Undergrad Application and Transfer Guide

Updated August 16, 2022

The ultimate guide to selecting an undergraduate psychology program and transfering exisiting credits. Read more about the steps to take when applying to online and in-person undergraduate psychology programs, what material is needed and when to begin the process.

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Applying for college is a demanding process, and prospective first-time students and transfers should do as much research as possible. Each university has its own application requirements and credit transfer policies, which can get especially complicated for nontraditional or returning students. But these students are in good company since nearly 10% of students complete their degrees through multiple institutions, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Students may decide to transfer schools based on several factors, including financial situations, program availability, career possibilities, geographic proximity, and personal preference. Before choosing a new institution, both first-time and transfer students should list what they want in a school, and use that information to narrow down their top choices for the application process. Transfer students should also determine whether to transfer during the academic year, between years, or after completing an associate program.

How to Choose a Psychology Program

When choosing an on-campus or online psychology program, it's important to look at the length of the program, the coursework involved, potential on-campus requirements, and thesis or final project requirements. Prospective students should also check on whether the school and program are accredited or endorsed by any notable psychology organizations (such as the American Psychology Association). Choosing an accredited program can affect graduates' future licensure endeavors and career prospects.

When choosing a school for their bachelor's degree, applicants may consider whether they want to pursue a graduate degree at that same institution. Graduate program applicants need to make sure the online and on-campus requirements fit their schedule and interests. Working students may want to look into options for part-time study. Applicants can also research their prospective department's faculty members to see if any are noteworthy in their field or focus on interesting areas of research.

Psychology transfer students should be particularly aware of whether or not their credits will transfer to their next university. They can check on this by contacting their new school's office of the registrar, or a department representative, to find out more about specific requirements. Graduate students who transfer from one program to another may need to work closely with faculty and department administrators to make sure their coursework and research is in line with the new program's curriculum.

Type of Psychology Degrees

Many institutions offer two-year associate degrees in psychology entirely online. These programs provide core classes that help students develop their psychology careers or continue on to a four-year degree. Associate students learn about psychology theory and practice, while gaining insights into hands-on work. They can earn either an associate of science or an associate of arts in psychology, or an associate of arts in applied psychology, depending on the program. Each degree allows students to pursue a career as a psychology technician or an aide. Both positions are projected to grow 6% between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Psychology associate graduates can go on to pursue a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science in psychology. There's not much difference between the two degrees, but they do have different emphases. Bachelor of arts coursework focuses on theories, history, and application of principles in psychology, while a bachelor of science often has more physical science and mathematics in the curriculum. Most schools offer one degree or the other, but not both.

With a bachelor's degree in psychology, you have more career options in the field, including work as mental health counselor or community healthcare worker. The degree is also useful in market analysis and human resources, opening up an even wider range of careers. Bachelor's graduates may also pursue graduate study in psychology.

Degree1-4 Years5-9 Years10-19 Years20+ Years
Associate Degree$41,403$44,667$54,760$51,097
Bachelor of Arts$46,856$58,564$70,759$83,513
Bachelor of Science$45,804$56,437$69,115$76,552

Source: PayScale

Typical Psychology Program Entry Requirements

Applicants to undergraduate online psychology programs usually only need to meet the school's overall application requirements, without worrying about specific department standards. These requirements might include standardized test scores for the ACT and SAT, GPA guidelines, and -- in some cases -- previous coursework. These requirements are often particularly important to transfer students as they come into a new school or university.

For psychology graduate programs, applicants need to make sure their bachelor's degree meets departmental admission requirements. Some schools require a bachelor's degree in psychology, while others accept bachelor's degrees in any area of study. Graduate admission may also take into account undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, and prior experience working or researching in the psychology field. Graduate programs that specialize in one particular branch of psychology, such as clinical psychology, may require specific coursework that's relevant to the degree concentration.

