Undergrad Application & Transfer Guide

If you're thinking of transferring colleges, you're not alone. According to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), college transfers are becoming much more common: in the 2014-15 academic year, 9.4% of all college students had attended more than one postsecondary institution. Among these students, those transferring from two-year schools accounted for the highest mobility rate, and approximately 92% of all transfers for the year occured at the undergraduate level.

These numbers are part of a national trend that's seeing students choose alternative degree paths. Many students still take the traditional four-year route, but some opt instead for gap years, part-time study, or community college. Transfers are also occurring laterally, between two four-year institutions. Students may switch schools for a variety of reasons, from financial considerations to the strength of an academic program. Whatever your reason is for wanting to transfer, it is important to understand that it’s an involved process. The success of a transfer rests largely with you and what you do for your admissions case. Your best approach is to begin the process early, research well, and ask plenty of questions.

That said, higher education providers are working to keep pace with enrollment trends, including the growing number of transfers. From advising to articulation agreements, transfer students have more support now than ever. Two- and four-year schools are investing time, money, and research into helping transfer students with admissions and other technical details.

How to Choose an Online Medical Billing & Coding Program

Prospective transfer students should be mindful that transferring is different from first-time college applications, with a few more steps involved. Research should be your first course of action, and it begins with looking closer at curriculum and classes, the cost of tuition (including cost per credit), and accreditation status. In addition to checking institutional accreditation, as an aspiring health information technician, you will also want to check for programmatic accreditation, like CAHIIM (Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management).

Also, check medical billing and coding education requirements at your target school. This will give you a sense of where you stand regarding credits and prerequisites. As a transfer, you'll find that everything hinges on your transfer credit, and whether schools will accept it. Working with a transfer advisor should help you avoid taking unnecessary courses.

When comparing schools, you should also weigh the learning formats available. Asynchronous courses are typical for distance education programs, including those for medical billing and coding, and allow students to complete coursework at their own pace. Hybrid programs split lessons between online and in-person learning, and aren’t typical for medical billing and coding programs.

Typical Medical Billing & Coding Program Entry Requirements

Medical billing and coding students should review their classes and grades with an academic advisor. This process is different from that of a first-time college application, but it still requires you to meet minimum admissions criteria. This criteria includes GPA, prerequisites, essay requirements, and test scores. If you find you are below the minimum threshold in any of these categories, it may be best to hold off on transferring until you can meet the minimum requirements.

As a transfer, you may wonder which classes are required for medical billing and coding, and if your prior coursework meets course equivalencies for your target school. While curricula varies between schools, students pursuing a degree or certificate in medical billing and coding usually take classes in healthcare law and ethics, classification and coding (systems), medical terminology, and health data. Schools don’t typically accept credit for courses in which you earned a grade lower than a "C;" some schools have stricter requirements. Regarding overall GPA, a 3.0 grade point average usually meets minimum requirements.

Applying for a Medical Billing & Coding Programs

Application Materials

Transfer application materials vary between schools, but they usually include school transcripts, at least two letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores (SAT or ACT). When you submit your application for transfer, you will also need to pay the application fee, unless you secured a fee waiver in advance.

  • College Application: Most schools provide college applications online and encourage students to apply online. You will likely send all supporting documents, including transcripts, through electronic means as well. With the college application, you will need to meet every deadline.
  • High School Transcript: As a transfer student, you must submit all official school transcripts, including those from your high school. High schools typically send transcripts electronically, but you may also obtain a copy to send through regular mail. In such cases, the school will seal the transcript inside an envelope. Mail the transcript as is; don't break the seal. If the seal breaks, the transcript is no longer valid.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Every school is different, but prepare to obtain at least two letters of recommendation. As a college transfer, you should ask professors who are familiar with your work at the college level. Etiquette dictates that you make your request early, and send a note of thanks afterward.
  • SAT or ACT Scores: As a transfer student, standardized test scores are not always necessary. However, many schools request them if the applicants fall below certain criteria, such as GPA. Some schools request standardized testing scores for students who were in high school less than five years prior.
  • College Transcript: For transfer students, the college transcript is perhaps the most important document in a college application. A college transcript shows your academic record, and schools use it to evaluate prior credit. To send a college transcript, request it at your school's office of the registrar.
  • Application Fees (or Fee Waiver): College application fees typically depend on the applicant's residence: in-state, out-of-state, or international. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) offers a fee waiver for applicants who qualify for the Federal Pell Grant.

When Should I Begin the Application Process?

There isn't a set time to begin the transfer application process. Some four-year colleges, like Arizona State University (ASU), recommend transfer students begin the process a year in advance of their planned first semester of enrollment. ASU reasons this will smooth the transition and ensure full financial aid eligibility. Check the transfer section of your prospective school and ask for guidance from the school's transfer advisor. Keep in mind that schools vary when it comes to term start dates and application deadlines. Research should provide you with a better sense of what to do and when to do it.

