Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1. What does transfer mean?
    Generally transfer is movement between any two educational institutions. Here, however, the term is specifically used to describe advancement from a community college to a university. Transfer means that you begin your bachelor's degree at a community college and complete it at a university.
  • 2. What are the advantages of starting your college career at a community college rather than a four year school?
    Community colleges are much less expensive, often have smaller class sizes than the four-year schools, and offer students an opportunity to explore major options. Many competitive and selective schools are easier to get into as a transfer student than as a recent high school graduate. Also, there are many programs set up to assist students in transferring to a university.
  • 3. Are community college students as successful as students who started at four-year schools as freshmen?
    Yes, transfer students, on average, do as well as and in some cases better than students who started as freshmen at four-year schools. According Community College League of California, 55% of CSU graduates and 28% of UC graduates began their college years at a community college - and, upon transferring obtained GPAs equal to, or better than, native UC or CSU students.
  • 4. What is the relationship between community colleges and the university?
    Universities offer both lower division (freshman and sophomore) and upper division (junior and senior) coursework. Community colleges offer lower division courses only. The university accepts certain community college courses as comparable to courses that are required for freshman and sophomore students at the university through a process called articulation. In that way, community college courses become transferable and count toward the requirements to graduate from the university with a bachelor's degree.
  • 5. What is the difference between an associate degree and a bachelor's degree?
    An associate degree is a two-year degree granted by a community college to students who complete a specified program of study, usually totaling 60 semester units. A bachelor’s degree (or baccalaureate) is a four-year degree granted by a college or university to students who complete at least 120 semester units. Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science Degrees are offered by the California State Universities, the University of California and many private four-year colleges and universities.
  • 6. What is the difference between lower division and upper division courses?
    Lower division courses are those typically taken during a student’s first two years at a college or university. All courses offered at a community college are lower division courses. Upper division courses are those typically taken during a student’s final years of study. These courses are not offered by community colleges. A student who transfers to a four-year institution will take mostly upper division coursework.
  • 7. What is articulation?
    Articulation is the process of evaluating courses to determine whether coursework completed at one institution (e.g. a community college) will meet the requirements at another institution (e.g. a university) for the purposes of admission, transferable units, general education or major preparation. It is this process that ensures that the classes you take at a community college will be credited toward your bachelor's degree requirements when you enter a university.
  • 8. What are Articulation Agreements?
    Articulation agreements are formal documents that describe which coursework is accepted. Some articulation agreements are "course-to-course agreements", meaning that they show a specific course from one institution and the comparable specific course from another. Other articulation agreements are "major agreements", meaning that they show a set of courses that are acceptable to fulfill an entire requirement for major preparation. All segments of the public higher education system in California---the California Community Colleges, the California State University, and the University of California--have agreed to have a single repository for articulation agreements between the community colleges and the universities. That repository is the ASSIST web site, which is accessible to the public at College of Marin has several articulation agreements with private universities. Click here to see the list.
  • 9. What is the difference between the CSU and UC schools?
    The California State University (CSU) began as a system of teacher's colleges and evolved into a broader system of higher education. It is one of the three segments of California public higher education, the others being the University of California (UC) and the California Community Colleges. The CSU grants bachelor's and master's degrees that have a practical, career orientation. The assumption is that most CSU graduates will want to enter work based on their bachelor's degree training. There are now 23 CSU campuses. The UC was established as the focal point for academic and scientific research within the higher education system. In addition to bachelor's and master's degrees, the UC grants doctorates and professional degrees. The emphasis at the bachelor's level is on theoretical learning, the assumption being that most UC graduates will pursue a higher degree before entering their career. There are ten UC campuses, though UC San Francisco is a professional school only.
  • 10. What is the difference between a semester and a quarter?
    Each academic institution operates according to an academic calendar, with terms marking the beginning and end of each session of classes. A semester is a calendar that divides the academic year into 15 - 17 week terms. There are generally two semesters per academic year: Fall (beginning in August or September) and Spring (beginning in January). Some semester-based schools also offer a Summer session that is shorter than a regular semester and is not a part of the regular academic year. A quarter is the other most common type of academic term. Each quarter is 10 weeks in length and there are usually three quarters in an academic year: Fall (beginning in September), Winter (beginning in January), and Spring (beginning in March). A few quarter-based schools offer a forth Summer Quarter, but it is not considered an official term in the academic year. College of Marin is on the semester calendar.
  • 11. How many units do I need to transfer?
