Transfer-Related FAQ

1. What does transfer mean?

Generally "transfer" is movement between any two educational institutions. Here, however the term is specifically used to describe advancement from a community college to a university. Transfer means that you begin your bachelor's degree at a community college and complete it at a university.

2. What is the relationship between community colleges and the university?

Universities offer both lower division (freshman and sophomore) and upper division (junior and senior) coursework. Community colleges offer lower division courses only. The university accepts certain community college courses as comparable to courses that are required for freshman and sophomore students at the university through a process called articulation. In that way, community college courses become transferable and counted toward the requirements to graduate from the university with a bachelor's degree.

3. What is articulation?

Articulation is the process of evaluating courses to determine whether coursework completed at one institution (e.g. a community college) will meet the requirements at another institution (e.g. a university) for the purposes of admission, transferable units, general education or major preparation. It is this process that ensures that the classes you take at Cuesta College will be credited toward your bachelor's degree requirements when you enter a university. Articulation agreements are formal documents that describe which coursework is accepted. Some articulation agreements are "course-to-course agreements", meaning that they show a specific course from one institution and the comparable specific course from another. Other articulation agreements are "major agreements", meaning that they show a set of courses that are acceptable to fulfill an entire requirement for major preparation. All segments of the public higher education system in California---the California Community Colleges, the California State University, and the University of California--have agreed to have a single repository for articulation agreements between the community colleges and the universities. That repository is the ASSIST web site, which is accessible to the public at

4. What is the difference between the California State University and the University of California?

The California State University (CSU) began as a system of teacher's colleges and evolved into a broader system of higher education. It is one of the three segments of California public higher education, the others being the University of California (UC) and the California Community Colleges. The CSU grants bachelor's and master's degrees that have a practical, career orientation. The assumption is that most CSU graduates will want to enter work based on their bachelor's degree training. There are now 23 CSU campuses. The UC was established as the focal point for academic and scientific research within the higher education system. In addition to bachelor's and master's degrees, the UC grants doctorates and professional degrees. The emphasis at the bachelor's level is on theoretical learning, the assumption being that most UC graduates will pursue a higher degree before entering their career. There are nine UC campuses.

5. What is the difference between a semester and a quarter?

Each academic institution operates according to an academic calendar, with terms marking the beginning and end of each session of classes. A semester is a calendar that divides the academic year into 15 - 17 week terms. There are generally two semesters per academic year: Fall (beginning in August or September) and Spring (beginning in January). Some semester-based schools also offer a Summer session that is shorter than a regular semester and is not a part of the regular academic year. A quarter is the other most common type of academic term. Each quarter is 10 weeks in length and there are usually three quarters in an academic year: Fall (beginning in September), Winter (beginning in January), and Spring (beginning in March). A few
quarter-based schools offer a forth Summer Quarter, but it is not considered an official term in the academic year. Cuesta College is on the semester calendar.

6. Which Cuesta College courses transfer to a university?

Please book an appointment with a counselor to discuss transferrable courses and what you should take to fulfill transfer requirements.

7. How many units do I need to transfer?

You will achieve full junior standing when you have completed 60 transferable semester units. If you wish to transfer as a lower division student, the university will consider your high school record in determining whether to admit you. The University of California requires 60 UC-transferable semester units for upper division transfer. Some UC campuses infrequently accept students as lower division transfers. The California State University requires 60 CSU-transferable semester units for upper division transfer. Some CSU campuses are open to lower division transfers, but grant them lower priority for admission. Independent and out-of-state universities often accept students with fewer than 60 semester units. Please check the online catalog for the specific university to which you want to transfer for their requirements. An academic counselor can assist you with that.

8. If I earn an Associate degree, will I be prepared to transfer?

Generally, meeting the requirements for an Associate degree will not prepare you for transfer admissions. Not all courses that are counted toward an Associate degree are accepted for transfer and General Education requirements differ, as well. (See "What is General Education (GE)" below.) However, it is possible to earn an Associate degree by completing 60 Associate degree units and fulfilling all of the GE requirements for transfer. See a counselor for more information about earning an Associate degree as part of your transfer process.