How to Transfer Colleges

As you can see from the checklist below, moving from one school to another takes more than submitting an application and registering for the upcoming semester. It requires months of planning and research, plus working with an academic advisor. Transferring is an involved process, one requiring a commitment to detail, deadline, and follow-ups.

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

Medical Billing & Coding College Requirements

The job market for health information technicians looks to be strong in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 13% growth in the industry, faster growth than the economy as a whole. The most promising projections are for health information professionals skilled in handling electronic health records. Medical billing and coding education requirements vary by program. However, the BLS notes that high school diplomas can qualify individuals for certain jobs at the entry level. For this reason, earning a degree or a certificate in health information technology is likely a major advantage.

Types of Transfer Students

The largest number of transfers falls into the community college transfer category, but many students enrolled at four-year institutions also choose to switch schools. There are also military and international transfers. Each type of transfer has its own considerations and requirements.

  • Community college to four-year college transfer: Many students start their degree roadmap at the community college level, fully intending to transfer into a four-year program to complete their degrees. Many community colleges create transfer-ready programs to help students stay on track for an associate degree and eventual transfer.
  • Four-year college to four-year college transfer: Students enrolled in four-year schools who choose to laterally transfer may do so for a variety of reasons, including financial, academic, or familial motivations.
  • Military transfer: At some point during or after their career, military service members may choose to use their military education benefits. Equipped with years of training and experience, most military transfer students do not begin their studies as freshmen, since many schools accept their experience as prior learning credit.
  • International transfer: International students attending school in the United States on an F-1 visa must maintain a full-time courseload in order to keep their legal immigration status. International students who wish to switch schools must continue taking courses at their current school while going through the transfer process.

Transferrable Credits

The admitting school has discretion over whether or not it will accept transfer credits from prior coursework. Transfer students should pay close attention to prospective colleges’ policies regarding transfer credits, and they should confirm whether their prior classes have course equivalency at their new school. Transfers between public schools within the same state are usually the simplest, whereas complications arise during credit transfers between different course levels or quarter- and semester-system schools. A 2014 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that transfer students lost an average of 13 credits when they switched schools.

  • Course Equivalency: Schools have the final say regarding students’ transfer credits, but transfer students can prepare themselves for the process by looking into course equivalency. If a school doesn't offer equivalency for one of your prior courses, it may still accept the coursework for general education credits. Washington State University's equivalencies database states that HIST 101 at Clark College is equal to HISTORY 120 at WSU. HIST 1## at Clark College, however, doesn’t have an equivalent at WSU, but WSU will still count it as an elective.
  • Course Level: In general, transferring 100- and 200-level courses is simpler than transferring upper-level courses. Lower-level courses typically have similar course content across schools, while upper-level courses become more specific and difficult to match up. For example, at Champlain College, the school states that course equivalency is mainly available among courses at the 100 or 200 level, while it’s rarely available at the 300 level, and never at the 400 level.
  • Quarter vs. Semester Transfers: Transferring from a school on the quarter system to one on the semester system can get a little complicated, since the credits don’t sync up perfectly. Your admitting school’s admissions section might state something along the lines of: maximum 90 quarter hours or 60 semester hours. In other words, simply divide by 1.5 to convert your quarter credits to semester credits, or for every three quarter credits, you have two semester credits.

What if My Credits Don’t Transfer Over?

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that from 2004 to 2009, college transfer students lost an estimated 43% of their earned credits. Students who transferred between public schools lost 37% of their total credit, while those transferring from private for-profit colleges to public schools lost 94% of their credits.

If you’re transferring between schools without statement policies or articulation agreements, you'll need to be particularly diligent in selecting your courses. Reach out to your prospective school’s admissions office to confirm course equivalency policies, and inquire about the likelihood of credit acceptance from your current institution.

If the admissions office says your prior credits would only transfer as general electives, you can appeal. Depending on the school, you may need to fill out and complete a form like this one from West Chester University, or make your case in writing like Thomas Edison State University requires. Most schools only accept credit for courses in which students earned a grade of "C" or better. For some schools and certain courses, the criteria may be stricter.

If you do fall below the minimum criteria, you have a few options remaining: Retake the course and earn a higher grade, or transfer to a school with a more generous transfer policy. Online schools, for example, generally have a more lenient transfer policy than traditional schools.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Transfers

When it comes to public colleges and universities, resident students pay less than those coming from out-of-state. Attending school within your state may help offset the overall cost of postsecondary education. As you can see from the table below, tuition continues to rise for both public and private colleges and universities. The largest gap, however, is between in-state and out-of-state students attending a public four-year college.

States both control and fund their own public schools, and they do so through taxes, so only state residents benefit from subsidized education costs.

In-state transfers also allow for articulation agreements between community colleges and state public schools. Articulation agreements map out two-year study plans for community college students, the end objective being to transfer to a four-year public university. These agreements make sure students take courses that will apply toward bachelor degree requirements at participating public schools.