    You will achieve full junior standing when you have completed 60 transferable semester units. If you wish to transfer as a lower division student, the university will consider your high school record in determining whether to admit you. The University of California requires 60 UC-transferable semester units for upper division transfer. Some UC campuses infrequently accept students as lower division transfers. Effective Fall 2005, CSU will require 60 CSU-transferable semester units for junior transfer. Some CSU campuses are open to lower division transfers, but grant them lower priority for admission. Independent and out-of-state universities often accept students with fewer than 60 semester units. Please check the printed or online catalog for the specific university to which you want to transfer for their requirements. A counselor can assist you with that.
  • 12. If I earn an Associate degree, will I be prepared to transfer?
    Generally, meeting the requirements for an Associate degree will not prepare you for transfer admissions. Not all courses that are counted toward an Associate degree are accepted for transfer and General Education requirements differ, as well. (See What is General Education (GE) ) However, it is possible to earn an associate degree by completing 60 associate degree units and fulfilling all of the GE requirements for transfer. See a counselor for more information about earning an associate degree as part of your transfer process.
  • 13. Is there a maximum number of units that I can transfer?
    California public universities will count a maximum of 70 community college semester units toward the total number of units you need to complete for a bachelor's degree. Independent and out-of-state institutions vary in their limits and you should check their catalog or web site for information. Different limits may apply if you have already attended a four-year institution, meet with a counselor to determine what those limits may be.
  • 14. What if I take more than 70 transferable units?
    The 70-unit limit applies to the number of units that will be counted toward the bachelor’s degree. The university will grant subject credit for course content needed to satisfy requirements for general education or major preparation, even if they do not count the units for all of your courses toward graduation.
  • 15. What is the minimum grade point average (GPA) required for transfer admission?
    The minimum GPA accepted for transfer to the CSU is 2.0 for California residents, 2.4 for non-residents. The minimum GPA accepted for transfer to the UC is 2.4 for California residents, 2.8 for non-residents. Both CSU and UC campuses have designated some highly popular majors as selective or impacted for which students have to meet competitive selection criteria (higher GPAs and minimum course completion requirements) to be admitted. Grade point averages necessary for transfer to independent and out-of-state universities vary. Consult the institution's printed or online catalog.
  • 16. What is a competitive GPA for transfer?
    Grade point averages necessary to compete for admission to impacted or selective programs vary from year to year, depending on the pool of applicants for any given academic year. Generally, a GPA of 3.0 is considered competitive, though even higher GPAs may be required to gain admission to majors and campuses for which the most students apply. A transfer counselor can tell you whether that is the case for the major or campus of your choice.
  • 17. What is General Education (GE)?
    General Education is a set of courses through which you will become broadly educated by taking classes that cover a wide range of disciplines. GE courses are usually introductory in nature and provide you with fundamental knowledge in English, mathematics, the arts and humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences. You can complete the majority of GE coursework needed to receive a bachelor's degree while enrolled in a community college. After transferring to a university, you will be required to take only a few GE courses, so you can focus on your major. For example, you will be required to complete at least 48 units of GE to graduate from a CSU, 9 of which are upper division courses and hence must be completed at the university. The GE unit requirements of independent and out-of-state institutions vary, but the ratio of lower division to upper division is similar. GE courses are divided into subject areas and GE patterns describe the number of courses that you must take in each subject area to meet total GE requirements. Each institution has its own GE (sometimes called breadth or core) pattern. There are also GE patterns that are accepted by the entire CSU and/or UC systems for transfer to any campus in that system; those patterns are IGETC and CSU GE Breadth (see below).
  • 18. What is CSU GE Breadth?
    The CSU GE Breadth is the pattern of coursework accepted to meet the GE requirements for a bachelor's degree at any CSU campus. CSU GE Breadth is one way for you to complete the lower division GE requirements for a bachelor's degree from the CSU at College of Marin prior to transfer. Completing the entire CSU GE Breadth pattern is not a requirement for admission. However, the CSU requires that students complete most of their lower division GE before transfer. There is an upper division GE requirement of at least 9 units to graduate from a CSU. It is not possible to complete all of the GE needed to receive a bachelor's degree from a CSU at a community college.
  • 19. What is IGETC?
    IGETC (pronounced eye-get-see) stands for Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum. It is a course pattern that community college students can use to satisfy lower division GE requirements for either the CSU or the UC. Completion of IGETC is not a requirement for admission to the CSU or UC. IGETC is one option for students preparing to transfer. CSU students can use each campus’s GE pattern or the CSU GE Breadth pattern (see above). UC students can use each campus's GE pattern. A few independent California universities also accept IGETC as fulfillment of their lower division GE. If you have questions about which GE pattern to use, make an appointment with a counselor. For some high unit majors, such as engineering or biological science, the IGETC is not recommended. If you are in one of these majors, see your counselor about alternative GE requirements that apply to you. Important: Students who choose to use the IGETC must complete the entire pattern, in order to receive certification from a community college that they have completed lower division GE requirements.
