Undergrad Application and Transfer Guide

For many, teaching is a fulfilling, rewarding profession. Teachers across the country work with children learning to read and high school students taking advanced courses in math and science. Before entering the classroom as a teacher, most prospective educators need to earn a bachelor’s degree from an approved teacher preparation program.

Applying to college requires multiple steps, including researching schools, speaking with school advisers, and gathering application materials. Students may also want to learn more about elementary education major requirements or secondary education major requirements. Before submitting your education school application, make sure you know how to improve your chances of acceptance.

Before entering the classroom as a teacher, most prospective educators need to earn a bachelor’s degree from an approved teacher preparation program

In addition to first-time college students, an increasing number of students transfer at some point during their college careers. As the National Student Clearinghouse reports, nearly 10% of students attended more than one institution in the 2014-2015 school year. Students transfer for many reasons, including saving money and finding a program that better fits their career goals. Some students complete an associate degree through a community college before transferring to a four-year institution.

Whatever educational path you choose, you need to know how to apply to teaching programs or how to transfer into a teaching program. This guide walks through the process step-by-step, including how to evaluate online programs and maximize transfer credits. By researching the application and transfer process, students can find the best program for their career goals and interests.

How to Choose an Online Teaching Program

Students interested in an online teaching program need to research several key factors, including the program’s length, the curriculum, and the total cost of a bachelor’s in education. While most bachelor’s programs require 120 credits and four years of full-time study, you may be able to shorten the program with transfer credits. Teaching programs may offer full-time and part-time options; students with work or family obligations may benefit from a part-time program. Costs also vary widely, with some online programs offering discounts to in-state residents or fully online students.

Each state sets its own teacher licensure process, and rules vary significantly

Teaching programs usually offer several specializations, including options in elementary education and secondary education. Prospective teachers should ensure that programs offer concentrations in their planned field, and that the curriculum meets licensing requirements in their state. Each state sets its own teacher licensure process, and rules vary significantly. By researching license requirements, you can make sure that your prospective online teaching programs meet the guidelines.

Transfer students face additional concerns. For example, transfer students need to research whether prospective bachelor’s institutions will accept their credits. Contacting an admissions officer or transfer adviser can help transfer students maximize their transfer credits. By checking transfer policies, students can avoid having to repeat classes.

Students must also check the program’s accreditation status. Unaccredited programs do not meet licensing requirements, and students may not be eligible for federal financial aid. In addition, credits earned through an unaccredited program usually do not transfer, and the degree may not meet graduate admissions guidelines. Most employers do not recognized unaccredited degrees.

Type of Teaching Degrees

During a bachelor’s degree in education, students may specialize in areas such as elementary education, secondary education, fine arts education, and religious education. These degrees each set their own curriculum and graduation requirements, and they each lead to different career opportunities after graduation.

While most bachelor’s degree programs require 120 credits and take approximately four years of full-time study, different teaching focuses may add time to the degree. Each program also includes different courses. For example, elementary education major requirements include specialized courses on teaching young learners, literacy education, and K-5 classroom management. Secondary education major requirements, by contrast, focus on a particular field such as chemistry, mathematics, or history.

As the following chart demonstrates, professionals who earn a bachelor’s degree in education earn starting salaries ranging from $38,000 to $43,000. Teachers with a degree in elementary education or general education typically earn $75,000 after two decades of experience. Teachers with a bachelor’s in fine arts education or religious education earn slightly lower salaries. Students can also research state licensing procedures to determine which bachelor’s degree best fits their career goals and provides the most growth opportunities.

Average Salary by Degree and Years of Experience
Source: PayScale
Degree1-4 Years5-9 Years10-19 Years20+ Years
Bachelor’s Degree, Elementary Education $43,370$49,227$49,468$75,000
Bachelor’s Degree, Education$38,043$47,236$50,724$77,419
Bachelor of Fine Arts Education$41,311$51,833$56,639$68,997
Bachelor of Religious Education $38,906$41,474$50,222$57,883

Typical Teaching Program Entry Requirements

Colleges and universities each set their own entry requirements for teaching students, so admission guidelines vary. However, many teaching programs set minimum standards for prospective students. In some cases, these requirements may be quite competitive, since programs have a limited number of spots.

