursuing a baccalaureate degree will look something like this:
    • 10 quarter credits English composition
    • 5 quarter credits in math
    • 15-20 credits in humanities (e.g. art, language, literature, drama)
    • 15-20 credits in social sciences (e.g., economics, political science, psychology)
    • 15-20 credits in natural science (e.g. biology, chemistry)
    • 15-30 credits in electives
  • Major work and preparation for the major are courses that prepare you for your chosen field of study. For instance, if you choose to be a math major, there are courses in math you’ll have to take before you go into the math courses created primarily for majors. This will take about one third to one half of your course work at college.
  • Electives provide an opportunity to explore an area of study that is not required or could be used to supplement what is required for your major.

DTA's, AS-T's, MRP's, and Running Start

If you’re thinking about transferring to a baccalaureate institution when you start at community college, there are several ways to earn credits that will most likely transfer to your destination college. Considering options such as DTA, AS-T, and MRP's can save you significant time and money. Programs eligible for transfer at Washington's independent colleges.

40 Year of the DTADirect Transfer Agreement (DTA)

In Washington, colleges have worked together to develop an associate of arts degree called the Direct Transfer Agreement (DTA) to prepare students broadly for upper division (junior and senior) coursework. There are many benefits to completing the associate of arts degree, the DTA.

Most colleges will accept it as having completed your general education requirements with a few exceptions. For example, at some independent colleges, you will be required to take religion and/or philosophy courses after you transfer.

On the other hand, if you transfer without enough courses to have an associates degree, you will have to complete the general education requirements at the campus to which you transfer. Each course will be evaluated separately, and may not count the way that your thought - speak with an advisor in the registrar's office for more information.

Associate of Science (AS – T)

If you want to major in science or engineering, you’ll need more science courses in your first two years than you can fit into a DTA. Colleges have created an Associate of Science for Transfer (AS-T) for these students. There are two tracks in the Associate of Science-Transfer degrees. Track one is for biology and chemistry majors. Track two is for engineering and physics majors.

With these degrees you can complete the science and math you need in the first two years, but you likely won’t quite complete all your social science and humanities courses. Many baccalaureate colleges have agreed that if you transfer with an AS-T degree, you’ll have your general education requirements completed except for 15 quarter credits in humanities and social science. Be sure to check if your preferred colleges participate in this program.

Major Related Pathways (MRP):

Some degrees have very specific courses that must be taken in the first two years in order to be ready to take major courses as a junior. Students choosing those degrees need a bit more guidance in exactly what general education courses to take in order to be ready for their major. For example, you’ll want to follow the major related pathway if you choose one of these fields of study:

Biology Education
Chemistry Education
Construction Management
Earth and Space Science Education
Elementary Education
Engineering Technology
General Science Education
Math Education
Physics Education

Associates of Applied Science

Community colleges also offer Associates of Applied Science (AAS) degrees. These degrees are more technical and less general than degrees designed for transfer. If you want to get a baccalaureate degree, be sure to review the options, before starting on an AAS degree.

Running Start credits

College credits earned while the student is in the high school are often treated differently than those taken by regular transfer students. The same is true for College in the High School – credits taken at a high school building while the student is in high school. Be sure to check with your college about how these credits will transfer.

How Credits Transfer

When you look at your transcript after it has been evaluated by the receiving institution it may look like you’re getting less credit than you took. There are several reasons it may look this way:

Quarter credit vs. Semester credit

Colleges choose different time systems to teach. Quarters are shorter than semesters, so it takes more quarter credits (50% more) to be the same value as semester credits. For example, if the history class you took at a community college was 3 quarter credits, if you transfer to a semester college you’ll get 2 semester credits. The full value of the course transferred, but onto a different system. That’s why it takes 120 semester credits to graduate and 180 quarter credits.

Replacement course or as elective

The course may have transferred, but rather than replace a course you expected it to replace, it could count as an elective. If this happens, you can talk to the registrar’s office to understand why. It is possible that if you give them more information, such as your course syllabus, the decision could change.

Academic vs technical courses

Baccalaureate colleges are looking for academic courses rather than technical courses. For instance, if you took a welding course at a technical college, it is unlikely to transfer unless the college you’re attending offers welding. It gets more tricky when you took a technical business course and it won’t transfer. For instance if you took an accounting course at a technical college, it may not transfer even though the baccalaureate college offers accounting. This is most likely because of the nature of the class. A technical course in accounting teaches you how to do the job, but will not include the philosophy behind it.

Remedial or pre-college courses

If you took coursework to prepare you for college level coursework, it will likely show up on your community college transcript but will not transfer. For instance if you took Math 099, the course prepares you for college level work, but is not college level math. You won’t get college credit for the work.

Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB,) Running Start, College in the High School

Each college has policies around these pre-collegiate programs. Check with your current college. If you got credit for the work at the community college, it will not automatically transfer. You’ll likely need to have the original transcript / scores sent to the baccalaureate university for review.

More questions?

Funded in part by a grant from
the Ben B. Cheney Foundation
published by Independent Colleges of Washington