  • 20. What is GE certification and why is it important?
    GE certification is a document that is signed by a community college and states that you have completed lower division GE requirements. Becoming GE certified means that the university cannot require that you take any additional lower division GE. (You will probably be required to fulfill some upper division GE requirements for graduation from the university.) The certification is normally prepared at the same time that your final transcripts are sent to the university to which you have been accepted and where you plan to enroll. It may appear on the transcript itself or on a separate certification form. If you attend more than one community college, your GE certification must be provided by the last one you attended. That college will do so using all the GE courses you have completed at all higher education institutions you have attended. IGETC policies require that the entire pattern be completed in order for you to receive any certification. See your counselor if you have been using IGETC as a guide and will not complete it before transfer; they will show you how you can still fulfill GE requirements to transfer and graduate from the university. CSU GE Breadth policies allow for partial certification. The community college can certify your fulfillment of any GE subject area that you have completed. GE Certification is requested through Admissions and Records.
  • 21. What is a major?
    A major is a program of coursework in a subject area or discipline that leads to a degree. Your major is the primary area of study in which you will develop the greatest depth of knowledge. The university faculty that teach in the department of your major will determine the unit and subject area requirements you must meet to be granted your degree.
  • 22. What is an impacted or selective major?
    Impacted or selective majors are those for which the university receives many more applications for admission than the campus can accommodate. Impacted is also an official designation by the CSU system that allows the department that offers a major to require a higher GPA or specific major preparation as a way to reduce the pool of applicants to those who are best prepared to enter the major. Selective is a term used by the UC to describe majors for which the same conditions exist and for which the university imposes the same kind of selection criteria (GPA and major preparation) to screen for the most qualified applicants.
  • 23. When do I have to think about a major?
    You will declare a major when you become a junior. Some universities require that you declare a major for admissions purposes, all will ask you to petition to actually enter your major after you transfer. However, the faculty for your major will almost always require that you complete lower division major preparation courses through which you demonstrate interest and ability in your major. Some majors require very little such preparation, while other majors require many courses. It is important to choose a major early and find out about the preparation that you will need to be admitted to your major. For example, the UC requires that students complete most, if not all, of their major preparation before transfer. For help on choosing a major, visit the Transfer and Career Center, make an appointment with your counselor, or read the information available on this website at Choosing a Major.
  • 24. How do I find out what classes to take to prepare for my major?
    To look up major preparatory requirements for UC and CSU schools, visit For private and out of state colleges and universities, visit the school’s website and find the major department’s page. There should be information on what is needed to be accepted into that major. You can also reference the school’s catalog for major coursework preparation needed. A counselor can help you make use of any of these resources.
  • 25. Do I have to declare a major and can I change it after I transfer?
    You will need to indicate a major when you apply to the university. Some majors that are selective or impacted will have you apply as a pre-major. Upon completion of prerequisites, you would petition the department for admission. Some majors require very little preparation, while other majors require many courses. It is important to choose a major early and find out about the preparation that you will need to be admitted to your major. For example, the UC requires that students complete most, if not all, of their major preparation before transfer. The ability to change a major completely depends on the rules governing major changes at the college or university that you will be attending. Don't assume this is easy to do. In some majors that are impacted, changing your major is discouraged once you arrive at the university.
  • 26. What is the best school for my major? How can I find the best schools?
    A popular resource is the US News & World Report which provides a ranked listing of schools. However, when reviewing the list, be sure to know the particular factors used in generating the rankings because the way they define "best" may not be how you do. Talk with faculty here who teach courses related to your selected major to get their ideas about the best schools. Visit universities and talk with the faculty and teaching assistants from the department offering your major of choice. Also, if you are looking for a major and school that will prepare you for a career, research the school’s career center to see what connections they have with employers in your field of interest, how many job fairs they hold, and how many of their graduates are working or are in graduate school.
  • 27. What is a minor?
    A minor is a secondary focus of study that you may choose to augment your major for career purposes, for graduate education, or simply out of interest. You will be required to complete far fewer units for a minor than for a major.
  • 28. When do I have to think about a minor?
    A minor is completed entirely at the upper division level. There may or may not be specific preparation requirements, though there are often prerequisites for the courses you need to take to complete a minor. So, while you won't take any courses that count toward your major until you are at the university, it is good to consider whether you might pursue a minor at the same time that you choose a major.
