Project Opportunity: Access to Washington's Colleges'

“I want an education that will not only help me achieve my professional goals, but one that will foster the morals with which I was raised as well as foster my spiritual growth.”

— Cindy Rios
Whitworth University


Planning Guidelines

Applying and being accepted to a baccalaureate institution is more difficult than it was getting in to a community college. You'll need to plan ahead. This planning guide will help you organize three areas of critical activities: academic planning, financial planning, and choosing the college you want to transfer to, and completing the application process. Starting early is important so you meet the deadlines and show your best work.

Choosing a field of academic study

  • Evaluate your skills, talents and interests.
  • Explore occupations, salaries, and requirements. If you're curious about what jobs are in demand right now check out CareerOneStop.
  • For a good source to learn more about a wide variety of jobs look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This online source will tell you what kind of training you'll need to get the job you want.
  • Meet with a transfer or faculty advisor (at your community college and at the college you want to transfer to) to discuss your academic plans.
  • If you're not sure what major you want, or what college you're going to transfer to, map out a plan for the liberal arts transfer degree (DTA), unless you have a passion for science – then follow the AS-T. If you have a specific major in mind check to see if there’s a more detailed plan (a major related pathway) already worked out .
  • Map a plan to complete your community college work efficiently. Pay attention to the deadlines for registering on your campus. Many classes are open to students on a first come-first served basis, so you'll want to register as early as possible to get the classes you need.
  • Read and be familiar with your college catalog and class schedule – at the community college and at the college you want to transfer to.

Choosing a college and preparing to apply

  • Think about what characteristics you're looking for in a college (e.g. small/large, urban/rural).
  • Get involved with your school and community. Colleges want to admit well-rounded and active students. Learn about service opportunities in your area. Seek out extracurricular activities. Don't be afraid to ask for help finding service, leadership or other activities. All these activities can help you find out what you're passionate about, and help you to stand out to college admissions officers and to scholarship committees.
  • Begin collecting material for your portfolio and add to your resume. You should include course papers you're proud of, letters of recommendation, updates on community service activities, financial aid information, college information (view books, application requirements, etc), a list of awards, programs from concerts, plays or other events you participated in, or other school projects. Keep copies of applications and correspondence.
  • Visit colleges you're interested in attending. There's no better way to find out if the college is a good fit for you than to spend time on the campus. Visit classes, talk to professors, meet with the financial aid and admissions offices. Ask questions. How many students are in the class? Is the faculty engaging? Do the administrators take your questions seriously? Get on their mailing lists to start receiving information.
  • Talk to a transfer or faculty advisor at the college you want to transfer to about your college plans. Is completing an associate's degree the best option for you?
  • Think about how you appear to colleges over the internet. Remember that colleges and jobs may look at Myspace, Facebook and other online profiles. If your page contains inappropriate material, either clean it out or set it to private. Also make sure you're using an e-mail address that reflects well on you.
  • Set up a calendar to track important dates and deadlines
  • Finalize your resume.
  • Decide who you'll ask to write letters of recommendation. Give them at least three weeks to complete the letter.
  • When you consider a college make sure it is accredited. The six regional accrediting bodies account for the vast majority of colleges and universities in the United States.
  • Is your major offered at the college? Are extracurricular activites ones you’re interested in?
  • Check on the requirements for admission and make sure you qualify.
  • Check to see if there’s more than one application. Some colleges require a separate application to the major.
  • Check to see if your college participates in the Common Application or the Universal College Application.
  • Get some pointers on writing admissions essays and scholarship essays, and begin writing them.
  • If you’ve attended other colleges, be sure to have an official transcript sent from each of the other colleges to the college you’re applying to.

    Submitting an Application

  • Be sure to submit an application fee, if required. Do not send cash! Find out if you can pay by check, credit cared, or money order. Some colleges may be able to waive the application fee.
  • Proofread! Have someone else read your application for spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Consider requesting an interview with the colleges you're interested in attending. Sometimes an interview can give you an edge in admissions.

    After you've applied
  • Confirm that the college has all the information they need – it is your responsibility to make sure the Admissions office at your transfer college receives all the required documents and that your application is complete.
  • Respond quickly to college requests for additional documentation. When in doubt contact the financial aid or admissions office. Keep copies of everything you send.
  • Visit the college that accepted you, if you haven't already.
  • Evaluate the financial aid plans before you make a decision about which college to attend.
  • Make a decision about which college you will attend. Carefully follow the instructions in your acceptance letter. Along with important deadlines, these letters provide specific instructions on housing, financial aid, orientation, and more.
  • Notify the other colleges that you won't be attending (other students will be happy to take your spot.)
  • Once you’re accepted at the baccalaureate institution, register and attend a college orientation session. While you've already been to college, these sessions also give you a better understanding of the expectations of the college you will be attending.
  • Have your current college mail your final official transcripts to your new college. Transcripts are not "official" if you have handled them.
  • Send thank you notes or postcards to those who helped you get into college – the recommendation writers and the scholarship providers.

Finding the best financial aid package

  • Apply for financial aid through the FAFSA in the January before you hope to transfer. Some student aid programs award funds on a first-come, first served basis; waiting too long to submit your FAFSA could be costly.
  • Get in touch with the colleges' financial aid offices. The people who work there are the best resource you have in paying for your education.
  • Continue to search for free money (scholarships and grants) and other ways to pay. But watch out for scams. Don't spend money on any financial aid or scholarship information -- no matter how legitimate it might look. This information should be free. Any organization that asks for money is probably designed to steal your money.
  • Evaluate your offers of financial aid before you make the decision about which college to attend. Make sure you are comparing the "net price".
  • Send your tuition deposit. If you will be living on campus, send your housing or enrollment deposit.
  • Notify your financial aid office of additional funding you'll receive to pay for college (scholarships, and loans, etc.)
  • Learn about borrowing responsibly. If you take out a student loan, borrow only what you absolutely need to cover the cost of your education. Take federal loans first. They have the best student benefits.


Funded in part by a grant from
the Ben B. Cheney Foundation
published by Independent Colleges of Washington