Featured Online Psychology Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Applying to Psychology Programs

Application Materials

Applications to psychology programs vary by school and department, especially for transfer students. Generally, students need to have a college application, transcript information from high school or previous college coursework, SAT or ACT scores, and application fees or waivers. Some schools may require letters of recommendation as well.

  • College Application

    You can find applications for most college and universities online. Find the university's admissions page to download an application form in Word or PDF format. You can also request a physical form of an application to be mailed to your home.
  • High School Transcript

    Your high school can provide you with your transcripts, often through the guidance counselor's office. Request your transcript as early as possible to make sure you meet application deadlines.
  • Letters of Recommendation

    Each school has its own letter of recommendation requirements. Many only require one, but even in those cases, it's a good idea to keep at least three potential letter writers in mind. Letters of recommendation are often sent to the school directly -- applicants can't submit their letters themselves.
  • SAT or ACT Scores

    You can have your standardized testing scores sent to specific colleges and universities at the time of test-taking. If you don't know yet which schools you're going to apply to, you can request to have your scores sent through the SAT or ACT organizations after taking the test, though the testing organizations may charge an extra fee.
  • College Transcript

    The registrar's office at any college or university can send your transcript to another institution directly, or give the transcripts to you to submit. There may be a fee.
  • Application Fees (or Fee Waiver)

    Schools often charge application fees, which can range from a few dollars to up to $100. However, you may be eligible for a fee waiver, and should check with the university about that before applying.
  • When Should I Begin the Application Process?

    If you're thinking about transferring, it is best to research your options as early as possible. By visiting college and university websites, you can get information about what different schools have to offer as well as what they require for admission. You should get in touch with admissions officers at your new school, as well. Finally, you need to contact the appropriate offices at your current school to find out what how long it will take them to get your materials ready for you.

    How to Transfer Colleges

  • Research Your Prospective Transfer Schools

    Once you know you want to transfer, it's time to look for schools that meet your academic, personal, and professional needs. If your reason for transferring is degree-specific, look for institutions that offer programs that better fit your goals.
  • Check Accreditation Status and Articulation Agreements

    After you have identified potential schools, check their accreditation status and whether there are articulation agreements in place between schools to make the transition easier in terms of paperwork and credit transfer.
  • Contact School Advisers

    Get in touch with advisers at your current school to determine what they need from you to transfer, and communication with school and departmental advisers at your new school as well. This prevents any confusion, omissions, and oversights in the process.
  • Confirm That Your Credits Will Be Transferred Over

    Contact the admissions office at your new institution to see which of your completed coursework will transfer to your new school. It's up to your new psychology department to determine whether there is equivalency between your former courses and their course requirements.
  • Research Financial Aid Options

    Transfer students keep their financial aid paperwork updated. Federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be transferred, and there may be new scholarship, fellowship, and loan opportunities available through your next school.
  • h4>Begin Application Process Once you have decided on a school, gather the relevant application materials and submit them as soon as possible. Missing application due dates may jeopardize admission and financial aid.
  • Types of Transfer Students

    Many transfer students move from community colleges to four-year bachelor programs. Others transfer between four-year schools, and yet others may transfer for reasons including military status, study abroad, international exchange, or general relocation. Each type of transfer has its own set of requirements.

    Community College to Four-Year College Transfer

    When you obtain an associate degree from a community college and transfer to a four-year school, it's called a vertical transfer. The associate coursework functions as the first half of the bachelor's degree.

    Four-Year College to Four-Year College Transfer

    Lateral transfers from one four-year school to another happen for a number of reasons, including personal preference, degree programs, financial issues, or academic performance.

    Military Transfer

    Military transfers are available to current and former military personnel who want to use their experience and training for academic credit. Military transfer availability depends on college and university guidelines.

    International Transfer

    You may transfer as an international student if you study abroad, take part in an exchange program, or change to a program in another country at some point during your degree. International transfer applicants receive the same consideration as other transfer students, but there may be additional language requirements.