  • 29. How do I find out about the transfer requirements of any particular school?
    Information for transfer students is published in the catalog (either printed or online) of any institution. The Transfer Center has an extensive library of catalogs and supplementary material that is sent to us from universities all over the country. There is also a computer lab available for you to use to access a particular school's web site online. Transfer Center staff is available to assist you in locating and using these resources. In addition, a number of universities send representatives to the annual Transfer Day/College Night event that is held during the Fall semester. Some of those representatives also visit the College of Marin on a regular basis to meet with students individually. See the calendar for the latest schedule of visits.
  • 30. When do I apply to transfer and what if I missed a deadline?
    Application deadlines vary depending on the institution you are applying to and the term (Fall, Winter, or Spring) for which you are applying. However, a student should begin researching early so as to be ready to apply when the time comes. Generally, a student applies one full academic year before enrolling, typically meaning they will not have their coursework completed at the time of applying. The Transfer and Career Center hold CSU and UC application workshops in the Fall to help with the application process. Applications submitted past the filing deadline are accepted on a campus-by-campus basis. Universities determine a specific number of transfer admissions and when that number is reached, admission is closed. The more popular universities easily fill their admissions quota with applicants filing on time. Other universities continue to take applicants past the filing period/deadline.
  • 31. Will my high school grades and SAT scores count when I transfer?
    The UC and CSU system do not require high school grades and test scores when a student transfers as a junior, or having 60 or more transferable units. However, some private and out of state schools may consider these as factors in the admissions process. This is why it is so important to research the institutions thoroughly well before the application deadline.
  • 32. What is a Transfer Admission Agreement (TAG)?
    A TAG is a contract that guarantees your admission to one of the six UC campuses that participate: UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz. A student must meet all applicable criteria for the school and major in order to be eligible. The criteria varies by each campus and major. Be sure to meet with a counselor to determine your eligibility.
  • 33. What are my chances of being admitted to a UC? How do I increase my chances?
    So long as a student meets the basic eligibility requirements, the student will be accepted to one of the UC campuses, just maybe not the one they have their heart set on. California community college transfer students receive first priority over other transfer applicants to UC, including applicants from four-year institutions and the University's own inter-campus transfers. Your chances for admissions to the University of California increase significantly when you apply to several campuses. 90% of students who apply to four or more UC campuses are accepted. Completing major preparation coursework while enrolled at College of Marin can also make you a more competitive applicant.
  • 34. Do credit/no credit grades transfer? Do "D" grades or "W's"?
    In some classes you can choose the Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) grading option rather than a letter grade. The deadline to notify your instructor that you prefer the CR/NC grade option is on the semester calendar in the schedule of classes. Grades of CR and NC are not factored into your GPA. A CR is a passing grade indicating satisfactory completion of course requirements. A NC grade is not a passing grade but will not hurt your GPA. This grading option is not intended for courses required by your major. "D" grades received in transferable coursework are included in a student’s transferable GPA. In most cases, W's are not a focus of admission decisions unless there is an excessive number of W's over a longer course of time.
  • 35. How are transcripts sent to another college?
    Contact Admissions and Records to request to have your transcripts sent to another college. Rush service may be available for an extra charge, but do plan ahead.
  • 36. I have attended another college, how do I know if these courses transfer?
    Make an appointment with a counselor to have your transcripts evaluated. If you have foreign transcripts, they will not be evaluated by a College of Marin counselor, you will need to use the services of an outside agency.
  • 37. Where can I learn more about attending a private college or university?
    The Transfer and Career Center maintains an extensive library of information regarding private and out-of-state universities. In addition, College of Marin has articulation agreements with some private institutions. The web site for the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) has valuable information and links to private schools. Attending Transfer Day in the Fall is another great way to learn more about private and out of state schools as many representatives from many different schools are available for students to speak with.
  • 38. How can I meet with a college representative?
    Representatives from many colleges and universities visit COM often. Check the list of Representative Visits or the calendar of events to see who is visiting next.
  • 39. I want to transfer – is it best to go to the Transfer Center or see a counselor?
    You should do both. The Transfer Center is your research resource. It is a place where students can go to compile the information they need in order to plan their transfer path. If transferring is your goal, then you should be in charge of how to get there. Becoming knowledgeable of the process, learning about all the available resources, and learning to become your own advocate are what the Transfer Center can help with. Counselors will sit with you and write out the detailed education plan and assist you in choosing appropriate coursework to get you where you want to be. They will also assist with career counseling, personal counseling, appealing denial decisions from universities, evaluating transcripts from other schools, and more. Use both resources to ensure your successful transfer.