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

Transfer-ready programs at community colleges typically equal the first two years of a traditional four-year program. Students taking this route can save money by earning their associate degree and completing general education requirements at a community college before transferring to a four-year school.

The table below illustrates the savings a student can pocket by enrolling in a community college before transferring to a bachelor’s program. Four-year state colleges are about 65% more expensive than community colleges, even excluding room, board, and transportation expenses. In the 2017-18 academic year, students saved an average of $12,800 by enrolling at a local community college before completing their bachelor’s at a four-year university.

Articulation agreements guarantee that transfer students’ courses and credits will transfer to their admitting schools, ensuring they don’t waste any of their community college expenses.

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

Attending community college before transferring to a bachelor’s program may save you money, provide you with a more flexible class schedule, and allow you to study near your home, but it may not prepare you for a four-year university’s stringent requirements. Bachelor’s students tend to have a heavy workload and a jam-packed schedule, so some transfer students might go into these programs feeling overwhelmed.

Accreditation

Many colleges only accept transfer credit from accredited schools. There are two types of institutional accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation comes from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), and is considered the most prestigious type of accreditation, so it’s usually easy to transfer from these programs. According to the NCES, nearly 90% of all credit transfer opportunities in 2014 involved regionally accredited institutions. Accreditation status may also impact students’ eligibility for federal financial aid.

The ED recognizes all six regional accreditors in the United States, along with several national accreditors. There are many national accrediting agencies, however, that the ED does not recognize. Typically, when schools use the word "accredited," it refers to regional accreditation, but you can confirm this by visiting the Council for Higher Education Accreditation database. The database lists institutions and programs accredited by ED-recognized accreditors.

Scholarships for Transfer Students

During the 2014-15 academic year, 76.7% of dependent full-time undergraduate students received grants, scholarships, and tuition waivers, according to the NCES. Students should check out scholarship opportunities at the local, state, and national levels. Many of these awards are designated for transfer students, in particular those transferring from community colleges.

AHIMA Merit Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award from the American Health Information Management Association assists students pursuing their CAHIM-accredited associate degree in health information management or health information technology. Applicants must be current AHIMA members, be enrolled in at least six credit hours, and have a minimum GPA of 3.5.
Amount: $1,000

ASAHP: Scholarship of Excellence
Who Can Apply: The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professionals awards students on the path toward leadership in the allied health professions. Applicants must be attending an ASAHP member school, and do not need to demonstrate financial need.
Amount: $1,000

Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education
Who Can Apply: Pearson awards 10 merit scholarships to Phi Theta Kappa members intending to transfer to a four-year school. Applicants must be members of Phi Theta Kappa in good standing, with a cumulative college GPA of at least 3.5. Applicants must have 12 to 36 semester hours, or 12 to 54 quarter hours of college-level coursework.
Amount: $5,000

Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation
Who Can Apply: Administered by Phi Theta Kappa, the merit-based Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Program distributes 150 awards each year: 50 New Century Gold Scholars, 50 Silver Scholars, and 50 Bronze Scholars. To qualify, students must apply to the All-USA Academic Team, and their colleges must nominate them.
Amount: $1,000 (gold), $1,250 (silver), $1,500 (bronze)

Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: This merit scholarship is for students of Hispanic heritage, who plan to enroll full-time at an accredited, nonprofit undergraduate or graduate school. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.5.
Amount: $500 to $5,000

Transfer Times
Who Can Apply: Transfer Times awards two scholarships each year to students transferring to four-year schools from two-year schools. The organization chooses 10 finalists at random, and gives each the chance to submit an essay. There is one winner in the spring and another in the fall.
Amount: $2,000 (non-member school), $6,000 (member school)

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Who Can Apply: Cooke Scholar applicants must be on course to transfer from an accredited community college or two-year institution to a four-year school in the coming fall. They must also have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or higher, and demonstrate financial need.
Amount: Up to $40,000

Deblinger Family Scholarship
Who Can Apply: From the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, this award assists single mothers who are returning to college. Applicants must reside in Alameda, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, or San Mateo counties in California, and possess a minimum GPA of 2.5. To qualify, students must be currently enrolled in a community college, though students who have an associate degree and plan to transfer to a four-year school are eligible as well.
Amount: Up to $10,000 (two awards)

Roshan Rahbari Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Silicon Valley Community Foundation presents this merit scholarship, awarded to community college students with a community service background. Applicants must be set to transfer to a four-year school, and have a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Amount: Up to $5,000 (up to four awards)

A&F Scholarships
Who Can Apply: From Abbott & Fenner, this scholarship is open to students attending a postsecondary institution, and high school students in either their junior or senior year. To apply, students must submit an essay on the designated topic, and do so in 500 to 1,000 words.
Amount: $1,000

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