How to transfer to a 4-year university

By Makayla Olson

Preparing to transfer to a 4-year university can be tough. There are many factors to consider and decisions to make — all while you’re likely still finishing up coursework at your previous school. As a transfer student at Portland State University, I speak from experience when I say that there’s a lot that goes into transferring to a new school, but asking lots of questions and doing your research can go a long way in making the process easier. Some universities even have resources specifically for transfer students to assist in adjusting to a new school — like PSU’s Transfer and Returning Student Center!

The Transfer and Returning Student Resource Center is is here to help you smoothly transition to PSU
and to support you on your path to a degree. 

That said,  I’ve compiled a few tips below that will make the transfer process as easy as possible. 

1. Decide what university you want to transfer to.

Consider factors like where the campus is located, the lifestyle of students, what majors they offer, what extracurriculars they offer, what programs they have (honors, diversity, etc.), the cost of tuition, and how your credits will transfer. I transferred from an Oregon community college with an AAOT (Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer), which means my credits were easily set up to transfer to a university in Oregon. I was also interested in going to a college in the city, which made transferring to PSU a great option for me. 

2. Contact an admissions counselor from that university.

They can help you navigate virtually every step, and can answer questions or direct you to any other resources you might need. Some questions you might ask your admissions advisor are: 

  • What scholarships and financial aid programs do you offer? How do I contact the financial aid office? 
  • When are your application deadlines? Can I apply for early/priority admission? 
  • How will my credits transfer from my previous school?
  • What clubs and extracurriculars do you offer? 

While I was in the process of transferring, I worked closely with my community college advisor, as well as an admissions advisor at PSU. Having support to easily answer all of my questions made the process much easier, and saved me a lot of time in searching for answers myself. Advisors want to help you succeed, and make the process as seamless as possible. 

Portland State even offers a special “Transfers Finish Free” aid program — if you are an eligible Oregon resident, you can finish your degree at PSU and pay no standard tuition and fees.

3 . Apply early!

A lot of schools will offer early admission/priority application deadlines that can help you get an early admissions decision, more options for scholarships, and the first choice on dorm assignments, to name a few. Along with these perks, applying early helps save some of the stress that can come with sending transcripts, collecting letters of recommendation, and writing personal essays. By doing these things in advance, you don’t have to worry as much about the other important things that might come before you transfer, like getting ready to move or preparing for graduation if you’re transferring from a two-year college. 

4. Take a tour and get to know the campus.

If the university you want to transfer to is offering in-person campus tours, take advantage! Even if in-person tours aren’t an option, a lot of schools have virtual tours available on their website. Getting to know the campus can give you a good idea of what your commute or walk to class might look like, what the parking situation looks like if you drive, as well as the overall feeling the campus gives off. I toured a few different schools during the transfer process, and I always trusted my gut feeling on if a school was right for me or not. PSU offers a full suite of flexible campus tour and visit options.

5. Learn about financial aid.

Overlooking the Urban Center Plaza at PSU

Find the cost of attendance for your school based on if you are in-state or out-of-state and any important deadlines or scholarships that might be offered. If scholarships are through a separate application be sure to find out the deadline, as some schools have scholarship deadlines that are well before the next school year starts. Reach out to the financial aid office if you need help fully understanding the breakdown of tuition and fees or if you have any questions surrounding scholarships, loans, and paying for school in general. 

If you’re feeling lost in the transfer process, know you’re not alone! There are a lot of resources and people ready and willing to help you, whether they are advisors at your previous school or admissions advisors at your prospective school. No matter where you end up, there is ample help to assist you in the transfer process. The most important step is to reach out and ask questions!


About Makayla: I’m a Portland State University junior from the Washington coast, majoring in English and a member of the PSU Honors College. I compulsively hoard books, am an avid home cook, and will show anyone and everyone unprompted photos of my cat. 

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