Some programs set additional standards for transfer students, such as minimum GPA requirements

Some teaching programs require a minimum number of English composition and mathematics credits. Programs may also ask students to complete all general education requirements before gaining admission to the major. This lets students focus on major requirements in the last few years of the program.

Some programs set additional standards for transfer students, such as minimum GPA requirements. In many cases, transfer students must have a minimum 2.5 or 3.0 GPA in order to gain admission. Teaching programs may also prefer students who have an associate degree or at least 60 transfer credits.

Students who fall short of their desired program’s entry requirements can retake courses to raise their GPA or fulfill additional general education requirements before submitting an application. In addition, learners can consider online teaching programs with more lenient entry requirements. Some schools may provide provisional admission for students who do not meet all requirements.

Applying to Teaching Programs

Application Materials

Each school sets its own admission requirements, including required documents and deadlines. Consequently, the education school application process varies depending on your chosen college or university. However, most schools require standard application materials. Students should prepare to submit the following items.

College Application

Many schools provide online college applications to gather general information about applicants. The application typically includes the student’s educational history, background, and financial aid information.

High School Transcript

First-time freshmen and transfer students who have not earned at least one years’ worth of college credits typically have to submit high school transcripts. Most schools do not require high school transcripts for transfer students with more than 24 college credits.

Letters of Recommendation

Colleges and universities often require two or three letters of recommendation from academic or professional references. In most cases, letter writers can submit their letters electronically. Students should give their references several weeks’ notice.

SAT or ACT Scores

Most schools require standardized test scores, typically for the SAT or ACT. Some schools waive the requirement for transfer students who have earned more than 24 college credits.

College Transcript

All transfer students must submit college transcripts from every institution of higher learning they previously attended. Schools use college transcripts to determine how many credits the student may transfer.

Application Fees (or Fee Waiver)

Most schools set application fees to cover the cost of reviewing transfer applications. Some schools do not charge an application fee or allow students to apply for a fee waiver based on financial need.

When Should I Begin the Application Process?

Students should prepare their education school application as early as possible. This allows candidates to gather all materials and ask for letters of recommendation. By applying early, students can also ensure their credits meet education major requirements. Some schools recommend starting the application process one year before students plan to enroll. By planning ahead, you can ensure a smoother transition and take advantage of financial aid opportunities. However, many schools accept students on a much shorter time frame.

How to Transfer Colleges

Transferring colleges isn’t as easy as submitting an application. When considering a transfer, students need to research their options and reach out to school advisers before beginning the application process. By planning ahead, students can increase their chances of a successful transfer.

  • 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

Education Major Transfer Requirements

Students planning to major in teaching need to research the school’s education major requirements in addition to the general transfer guidelines. Some education programs require specific prerequisites before joining the major. By contacting a school adviser, prospective students can learn whether their credits apply toward the program. Transfer students need to research the minimum GPA for teaching majors before submitting their education school applications.

Types of Transfer Students

Some students earn an associate degree before transferring into a bachelor’s program, while others switch schools to find a better fit for their interests. Most schools categorize students with a gap in their education as transfer students. Each of these groups faces unique challenges during the transfer process.

Community College to Four-Year College Transfer

Some students complete an associate degree or earn credits at a community college before moving to a four-year college. Many colleges and universities give transfer students with an associate degree credit for all general education requirements.

Four-Year College to Four-Year College Transfer

Students move from one four-year college to another for many reasons, including educational interests, location, and cost. Most colleges accept up to 90 transfer credits from an accredited four-year institution.

Military Transfer

Military service members and veterans often gain college credits based on their military experience and training. Colleges and universities evaluate military transcripts to decide how to grant transfer credits.

