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Transferring into a UC University 2020-2021

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

A step by step guide for any transfer student applying to UCLA, or another UC school.


It's crunch time, with applications for transfer students due at the end of November. All over California, students at community colleges are earning their associate degrees and transferring into a 4 year degree program at one of the many UC schools. This is an excellent path, because with in state tuition, they will end up with a fancy degree from a well known school at a low cost. If you are looking to transfer into the UC system from any school, anywhere in the world, here is your guide.

Note about Community College transfers using the TAG program. If you're submitting it after October 15th, 2020, you missed the deadline. But you can still transfer normally!

Also, note that each school, and each student is unique, so please don't take this guide as gospel for everybody. If you have any questions or any confusion please don't hesitate to email me at with questions.

How to transfer to UCLA and UC Colleges and Universities - Troup Wood college counselor in Los Angeles

How to transfer into the UC system:

1. Make sure you meet the minimum requirements to transfer

Most schools have a minimum GPA requirement and ask that you are in "good standing," which means you are eligible to enroll in more classes at your school. If you look at your transcripts, you will find this information.

Additionally, most schools only will take a transfer student who will be a junior. If you are not in your second year at college and going into your third, don't worry... "Junior" really is just based on the number of units you've taken. Some students have spent three years at community college and have been taking only a few classes per term, so they will transfer in as a junior. Usually UC schools will take you if you fit within a range of unit hours taken. UCLA, for instance, will take students only if they have taken at least 60 units, and a maximum of 86.

Note: What is a unit? Usually a unit equals 3 hours of work or listening to lectures per week for the length of the course. That means, a 1 unit course will involve 1 hour of work or class per week during the course.

From UCLA's Website:

Transfer students must be at junior-level standing (60-86 semester units/90-129 quarter units) by the end of the spring term prior to the fall that they are applying for. Keep in mind that the units used to determine junior-level standing have to be transferable.

Note: UCLA will only allow up to 70 semester/105 quarter units from transferable lower division coursework to be applied towards your degree once you are admitted. Therefore, transfers with more than the 86 semester or 129 quarter maximum number of units from 2-year colleges will still be considered as junior-level [My note: it's a waste to take extra classes that won't transfer over]. However, UC courses and upper division courses from 4-year institutions will not be capped (at 70 semester/105 quarter units). Those units can put you at risk of exceeding the maximum for transfer eligibility and becoming senior-level.

2. Make sure your general education requirement will transfer over

At the end of your transcript, it should say if you have met your general education (gen ed) requirements. If there is an additional line about "American institutions requirement," you only will need that to graduate if you're going to a USC school -- not the UC schools.

Most CA Community Colleges use the "IGETC" general education requirement. Most CA universities accept it. But it's always good to double check on your target school's website. Go to the applications tab, click on transfer students. You will see the basic requirements to transfer in as a junior. If they don't accept the IGETC set of classes, they will likely link to a description of what they're looking for. You can see if your school has classes that will count as equivalent to what your target school is requiring by using this tool:

ASSIST is a great website for seeing the "articulation agreements" between schools. That means, you can see which of your classes correspond to classes inside California public colleges and universities. If you select a degree at your target school, you will see which lower division courses are required to transfer into that degree program, and which classes at your old school count.

3. Make sure you have the required classes to transfer into a specific major

Let's say you want to major in psychology. You cannot simply transfer into UCLA. You must transfer into their pre-psych major, which has certain requirements. You must have met the "lower division" course requirements so you won't be behind the other juniors. All the UC schools are a bit different, so make sure you double check. Here is how...

Go to the school's homepage and navigate to the "apply" section, and then "transfers." Typically, you'll see the basic requirements, including the gen ed requirements. But you also may find a section about specific majors, and their additional requirements. That's where to look. If this doesn't work, go to the department homepage (UCLA's psychology department) and look for information about transferring into the department.

Remember to use the ASSIST tool to see if your classes correspond to classes at your target school. In fact, you should be able to use that tool to select a major at your new school and see the required classes right there on ASSIST. Keep in mind that the articulation might be from last year, so email the school to double check.

You might see that you are missing a class, even if your advisors told you you'd be fine. Luckily, your advisors were probably right, and you can email your new school to ask if some classes you have taken will count towards the requirements. You can point out how they are very similar classes, covering the same elements. But if asking to fudge the rules doesn't work, you might need to take this extra course before leaving your college.

4. Write your application to the UC schools

I cover this information elsewhere on my site and blog, so I'll keep this brief. You will need your activities list, transcripts, test scores in many cases, and essays.

*Here are two articles on writing excellent essays: 1) 5 key tips, and 2) How to write an essay like Ernest Hemingway.

The UC personal insight questions (PIQ) are similar to essays. They are the same for all the UC schools, but some have additional prompts you will find on their applicants page or the department page. If you're applying to a B.S. to M.S. program, or a specialty program, you might have a whole set of additional questions or an essay.

This is all very challenging and confusing, and my heart goes out to you!

You truly deserve guidance during this time, and an hour phone call with me might set you on the right path. Please don't hesitate to reach out!



See my other college prep information here:

How to transfer to UCLA and UC Colleges and Universities - Troup Wood college counselor in Los Angeles


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