Undergrad Application & Transfer Guide

Students transfer between schools for a variety of reasons: Some may be financially motivated to start their medical assisting degrees at a community college before transferring to a four-year school, while others may transfer academic reasons. Military service members can transfer into universities, turning their prior military experience into college credit, and international students may transfer because they moved to a new country.

More and more students are choosing nontraditional education paths. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, almost 10% of students attend multiple schools to complete their degrees. Transfer students face a complex application process, but many universities welcome them openly and offer generous transfer policies.

How to Choose an Online Medical Assistant Program

Before choosing a medical assistant program, check out your prospective schools’ transfer policies. Contact admissions advisers to ask about course equivalency guidelines, plus the length of the program and whether there is flexibility for students to complete their degree on a part-time basis. Most undergraduate programs take four years to complete for full-time students, but some programs invite students to study part time, which allows them to work while attending school. Research concentrations options, capstone requirements, thesis projects, and internship components. Find out which online programs offers asynchronous classes, and which are synchronous.

Asynchronous courses use previously recorded videos and lectures that allow students to view lectures and complete assignments on their own time. Synchronous coursework includes live video conferences, requiring students to log in to attend lectures at a set time. Also consider each school’s accreditation status. Schools that are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, Distance Education Accrediting Commission, or the Higher Learning Commission have been assessed and meet high standards for education.

Accreditation is a way for a school to demonstrates credibility and dedication to high-quality education. Finally, look into education expenses, including tuition, materials, and technology fees.

Typical Medical Assistant Program Entry Requirements

Most online medical assisting programs require applicants to provide an official high school transcript, verifying graduation from high school, or an official GED certificate or equivalent. Applicants often have to take college placement tests in mathematics and reading, and may have to provide SAT or ACT scores, as well. Some schools ask applicants to submit personal essays, both to demonstrate writing skills and explain students’ interest in the program.

Most students transferring into bachelor’s programs must complete prerequisites in human biology, medical terminology, computer information systems, English composition, and general psychology. Often, course credits can only transfer if you earned a “C” grade or higher. Finally, applicants should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for financial aid including loans, grants, and scholarships.

Applying for a Medical Assistant Programs

Application Materials

Each online medical assisting program has its own application guidelines, but just about all transfer students should prepare the following items:

  • College Application: All colleges require transfers students to submit an application form. Some schools allow students to apply at any time, while others have specific deadlines. You can find the application on the school’s website.
  • High School Transcript: Students must submit a high school transcript to prove they graduated from high school. To get a copy of your high school transcript, contact the registrar’s office or counseling office. Those who earned a GED will have to submit a copy of their GED certificate.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Many schools ask applicants to submit letters of recommendation. Ask a teacher, professor, supervisor, or manager to write a letter a recommendation for you.
  • SAT or ACT Scores: Some colleges ask for official SAT or ACT scores, in which case you should have official score reports sent directly to the school from the test administrator.
  • College Transcript: Transfer students must send in official transcripts with their college applications. To get a copy of your transcript, contact the registrar’s office at each of your previous schools.
  • Application Fees (or Fee Waiver): Some colleges offer fee waivers to students in need, but most applicants must pay a non-refundable application fee, usually between $40 and $70. Applicants typically pay this fee online, or they can mail in a check or money order.

When Should I Begin the Application Process?

Many online programs have rolling admissions, meaning students can apply and enroll at any time during the academic year. Other colleges, such as Arizona State University, recommend that transfer students begin the application process one year ahead of the time they want to enroll. Applying early ensures a smoother transition, and allows you access to as many financial aid opportunities as possible.

How to Transfer Colleges

Transfer students face a more complicated application process than first-time college students do, because you must make sure the credits from your prior coursework transfer over with you. See the following checklist for steps on how to transfer college credits:

  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

Can a Medical Assistant Transfer to Nursing?

To qualify to become a registered nurse, medical assistants must attend nursing school. Students can choose between an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Since medical assistants have already completed their high school degrees or obtained their GEDs and taken some science and mathematics courses, they may be able to enter their nursing programs a step ahead. However, to transfer credits from previous coursework, you will likely need at least a “B” grade or better in those courses, or a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Types of Transfer Students

Students transfer between schools for a variety of reasons, and each type of college transfer has its own considerations to take into account:

  • Community College to Four-Year College Transfer: Some students start their degrees at a two-year community college, and later transfer their credits to a four-year university to complete a bachelor’s degree.
  • Four-Year College to Four-Year College Transfer: Some students transfer laterally between four-year colleges, because they find another bachelor’s program that better fits their interests or career goals.
  • Military Transfer: Military students may use their active duty experience as college credit. Some military students start their education at one school, then transfer to a more military-friendly college that allows them to use their educational benefits.
  • International Transfer: International students may move from their home country to the United States to continue their education. Many schools have specific admissions requirements for international students, such as an English proficiency exam.

Transferable Credits

A school’s admissions office has the right to reject credits earned at other colleges. Do research on your prospective school’s transfer policies regarding course equivalency, and pay close attention to policies regarding course levels, and quarter systems vs. semester systems. Generally, it’s easiest to transfer credits between two public schools in the same state. Many colleges even hold articulation agreements to ease the transition.