International Transfer

International students may choose to transfer from global institutions to U.S. schools. In addition to meeting academic standards, international students may need to demonstrate English proficiency through TOEFL scores.

Transferrable Credits

Not all college credits transfer between institutions. In fact, the Government Accountability Office estimates that between 2004 and 2009, transfer students lost 43% of their credits. As a result, transfer students must carefully consider their credits when planning a transfer. Each school decides whether to accept transfer credits. Typically, transfers between public schools in the same state are easiest, while transfers to out-of-state schools are more difficult. By researching course equivalency policies, prospective transfer students can increase the chances of receiving credit for their courses.

Course Equivalency – Each school determines whether another school’s courses are equivalent with their classes. For example, a community college student who took a Psych 101 class may receive credit for taking a four-year college’s Psych 101 class. However, other institutions may determine that the classes are not equivalent and deny the credits. Similarly, schools may grant students general elective requirement credit for courses that are not exactly the same but still fulfill some requirements.
Course Level – Course level strongly affects transfer policy. For example, schools will not give transfer students credit for a 300-level specialized course if their transcript shows a 100-level course, even if the classes covered identical topics. In general, schools are more likely to accept transfer credits for 100- and 200-level courses compared with upper-level courses. Many schools also require transfer students to earn a minimum number of credits in residency at their new school.
Quarter vs. Semester Transfers – While the majority of schools use the semester system, students transferring from a school using quarters to one using semesters, or vice versa, face an additional hurdle. Schools usually convert quarter credits into semester credits, but transfer students should confirm exact policies with the prospective school’s advisers. Students can also use a formula for converting credits to determine how many credits they may receive.

What if My Credits Don’t Transfer Over?

During the transfer process, many students learn that some or even all of their credits will not transfer. According to the Government Accountability Office, transfer students lost an estimated 43% of their credits between 2004 and 2009. The problem particularly hit students transferring from private for-profit schools into public schools. These particular students lost an estimated 94% of their credits.

transfer students lost an estimated 43% of their credits between 2004 and 2009

Transfer students who lose credits also lose the time and money spent earning the credits in the first place. Before submitting an education school application, transfer students need to research how many of their credits will transfer. Before enrolling for classes, students planning to transfer can reach out to an admissions officer or transfer adviser.

Most schools require at least a “C” or 2.0 for transfer credits, although some schools set higher requirements. Transfer students with lower grades may need to retake a course to earn credit. Additionally, many schools do not accept transfer credits from unaccredited institutions. If a school refuses to accept transfer credits, students can file an appeal. The process varies depending on the school; in most cases students either need to fill out a form or submit a written request.

Students can also consider schools with more generous transfer policies. For example, many online schools, particularly those specializing in degree completion, accept more credits under more diverse circumstances. Students should thoroughly research transfer policies before submitting an education school application.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Transfers

In most cases, transferring to an in-state college is easier and less expensive than transferring to an out-of-state college. Many in-state colleges offer smooth transfer pathways for local community college graduates or students enrolled in the state’s public university system. Through articulation agreements, many four-year colleges automatically grant general education credits to transfer students with an associate degree. In-state colleges and universities may also let students transfer more credits than out-of-state institutions.

In addition, public in-state colleges charge significantly lower tuition, even compared with public out-of-state institutions. While in-state public schools charged just under $10,000 a year in tuition during the 2017-2018 school year, public out-of-state colleges charged over $25,000. Private nonprofit colleges charged nearly $35,000. Students can save thousands by transfering to a public in-state school.

College Tuition Prices
Source: CollegeBoard
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

The most affordable path to a bachelor’s degree often starts with a community college. Students who earn an associate degree before transferring to a four-year college or university benefit from the lower cost of two-year colleges. CollegeBoard reports that public four-year in-state colleges charge more than twice the tuition of two-year colleges. Community college students considering out-of-state public or private schools save even more by completing some credits beforehand.

