Cooperative Goals for College and University to Support Transfer Students:
Proper course selection is one of the most important aspects for students desiring to complete the educational process in minimum time with minimum expense. First you need to determine your final goal: associate, baccalaureate, masters, or doctorate, or a progression of degrees. It is frequently possible to reduce the total number of hours required for the baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate by skipping the associate or masters degrees. One must weigh however the potential advantages to be accrued by completing the associate degree either prior to transferring to the senior institution, overlapping attendance at both institutions, or via the Reverse Transfer program from the senior institution. It may be possible to complete the associate degree by taking only one or two additional courses. Students are strongly urged to consider completing the associated degree via one of these mechanisms.
The next decision is to transfer to the senior institution "core Complete" or by completing as much of the first two years of the projected major prior to transfer. For most students, the proper goal is to pursue completing as much of the university major as possible prior to transfer. The best way to insure you are completing transfer course work accepted for a specific university major is to consult the Online Transfer Guides. Your college transfer councilor can provide additional guidance. "Core complete" refers to the set of state recognized common courses all students are required to complete to receive the associate or higher level degree.
Some additional explanation is appropriate to explain why pursuing a specific major while in college is normally preferable to simply attempting to transfer to a senior institution "core complete." Most major fields of study at the university level (including prerequisites) were designed to be taken over a 4 year period. All university majors include the state common core. To graduate with a university degree, students must complete the state wide "common core" of transferable courses and a core specific to the university major. Most courses in the common core may be taken in random order. Cores specific to a university major typically require courses to be completed in a highly structured specified sequence during the freshman and sophomore years.
For example, a student desiring to major in the sciences or engineering at the university level needs to complete the calculus sequence as soon as possible. In addition, most science majors require specific supporting courses from other sciences "designated for science majors and minors." If the student who has completed the mathematics and science classes for science majors latter changes their mind and decide on a degree in business, psychology, criminal justice or most other fields, their calculus and science background will typically satisfy respective degree requirement in the new major. The reverse is not true for students who completing lower level math and science survey courses for non science/engineering majors. Switching majors from almost any field to a science will generally require the student to replace all related lower level course work completed for the general population with the more rigorous course work required for science majors. This translates to lost years of your life and lost monetary investment. One year of the wrong transfer course sequence translates to one additional year at the senior institution to complete degree requirements. As a rule of thumb, every time a student changes to a non-related major, they risk losing approximately a year of their life in repeated course work and associated financial investment.
Consider a student transferring to a senior institution from a college with approximately 60 hours of course work "state core complete." The common core will be about 42 of the 60 to 62 hours required for the sssociate degree. Further assume the student completed math and science courses sufficient to meet the college's core requirements but not meeting the minimal requirements of their intended major in the sciences at the transfer institution. The student expects to graduate from the senior institution in 2 additional years but in actuality they need 3 years. Why? They must repeat at least one year of mathematics and sciences classes for science majors as prerequisites to enter the upper division science classes. In essence they have lost most of the advantages of the "Time Compressed" or "Early College" program they started.
A similar situation exists in the College of Business at most universities. In addition to the "state common core" there is a "business core" of approximately six classes including two required courses in mathematics, two accounting courses, and two economics courses for a total of 18 hours. A student who transfers to the university "college/university core complete" but failed to complete the "business core" will be blocked from taking upper division classes in the business major (junior and senior level courses) until they complete all freshman and sophomore level courses in the business core. The student must expect to lose at least two long semesters while they complete the prerequisite "business core" for upper division classes. Again, the student has lost most if not all the advantages of their previous "College Time Compressed" or "Early College" program.
Students seeking teaching certification are almost always a special case. With the exception of students certifying to teach high school mathematics, mathematics courses tend to be specific to the certification grade level and will not transfer to any other field. The same is true of many other courses taught specifically for teacher certification. In general, certification specific courses may not be applied towards other majors.
In each of the above examples a student entering the university environment from a "Time Compressed" or "Early College" program as a junior will still require 3 to 4 years to graduate rather than the anticipated 2 years if the "major core" is not completed prior to entering the university. Worse, since they have already completed the "state college/university common core," they may only be eligible to enroll in one or two courses per semester till the required "major core" has been completed. Their only productive option may be a part time job for a year while completing the respective major core. In essence the message for "Early College" and Time Compressed Degree Programs" is for students to not just complete the college/university common core requirements while in dual credit, early college, or time compressed degree programs. For most transfer students, emphasis should be placed on completing the first two years of their chosen major/career field as part of the college experience.
Hedging to maximize the benefit of "College," "Time Compressed," or "Early College" programs:
Assume the student has completed the "business core" in addition to the college/university common core while enrolled in a "Time Compressed Degree Program" or "Early College" and wish to change majors at the baccalaureate level. They cannot realistically change to a major in the sciences as they took the wrong mathematics and science sequence. They may however major in most other fields such as English, History, Agricultural, etceteras with little or no loss of credit. A student gains the greatest career flexibility from selecting the most demanding course accepted in each discipline of which they are capable. In the previous example, if the student had completed calculus and science courses for science majors, they would likely have lost no credit when changing majors from Business to any other field. Course exceeding the base requirements of the current discipline of interest frequently allow transfer to other disciplines. Courses merely meeting the current disciplines minimum base requirements frequently will not transfer to another discipline.
Most individuals change their career several times as adults. Again, selection of the most demanding courses of which they are capable enhances life time career and earning opportunities. As an example, a business major completing biology and chemistry for majors in college/university will be better prepared to move from general retail to technical/health related employment than students taking survey courses in the sciences. "Be all you can be!" You provide maximum opportunities for the rest of your life by pursuing the most rigorous course selection of which you are capable. Selecting courses beneath your capabilities tends to restrict future opportunities of which you are not currently aware.
Assume you are not yet cognoscente of your final educational and career related goals. This problem may frequently be ameliorated in several ways. First always take the highest level classes in every field for which you are capable (the course sequence for majors). Secondly, take a board variety of classes in multiple fields in which you may eventually graduate to determine your true interest at the earliest possible time. Try to select course that can be applied to meeting the state transferable core requirements.
You may wish to use salary and career demand surveys such as found at the "Career Library" (http://www.jobweb.com/resources/library/Careers_In/Starting_Salary_51_01.htm) and National Science Foundations (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf06303/ ) to help balance evolving desires with other realities. Time invested to improve your future is seldom wasted.
Finally, there is one additional potential advantage for students who can at least narrow down their field of interest to a specific area. Assume you wish to be a business major but have not selected a specific career field such as Accounting, Finance, International Business, etceteras. Fortunately the business core spread over the first two years of transferrable college courses is the same for all business majors at Sam Houston State University. Completing the business core in college prepares you for all disciplines in the College of Business Administration. In addition, the business core will expose you to multiple business disciplines. This exposure will help you make you make final selection of a specific major/discipline prior to the start of the junior year. The same statement can be made (to a lesser extent) for the sciences, criminal justice, education, and other fields. There is a lot of overlap in the courses for the first two years in each major field of study. Consulting the Online Transfer Guides is a good way to ensure you maximize your opportunities while avoiding errors leading to lost time and money.