9. Is there a maximum number of units that I can transfer?

California public universities will count a maximum of 70 community college units toward the total number of units you need to complete for a bachelor's degree. Independent and out-of-state institutions vary in their limits and you should check their catalog or web site for information. Different limits may apply if you have already attended a "four-year" institution and you should meet with a counselor right away.

10. What if I take more than 70 transferable units?

The 70-unit limit applies only to the number of units that will be counted toward graduation and does not apply to courses. The university will grant subject credit for course content needed to satisfy requirements for general education or major preparation, even if they do not count the units for all of your courses toward graduation.

11. What is the minimum grade point average (GPA) required for transfer admission?

The minimum GPA accepted for transfer to the CSU is 2.0 for California residents, 2.4 for non-residents. The CSU has designated some highly popular majors or campuses as impacted or high demand, for which higher GPAs and/or minimum course completion are required. The minimum GPA accepted for transfer to the UC is 2.4 for California residents, 2.8 for non-residents. UC campuses have designated some highly popular majors as selective, for which students have to meet competitive selection criteria (higher GPAs and minimum course completion requirements) to be admitted. Grade point averages necessary for transfer to independent and out-of-state universities vary. Consult the institution's printed or online catalog.

12. What is a competitive GPA for transfer?

Grade point averages necessary to compete for admission to impacted or selective programs vary from year to year, depending on the pool of applicants for any given academic year. Generally, a GPA of 3.0 is considered competitive, though even higher GPAs may be required to gain admission to majors and campuses for which the most students apply. An academic counselor can tell you whether that is the case for the major or campus of your choice.

13. What is General Education (GE)?

General Education is a set of courses through which you will become broadly educated by taking classes that cover a wide range of disciplines. GE courses are usually introductory in nature and provide you with fundamental knowledge in English, mathematics, the arts and humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences. You will complete the majority of GE coursework needed to receive a bachelor's degree while you are lower division (freshman/sophomore) student at a community college. After transfer to the upper division (junior/senior) at a university, you will be required to take only a few GE courses, so you can focus on your major. For example, you will be required to complete at least 48 units of GE to graduate from a CSU, 39 of which are completed at the lower division. The GE unit requirements of independent and out-of-state institutions vary, but the ratio of lower division to upper division is similar. GE courses are divided into subject areas and GE patterns describe the number of courses that you must take in each subject area to meet total GE requirements. Each institution has its own GE (sometimes called breadth or core) pattern. There are also GE patterns that are accepted by the entire CSU and/or UC systems for transfer to any campus in that system. Cuesta College, like all community colleges, has adopted a pattern of GE requirements for the granting of an Associate degree.

14. What is CSU-GE?

The CSU-GE is the pattern of coursework accepted to meet the GE requirements for a bachelor's degree at any CSU campus. An advising guide that shows the subject areas and the Cuesta College courses that count to fulfill area requirements is available from an academic counselor, in the Transfer Center, or online here. CSU-GE is one way for you to complete the lower division GE requirements for a bachelor's degree from the CSU at Cuesta College prior to transfer. Completing the entire CSU-GE pattern is not a requirement for admission. However, the CSU requires that students complete most of their lower division GE before transfer. There is an upper division GE requirement of at least 9 units to graduate from a CSU. It is not possible to complete all of the GE needed to receive a bachelor's degree from a CSU at a community college.

15. What is IGETC?

IGETC (pronounced eye-get-see) stands for Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum. It is a course pattern that community college students can use to satisfy lower division GE requirements for either the CSU or the UC. Completion of IGETC is not a requirement for admission to the CSU or UC. IGETC is one option for students preparing to transfer. For the CSU, students can use each campus' GE pattern or the CSU-GE pattern (see above). For the UC, students can use each campus' GE pattern. A few independent California universities also accept IGETC as fulfillment of their lower division GE. If you have questions about which GE pattern to use, see a Cuesta College academic counselor. For some high unit majors, such as engineering or biological science, the IGETC is not recommended. If you are in one of these majors, see your counselor about alternative GE requirements that apply to you. Important: Students who choose to use the IGETC must complete the entire pattern, in order to receive certification from a community college that they have completed lower division GE requirements.