In addition to tuition, community college students often save money on housing costs. This holds especially true as an increasing number of four-year schools require freshmen to live on campus. By attending a community college first, students can also save on parking, fees, campus facilities, and other costs.

Two-Year and Four-Year College Tuition Prices
Source: CollegeBoard
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

While transferring into a four-year institution with an associate degree brings many benefits, it also has drawbacks. For example, students must go through the application process twice, and at some institutions, transfer admissions may be more competitive than freshman admissions. Some students may worry that they missed out on the traditional college experience by attending community college for two years, and students may struggle to transition into a bachelor’s program alongside students who have already attended the college or university for several years. Additionally, certain credits may not transfer, requiring students to repeat certain courses.


When considering a four-year college or university, students should always check the accreditation status of both of their current school and the schools they plan to apply for. Accreditation ensures that institutions of higher learning meet certain academic and professional standards. Both regional and national accrediting agencies review two-year and four-year institutions.

Accreditation can make a big difference for transfer students. Most four-year colleges and universities only accept transfer credits from accredited institutions, and many only accept credits from regionally accredited schools. Students at unaccredited schools may not receive federal financial aid. Transfer students can check the accreditation status of any school through the Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United states Accrediting Organizations.

Scholarships for Transfer Students

Several established scholarship programs assist transfer students moving into a four-year college or university. Students with an associate degree who plan to earn a bachelor’s in teaching qualify for multiple scholarship opportunities. Options such as those listed below may provide thousands of dollars toward a degree.

Transfer Student Scholarships

Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship $40,000

Who Can Apply: Offered by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, this scholarship rewards community college students transferring to a selective four-year institution. Applicants must be in their final year at a community college or a recent graduate. Candidates should hold a minimum 3.5 GPA and demonstrate financial need. View Scholarship

Hites Transfer Scholarship $7,500

Who Can Apply: Phi Theta Kappa members planning to transfer from a community college to a regionally accredited four-year institution qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA, actively participate in their community, and display leadership. View Scholarship

Guistwhite Scholarship $5,000

Who Can Apply: Offered through Phi Theta Kappa, the scholarship funds community college students intending to transfer to a regionally accredited four-year college or university. Applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA. View Scholarship

GEICO Pathway to Completion Bachelor’s Degree Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Applicants for the Guistwhite Scholarship also automatically receive consideration for GEICO’s community college transfer student scholarship. Applicants must hold membership with Phi Theta Kappa and demonstrate leadership in their community. View Scholarship

Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education $5,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship benefits students enrolled part time or full time in a community college. Candidates must possess a minimum 3.5 GPA, hold membership with Phi Theta Kappa, and intend to enroll at a four-year institution. In order to apply, students complete a scholarship application and essay questions. View Scholarship

HSF Scholarship $500-$5,000

Who Can Apply: Offered by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, this scholarship assists community college students transferring to a four-year college full-time. Applicants must identify as Hispanic, show a minimum 2.5 GPA, and complete a FAFSA. View Scholarship

New Century Transfer Pathway Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Community college students qualify for this scholarship if they apply to the All-USA Academic Team and receive a nomination from their college. Applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA and plan to transfer to a four-year institution. View Scholarship

META Scholarship $2,000

Who Can Apply: Community college students transferring into a four-year accredited institution qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must identify as Hispanic, hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, and demonstrate financial need. Candidates must also have graduated from a Southern California high school. View Scholarship

Ford Scholars Program 90% of Expenses

Who Can Apply: Oregon residents and residents of Siskiyou county, California, qualify for this program. Community college students planning to transfer to a four-year institution may apply. Recipients must enroll full time at a school in their state of residence. View Scholarship

Bachelor’s Degree Completion Pathway $9,500

Who Can Apply: This scholarship assists Washington state child care workers with an associate degree. Candidates should plan to earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, elementary education, or a related field. Recipients must be employed at least part time in a Washington state child care program associated with Early Achievers. View Scholarship