How to Transition from Community College to a 4-Year University

Student Wellness
May 5, 2020
Attending Community College Can Prepare Students For A Lifetime Of Academic Success…

For many students, the transition from high school to a full-blown 4-year college can be intimidating. Moving away from home, learning how to handle college coursework, and making new friends can seem like an overwhelming to-do list for some, especially those from rural or smaller schools.

Thankfully, there are community colleges across the country that can help make the transition from high school to college easier, less expensive, and closer to home. Community colleges provide students with a solid foundation for finishing their bachelor’s degree at a 4-year college. In this article, we’ll discuss how students can plan a smooth transition from community college to a 4-year institution.

Why Go To Community College To Begin With?

For every high school junior itching to start their college applications, there is another student less excited by the idea of going to college. Each one of these students may have a different hangup: some may come from small schools, others may not have the ability to make a 4-year college work financially, and there are some students who may feel like they’re not ready for the full-on college experience for any number of reasons.

If you find yourself unsure about attending a 4-year university, attending community college can be a great way to prepare yourself. 42% of community college students go on to earn their bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution. For students who take their studies and transition to college life seriously, using an associate’s degree from a community college as the foundation for their education comes with many benefits.

While every community college student makes the decision for different reasons, there are many benefits to attending these two-year colleges that high school students often overlook.


  • Community colleges offer flexible schedules, often including night classes, to make it easier for working and adult students to attend.
  • The cost of attending community college is usually much cheaper than attending a 4-year college and can save students thousands of dollars earning their associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.
  • The coursework offered at community colleges can provide students with an easier transition between high school and college.
  • Many community colleges have programs with local and state colleges to ensure easier transfers.


  • Community college students lose out on many social and networking opportunities available to freshmen at 4-year colleges.
  • The admission rates for transfer students are generally lower than regular admission.
  • Students transferring from community colleges often have trouble finding scholarships.
  • The classes offered at community colleges are more general and have less difficult classwork than traditional 4-year universities, which can make the jump to a 4-year college harder.

The students who benefit the most from attending community college generally come from rural or smaller schools or may not have a clear idea of what type of degree they’d like to get. Students facing financial hardship also benefit greatly from attending a community college.

Not only is the cost of attending much lower, but there are also many jobs available with just an associate’s degree if the student needs to take a break to work before returning to school at a 4-year college. Attending a community college is one of the many strategies students use to attend college without taking on student loan debt.

How To Make A Smooth Transition To A 4-Year University

Making the transition from community college to a 4-year institution is one of the biggest concerns for community college students. However, with careful planning and attention to details and deadlines, students can easily transition from one institution to the next.

Of course, make sure to keep in touch with your academic counselor as you plan and work through your transfer application.


Just as your community college likely offers a narrow selection of majors, not every four-year institution will offer every degree. It’s essential that you research your college options and evaluate their requirements for transfer students. Across the country, each individual university has its own rules regarding the types of classes and credits that transfer from community colleges.

Often, the easiest colleges to transfer to will be local. However, many colleges have transfer programs with community colleges that make this process easier. While these factors shouldn’t be the sole decider on where you finish your bachelor’s degree, attending a local 4-year college can save you headaches when figuring out which credits will transfer and what tuition rate you’ll be paying after your time in community college is over.


Once you’ve found the college you’d like to apply to, make sure you go over their transfer requirements carefully. Neglecting to plan around the transfer program of your destination college can lead to lost credits, courses you must retake, and even disqualification from transferring. Your community college’s academic advisors and counselors will be able to help you plan out your transfer, including helping determine if your credit hours will be accepted by your destination school.


The course load at private 4-year institutions is much more rigorous than general community college work. However, you shouldn’t let this discourage you; 74% of students who transfer to a top institution from a community college go on to graduate, which makes them more likely to graduate than other students. While community college provides a solid foundation, it’s up to each student to work on their skills, from studying to time management, in order to truly thrive at a 4-year institution.

Due to the increased course load at 4-year colleges, you may want to consider joining up with a study group soon after you transfer. Not only will this help you build a network, which we cover in the next section, but it will help you adapt to the higher academic level of your new 4-year college courses much more quickly.


Often, attending community college means staying close to home. Yet the 4-year college you transfer to may be much farther away from home than you were before. This is why it’s vital that you start building a network at your destination school before you transfer. Link up with students in your class on both campuses, attend community or sporting events, and join social media pages for prospective students. Even if you only make one friend before you transfer, it’ll make you feel much more comfortable when heading off to a new school where you don’t know anyone.

Community College Students Can Thrive At 4-Year Colleges

For many students, the opportunity to study at a community college offers a smooth transition period between being a teenager and a young adult, making college life much easier. From interacting with your peers to studying for exams, everything feels new when you first enter college. With a community college, the stakes are lower financially and the course load is designed to be flexible and easy to work into the schedule of a working adult. For high school students who choose to attend a community college rather than heading straight to a 4-year institution, this flexibility takes a lot of pressure off the first two years of college.

Of course, we know that the beginning of your college journey can feel like sitting in a pressure cooker regardless of what type of school you’re applying to. If you need help with your college applications, our WeAdmit counselors would love to help you break down the process step by step. Our team of experts knows how to tackle every part of applying for college, and we’re here to make sense of the details and deadlines; as well as help you choose the right college plan for you!

No Matter Where You Plan To Go To School, There’s A College Out There For You!



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