16. What is GE certification and why is it important?

GE certification is a document that is signed by a community college and states that you have completed lower division GE requirements. Becoming GE certified means that the university cannot require that you take any additional lower division GE. (You will probably be required to fulfill some upper division GE requirements for graduation from the university.) The certification must be applied for independently of your application for an associate's degree, and will normally appear on the official transcript that you send to the university you are transferring to. If you attend more than one community college, your GE certification must be provided by the last one you attend. That college will do so using all the GE courses you have completed at all higher education institutions you have attended. IGETC policies require that the entire pattern be completed in order for you to receive any certification. See your Cuesta College counselor if you have been using IGETC as a guide and will not complete it before transfer; they will show you how you can still fulfill GE requirements to transfer and graduate from the university. CSU-GE policies allow for partial certification. The community college can certify your fulfillment of any GE subject area that you have completed. GE Certification is requested through the Cuesta College Admissions and Records Office.

17. What is a major?

A major is a program of coursework in a subject area or discipline that leads to a degree. Your major is the primary area of study in which you will develop the greatest depth of knowledge. The university faculty that teach in the department of your major will determine the unit and subject area requirements you must meet to be granted your degree.

18. What is an impacted or selective major?

Impacted or selective majors are those for which the university receives many more applications for admission than the campus can accommodate. Impacted is also an official designation by the CSU system that allows the department that offers a major to require a higher GPA or specific major preparation as a way to reduce the pool of applicants to those who are best prepared to enter the major. Selective is a term used by the UC to describe majors for which the same conditions exist and for which the university imposes the same kind of selection criteria (GPA and major preparation) to screen for the most qualified applicants.

19. When do I have to think about a major?

You will declare a major when you become a junior. Some universities require that you declare a major for admissions purposes, all will ask you to petition to actually enter your major after you transfer. However, the faculty for your major will almost always require that you complete lower division major preparation courses through which you demonstrate interest and ability in your major. Some majors require very little such preparation, while other majors require many courses. It is important to choose a major early and find out about the preparation that you will need to be admitted to your major. For example, the UC requires that students complete most, if not all, of their major preparation before transfer.

20. How do I choose a major?

The very best way to choose your major is by participating in a career exploration process. You are probably becoming educated in order to enjoy a prosperous and interesting life and your work will a big part of that life. Along the way to discovering what you want to do with your time and energy, you will get information about the education you need to have in order to do it. That is your major. Some students also use a sampling method that involves taking GE courses in a number of disciplines to determine which one interests them most. One disadvantage of this method is that it can take a long time for such a process of elimination. Certainly, if you use this method, it is important to learn what you might do with your major and decide whether any of the possibilities appeal to you.

21. How do I find out what classes to take to prepare for my major?

Universities must show the course requirements for each of the degrees they offer in their catalogs. You may be able to find this on the university’s website. Some universities provide information about articulation by major at the web site

22. What is a minor?

A minor is a secondary focus of study that you may choose to augment your major for career purposes, for graduate education, or simply out of interest. You will be required to complete far fewer units for a minor than for a major.

23. When do I have to think about a minor?

A minor is completed entirely at the upper division level. There may or may not be specific preparation requirements, though there are often prerequisites for the courses you need to take to complete a minor. So, while you won't take any courses that count toward your major until you
are at the university, it is good to consider whether you might pursue a minor at the same time that you choose a major.

24. How do I find out about the transfer requirements of any particular school?

Information for transfer students is published in the catalog of any institution. The Transfer Center has an extensive library of catalogs and supplementary material that is sent to us from universities all over the country. There is also a computer lab available for you to use to access a particular school's web site online. Transfer Center staff is available to assist you in locating and using these resources. In addition, a number of universities send representatives to the annual Transfer Day/College Night event that is held in October. Some of those representatives also visit Cuesta College on a regular basis to meet with students individually. These visits are being done virtually for the time being. You can view a list and access contact information for most of the CSU and UC Admissions counselors on the College Visits page of the Transfer Center website.

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