    Transferable Credits

    It's relatively simple to transfer between public universities in the same state, especially if articulation agreements are in place. When your new department is determining whether your completed course credits can transfer, faculty may assess syllabi or other documents from your previous coursework. It's important to keep in mind that not all psychology programs have courses with the same names, levels, or equivalents. This can make credit transfers complicated, as can transferring between schools with different term systems (e.g., semesters vs. quarters).

    Course Equivalency

    To transfer from one school to another, a course needs to be equivalent in content and scope. An admitting school may consider an introductory psychology course from a community college to be equivalent to a similar introductory course from their own program. It's also possible that an introductory art history course might miss the mark for a new school's art department, but still qualify for general education credits.

    Course Level

    If a course is offered at the 100-level at one school but the comparable course at your new school is a 200-level course, it may still be possible to have the credits transferred, because both courses are still lower-level. However, it's difficult to get upper-level credit for lower-level courses. For example, a 200-level social psychology course may not be in-depth enough to meet an admitting school's 300-level social psychology course requirement. It's also difficult to transfer credit between two upper-division classes, because upper-division coursework is more focused and content-specific.

    Quarter vs. Semester Transfers

    If you transfer from a quarter system to a semester system, or the other way around, credit hours will need to be adjusted. One quarter system credit hour is roughly equivalent to 1.5 semester hours, but make sure to communicate with your prospective school's admissions staff to learn how your quarter or semester hours will be calculated.

    What if My Credits Don't Transfer Over?

    The U.S. Governmental Accountability Office reported that from 2004 to 2009, transfer students lost an average of 43% of their credits. Additionally, students who transferred from private, for-profit schools to public institutions lost on average 94% of their credits. To avoid losing most of your credits in transferring, contact your previous schools to obtain your academic records, and be as proactive as possible in forwarding that information to potential schools. Credits may transfer either as psychology credits or as general electives, so it's important to know your potential schools' credit transfer policies. You should also learn whether your potential school is accredited, and what their policy is on accepting credits from regionally or nationally accredited institutions.

    In addition to accreditation issues, many schools limit how many transfer credits they accept. Most schools also have grade requirements for transfer credits, where anything below a "C"will most likely not transfer. If you have courses that do not transfer, you will probably have to retake them at your new institution, but it's also possible to appeal to have your previous courses reconsidered. Most schools have appeal processes in place, which require appellants to fill out forms to start proceedings. Other schools may require you to write a formal letter requesting reconsideration of your transcripts.

    In-State vs. Out-of-State Transfers

    When you transfer from a two-year school to a four-year institution or from one four-year college to another, there are factors to consider in terms of location. In-state transfer is often easier and more affordable, because in-state tuition at public four-year colleges is significantly cheaper than out-of-state tuition -- in fact, out-of-state tuition can be more than twice as much as in-state. Private colleges are generally more expensive than both in-state and out-of-state public universities.

    Articulation agreements make it simple to transfer from a community college to a public university by clearly defining transfer policies.

    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

    Earning an associate degree at a community college can be an affordable path to earning a bachelor's degree, and community college programs are often more convenient and flexible than four-year universities'.

    Once you earn a two-year degree, you can transfer to a four-year program to complete the rest of your bachelor's, having saved a substantial amount of money. Tuition at two-year public colleges during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years was just over one-third of four-year, in-state public college tuition.

    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

    Community college students often study part-time and enjoy having flexible class schedules. Once they transfer to a four-year institution, however, it's expected to study full time in a more rigid class schedule. Community college environments are also more intimate, giving students direct contact with their professors and advisers in way that may not occur at a larger institution. Transfer students also have to consider the stress of applying to college twice.


    There are two types of accreditation for colleges and universities, and it's important to research which, if any, apply to your potential schools. Two- and four-year colleges are typically regionally accredited based on their geographic location, while national accreditation is more common for vocational schools, for-profit institutions, and specific degree programs. Transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions are more likely to be accepted than those from nationally accredited or unaccredited schools.