  • Course Equivalency: Each college has its own course equivalency guidelines. If your prospective school considers one of your prior courses equivalent to one of its own courses, those credits will probably transfer easily.
  • Course Level: Generally speaking, it’s easier to transfer credits between 100- and 200-level courses, because low-level courses are relatively similar at most schools. Because higher-level courses are more specific, it can be harder or even impossible to transfer credits from 300- or 400-level classes.
  • Quarter vs. Semester Transfers: If you’re transferring between quarter- and semester-system schools, you might have to use a formula to convert your credits. This formula is the most commonly used for converting credits from one system to another.

What if My Credits Don’t Transfer Over?

On average, students lose more than 40% of their credits when they transfer colleges. Students who transfer from private for-profit schools to public schools lose an average of 94% of their credits. Avoid wasting time and money by researching ahead of time to confirm that your credits will transfer from one school to another. Many schools mandate that students earn a minimum grade of “C” to accept credits. Some schools have stricter regulations, and make students retake courses within their program. If that is the case, consider selecting a college with a more generous transfer policy.

Many online schools boast lenient transfer policies, offering a more welcoming environment for transfer students, but all schools reserve the right to reject transfer credits. If your credits only transfer as general elective credits, and not as major-specific credits, you can file an appeal to challenge the school’s decision. To do so, you will either fill out a transfer credit appeal form or produce a written request. Each school develops its own transfer and appeal policies. Contact the admissions office at your prospective school to learn about its unique transfer policies.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Transfers

Attending college in the same state in which you reside means you can pay in-state tuition, which is much cheaper than out-of-state tuition, thanks to state government subsidies. Some colleges allow distance learners to pay in-state tuition, even if they live in a different state. Many community colleges and state public schools have articulation agreements that allow students to easily transfer credits between schools, so it’s often easiest to transfer credits from a community college to a state school if you stay in the same state. The following table shows the differences between in-state and out-of-state college tuition.

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

Associate programs are shorter than bachelor’s programs, so they are often much more affordable. Completing an associate degree at a community college and then transferring credits to a four-year school is the most affordable and flexible path to earning a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, public schools often hold articulation agreements that ease the transfer process, allowing students to transfer credits without hindrance. The following table compares tuition at public two-year and four-year colleges:

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

Generally speaking, it’s flexible and affordable to begin your medical assisting degree at a community college, and transfer into a four-year program later on. However, there are some drawbacks to consider, as well. The coursework that you took at your community college may be easier than at your new university. As a result, you may feel a little overwhelmed in the beginning of your bachelor’s program. When you transfer between medical assisting schools, you have to undergo the application process a second time. Since some schools have limited space available for transfer students, you may have a slimmer chance at getting in.


Before enrolling in any program, look into the school’s accreditation status. Accreditation is a comprehensive review of the educational quality of a program or school, demonstrating that the institution is dedicated to academic excellence. Aim to enroll in a school accredited by a regional agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This is especially important for transfer students, because it’s easiest to transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions. Most colleges will not accept previously earned credits from programs or schools that are not accredited. Accreditation may also affect your ability to receive financial aid — for example, to qualify for federal student aid, you must be enrolled in an accredited institution. Find out whether your prospective schools are accredited using the CHEA database of accredited schools.

Scholarships for Transfer Students

When it comes to paying for college, transfer students have several financial aid options, including scholarships, loans, and grants. The following list of scholarships may be helpful as you pursue your online degree in medical assisting:

Transfer Times
Who Can Apply: Transfer Times offers two scholarships for transfer students. Eligible students are enrolled at a two-year community college or technical college, and must submit an essay.
Amount: $6,000

The Roshan Rahbari Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: The Silicon Valley Community Foundation offers California residents financial aid to help pay for college. Eligible students are enrolled in community college, plan to transfer to a four-year college, demonstrate financial need, and hold a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Amount: $5,000

HSF Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Hispanic Scholarship Fund offers financial aid to help pay for school. Eligible students are enrolled in community college and plan to transfer full-time into an accredited, nonprofit, four-year university. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.5, and Hispanic heritage.
Amount: $500 to $5,000

Maxine Williams Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The American Association of Medical Assistants’ Maxine Williams Scholarship Fund offers both financially based and merit-based scholarships. Eligible students must be medical assisting students with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Amount: $1,000 and one-year membership in the AAMA

Alice Newell Joslyn Medical Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Alice Newell Joslyn Medical Scholarship offers financial aid to students entering the medical and healthcare profession who demonstrate financial need. Eligible students are Latino high school graduates in San Diego County who submit a personal statement.
Amount: $500-$2,000

The Medical Professionals of Tomorrow Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The online provider of lift chairs and mobility products, U.S. Medical Supplies, offers a merit-based scholarship contest. Eligible applicants are full-time students pursuing a medical degree at a two- or four-year college. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay.
Amount: $1,000

Laboratory Control Ltd Health Care Career Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Ottumwa Regional Health Legacy Foundation offers financial aid to medical assistant students. Eligible applicants are enrolled in a nationally accredited program and have a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Amount: $1,000

HIMSS Foundation Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society offers financial aid to medical assistant students. Eligible applicants are enrolled at an accredited undergraduate program.
Amount: $5,000 and a trip to the HIMSS Annual Conference and Exhibition

180 Medical Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: Eligible students must be enrolled in a two- or four-year school on a full-time basis, and be under a physician’s care for a spinal cord injury, spina bifida, transverse myelitis, neurogenic bladder, or an ostomy.
Amount: $1,000