Transferring Colleges with Bad Grades

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Getting through college can be challenging, and for some students that may mean they ended up with less than stellar grades throughout their course program. So what do you do when you want to transfer schools, but don’t have the high grades that you were hoping for?

Whether you were distracted by extracurricular activities, struggled with difficult assignments, or had unexpected obligations preventing you from attending classes on time, ending up with poor grades doesn’t have to prevent you from transferring to a reputable school!

There are a number of ways that you can go about transferring schools to finish your degree program or begin a new course of study – even with bad grades!

To quickly find out more about your options, click the link below that best describes your situation to jump right to the Grade Specific Information section:

  • I passed all of my classes with a C or better
  • I passed all of my classes with a D or better
  • I failed a few of my classes

If you’d like a more in-depth look on how to handle poor grades, we’ve also put together some General Transfer Information below based on the common questions that we receive from students looking to transfer to a new college with a poor grade history.

Remember, it is always important to look at and understand your particular school’s transfer policies when deciding the best way to go about taking the next step to a more successful college experience!

General Transfer Information

There are a number of reasons why students decide to transfer schools, from changing career goals to relocation or simply wanting to get a fresh start at a new college. Every college or university has a transfer policy that outlines the credits that they accept and the conditions for transfer. While most schools offer transfer for courses completed with a C or better, there are still ways to work around lower course grades.

To get you started in understanding the transfer process, we have put together a few common questions and concerns students have when considering the switch to a new school:

What happens if my school of choice won’t accept my grades for transfer?

Many students have an idea of which college they want to go to when considering a transfer. However, what do you do if your choice school doesn’t accept credits from classes that you completed with less than a C?

The first thing that you need to ask yourself is if you are flexible on your school choice. If you feel that you must go to a particular school, go to that college’s website or make an appointment with an academic counselor to discuss your options. It may be possible for you to still transfer to the new school and not receive credit for any classes that you completed with less than a C average. If you only have one class with a poor grade and are willing to re-take that course, then this might be an option that will work for you.

If you aren’t set on a particular school, have multiple classes completed with poor grades, or aren’t interested in losing credit for the time and money you invested into taking those courses the first time, then it is time to expand your options and look at alternative college choices. Many accredited universities, like the ones listed below, offer online classes that have more generous transfer policies than traditional brick-and-mortar schools.

This can be a great chance for students to not only receive credit for the courses they have already completed, but also have the opportunity to work on a more flexible schedule that may help improve their grades in the future.

What are articulation agreements?

If you are considering transferring schools, you have likely heard the term articulation agreement or transfer agreement. So what are these agreements and why are they important?

An articulation agreement is a formal, official written agreement between colleges or universities that aims to simplify the transfer process for students. Many schools, such as community colleges, have articulation agreements with specific universities that allow students to easily transfer their credits over for advanced standing, entry, or transfer into specific similar degree programs.

There are several advantages in choosing to transfer to a school that already has an articulation agreement in place with your current college, including:

  • Coursework matching for a smooth transition
  • Chance to transfer an entire Associate’s Degree without question
  • Clear outlines for transfer and accepted course grades

Most community colleges with articulation agreements will allow students to transfer to a new school (even with less than stellar grades) if you have completed all the requirements of your AA or AS degree program first. If this is an option for you, you will then be able to start fresh at your new school because your transfer credits will not be factored into your new GPA.

Does this mean that you can only transfer to a school that has an articulation agreement with your current college? Absolutely not! It simply makes the process easier and increases the likelihood of a smooth transition to a new institution.

Many schools publish their articulation agreements on their websites, and it is also a good idea to make an appointment with an academic advisor to go over your options and your school’s specific policies.

What is a degree completion program?

If you have completed several semesters of school and only have one or two classes with poor grades, a degree completion program may be an option for you. These programs are designed for motivated adult learners to transfer into a school to complete their degree.

Many of these programs seek students who have a solid GPA, but they also look at factors beyond your grades, such as:

  • Overall academic preparation and motivation
  • A minimum number of transferable credits from an accredited school (typically 52-64 credits)
  • Completion of specific undergraduate courses
  • Life experience and work or professional activities

While degree completion programs may not be a viable option if you have minimal credits and multiple courses with less than a C average, it is worth checking into the transfer policy of school’s offering these programs to see if you qualify.

Which schools have generous transfer policies?

There is no set standard for what a college will or will not accept when it comes to transferring credits. If you find yourself in a position where you need to transfer schools with less than ideal grades, these colleges have some of the most generous transfer policies available:

Regardless of your situation, there is no reason to give up on achieving your educational and career dreams! The above schools are good examples of colleges that are willing to help you work around a rough college experience by giving you the chance for a fresh start.

Grade Specific Information

The information in this section focuses on specific situations that you might find yourself in when considering a transfer to a new college. There are a number of reasons that you may have found yourself with a low GPA, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot go on to successfully meet your educational goals!

I passed all of my classes with a C or better

If you have an overall positive academic record but had a couple courses end up with a final grade of a C, there are still many options to transfer to another university. Most colleges will accept transfer credits that were completed with a C average or above – which is great news for you!

Certain competitive programs may have stricter policies for transferring credits or overall GPA. For example, if you are looking to transfer credits for a medical degree or law degree program, their additional requirements for entry may require a higher GPA than less specialized degrees.

When you are ready to begin the process of transferring schools with classes completed with a C average or better, the first step would be to sit down with your school’s academic advisor or counselor to go over your options. Transferring to a school that has an articulation agreement with your current school may be a wise choice to help you have a smooth transition into your new university.

I passed all of my classes with a D or better

If you ended up with a few D’s throughout the course of your college classes, there is no need to panic – but you may need to get creative to successfully transfer to your school of choice.

While most schools accept transfer of classes with a C or better, there are accredited universities that have more flexible policies and are willing to accept a D grade. Providing your prospective school with evidence of appropriate coursework from an accredited institution or meeting face to face with their college representatives may be required to give you the extra edge in gaining acceptance into their program.

Another option that you might want to consider is staying at your current school long enough to complete all of the requirements to earn an Associate’s level degree. Once you have earned this degree, you can try to apply to other college’s that offer Bachelor’s level programs within your field to continue your education. With this option, the GPA from your previous degree program will not be considered at the new school.

I failed a few classes

If you have failed a few of your classes but still want to transfer schools, it may feel like you are facing an uphill battle. However, don’t lose hope!

There are many reasons that students fail classes, and it doesn’t mean that you aren’t smart or capable of completing your education. If you are willing to spend a little more time at your current institution, consider retaking your failed course and give it everything you have to earn a better grade. Most schools also offer tutoring programs to help students struggling in classes. Although a failed class will still appear on your transcripts, if you pass the course a second time with a higher grade the previous F will no longer be factored into your GPA – making transferring schools much easier!

Another viable option for those who have failed general education classes is to consider taking a CLEP test. While most schools accept CLEP, be sure to check into the specific policies of your desired school. If you pass the CLEP test, you can then receive credit for that course at your new university. For those who want to avoid losing credit for failed classes during a transfer, this can be a great opportunity for a second chance.

If you want to transfer schools but ended up with bad grades throughout the course of your current degree program, there are still several options to help you get a fresh start at a new school! By considering online and community colleges with generous transfer policies or taking examinations and re-doing courses in which you struggled, there are many ways you can achieve your long-term goals – even with a few bad grades!

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Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.