    Your school's accreditation status can also affect financial aid options. To receive federal financial aid, students must enroll at a college or university that is accredited by a body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. You can research accredited schools at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website.

    Scholarships for Transfer Students

    There are numerous scholarships available for psychology students, some of which specifically support transfer students. Scholarship requirements and guidelines vary by sponsorship agency or organization, as do financial amounts, number of recipients, and options for renewal. It's important to check all possible scholarship options as you work toward your degree.

    Jackie Cook Kent Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Jackie Cook Kent Foundation has a scholarship program for students transferring from community colleges to four-year institutions. Applicants need references from their parents, a teacher, and a personal acquaintance. In addition to grades, test scores, and activity lists, the application includes short answer and essay questions. Amount: Up to $40,000 for 45 applicants annually

    [ More Information ]

    Phi Theta Kappa Hites Transfer Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Phi Theta Kappa offers 10 annual scholarships to transfer students who are organization members in good academic standing. Applicants need to have a 3.5 GPA or higher on 50 semester hours (or quarter equivalent), completed within the past five years at the time of transfer. Amount: $75,000 distributed among 10 recipients annually

    [ More Information ]

    Hispanic Scholarship Fund

    Who Can Apply: The Hispanic Scholarship Fund offers financial support to students of Hispanic heritage who are pursuing a bachelor's or graduate degree. Eligible students include first-year students, community college students transferring to a four-year program, and students enrolled in graduate programs. Applicants must be in good academic standing and enrolled full-time at an accredited, nonprofit school. Amount: Between $500 and $5,000 annually, based on relative need among recipients

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    National Institute of Health Undergraduate Scholarship Program

    Who Can Apply: Students enrolled at accredited, four-year institutions can apply to the National Institute of Health's Undergraduate Scholarship Program. They must demonstrate exceptional financial aid and be enrolled in a behavior, biomedical, or social science program. They need to have a GPA of 3.3 or higher, or be in the top 5% of their class. Students can find materials for applications and letters of recommendation online. Amount: $20,000 in tuition for an academic year with renewal possible

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    Morris K. Udall Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Students who are Native American or recognized descendents of Native American populations may apply. They must be committed to working in a field that impacts the environment or Native American healthcare policy. They must also have a GPA that is equivalent to a "B," and submit a formal application, an 8,000-word essay, transcript information, and three letters of recommendation. Amount: Up to $7,000 for academic expenses

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    Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation

    Who Can Apply: Applicants must be at junior-level academic standing, or at senior-level in their third year in an academic program. They must be pursuing a graduate degree, and be nominated by their academic institution. The application includes 14 questions, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a policy proposal. Amount: Up to $30,000 to 55-65 recipients annually

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    Alpha Kappa Alpha Undergraduate Merit Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Students at the sophomore level or higher with a GPA of at least 3.0 are eligible to apply. They must demonstrate involvement in and service to their community, and be enrolled full-time at an accredited institution. Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a personal statement. Amount: Varies

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    Filipino American Psychology Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Students of Filipino heritage who are in their final year of undergraduate study with the intent to pursue graduate work in psychology may apply for the Filipino American Psychology Scholarship. Applicants must submit transcript information, two letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, and a 500- to 1,000-word personal statement. Amount: $500

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    Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship Program

    Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to students entering their junior or senior year of undergraduate study in a healthcare field. Applicants must submit a personal essay, two letters of recommendation, and transcript information. The application also requires students to list the names of at least three civic or community organizations with which they are involved. Amount: $7,500 to six recipients annually

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    American Addictions Centers Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship Program

    Who Can Apply: Undergraduate students enrolled in a program that focuses on mental health and substance abuse disorders can apply for the Behavioral Health Academic scholarship through the American Addictions Centers. Full-time or part-time students are eligible, and applicants must have a GPA of 3.2 or higher and submit an essay. Amount: Three awards annually: 1st place is $5,000, 2nd place is $2,500, and 3rd place is $2,500

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