Transfer Student Transfer Credit

Transfer credit policies for Transfer Students

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General Information for All Entering Transfer Students

Once you have received an offer of admission from Swarthmore Admissions, please read this page.

Final transcript required: As soon as all your grades are reported at your previous school, arrange for an official final transcript showing your final grades be sent to the Swarthmore Registrar (not to Swarthmore Admissions this time). To be considered for credit at Swarthmore, courses elsewhere must have been graded straight C or better. Course descriptions and occasionally syllabi can facilitate the credit award process, so please be ready to provide these if the Registrar asks you. The Registrar evaluates all presented transcripts representing work done at 2-year or 4-year schools, so long as the work done was considered transferable to a liberal arts bachelors degree program. Swarthmore does not award credit for work done during the high school years (see policy).

Swarthmore uses the semester-course-credit unit of credit -- one course at Swarthmore is normally worth one Swarthmore credit, with 32 semester-course-credits required for the BA. Because one of Swarthmore's graduation requirements is four semesters of study at Swarthmore, the maximum amount of credit awarded for work done elsewhere to junior transfer students is normally capped at 16 Swarthmore credits.

Swarthmore looks at the transfer student's record as a whole as well as course by course, and awards credit in order to retain as much as possible the sophomore or junior transfer student's progress toward earning their liberal arts bachelor's degree. We call the evaluation of the whole record our "holistic" evaluation. We call the evaluation of which courses will transfer the "Course by Course" evaluation.

In the holistic evaluation, the Swarthmore Registrar determines the proportion of a B.A. degree that was completed at the other school(s), and attempts to maintain that proportion upon transfer to Swarthmore. In this way, a rising sophomore transfer student before transfer remains a rising sophomore after transfer, and so on. However, if you take a course at Swarthmore that substantially repeats a course you did before, you give up credit for the work done before, changing the holistic calculation a little.

The course by course credit awards: The goal of the course credit awards is to transfer specific courses into units that fulfill Swarthmore course and graduation requirements in the most Swarthmore-appropriate way given our curriculum and particularly given our distribution requirements (more on these below). This selective process can result in some courses being apparently “rounded up” and others being “rounded down” or passed over entirely, but credit awards are being made in light of the holistic evaluation as well as Swarthmore specific graduation and distribution requirements, so that the overall transfer of the student retains both the student’s progress toward degree, and fulfills, as much as appropriate given the work done, Swarthmore graduation requirements. Please consider the course by course transfer credit awards subject to revision by the Registrar if you or your Swarthmore major or minor departments realize there is a better listing to facilitate your success at Swarthmore. At any time up until you graduate from Swarthmore if you have a question about the course subject awards, please ask the registrar what might be possible.

The degree requirements: Please read the catalog's chapter nine on Degree Requirements, some of which are slightly modified for transfer students in chapter seven. As part of the degree requirements, transfer students must fulfill the Swarthmore "Program for the First and Second Years" (catalog 7.2) as modified for transfer students (see the end of section 7.2).

Credit/"D"/No Credit (Swarthmore's version of pass/fail): All transfer students may exercise the option to take up to four courses Credit/"D"/No credit (where "D" includes D+, D, and D-, the idea here is that D grades get recorded as the D grade earned, and C- or better work gets recorded as CR, "credit" which is our version of pass/fail pass). Transfer students do not have the mandatory Credit/No Credit semester required of entering new first-year students. More about CR/NC.

A word on AP credit: AP is handled completely differently than college credit from the previous school. AP credit will be awarded in addition to transfer credit, but AP credit is not a part of the transfer credit evaluation. Credit comes directly from the department based on AP scores, which transfer students need to have sent from the College Board. The complete rules for AP credit are the same for all students and are available from the Swarthmore Registrar web site. AP credit is normally recorded after the student arrives at Swarthmore.

Regarding financial aid, please read the section below "About Financial Aid for transfer students."

For Entering Sophomore Transfer Students and their Advisors

(Jump link to section for Juniors)

Sophomore transfer students should take a Writing Course in their first year (sophomore year) at Swarthmore. Sophomore transfer students are required to take two approved Writing Courses at Swarthmore before graduation, and although the rules do not require sophomore transfers to take a Writing Course in the sophomore year here, it is strongly advised in order to facilitate completing all your requirements, particularly those of your senior year. Approved Writing Courses are labeled in the Course Catalog and the Course Schedule. See more on the Writing Course requirement below.

Sophomores apply for a major in the spring semester of the sophomore year. In your first semester, try to take courses in the departments of your intended major(s) and minor(s). Students may be deferred admission to a major until satisfactory completion of Swarthmore courses in the department.

The Registrar normally transfers no more than 3 Swarthmore credits into any one departmental subject in the initial course by course transfer evaluation. This limit of 3 courses allows transfer students to do most of their major track work at Swarthmore. Courses over the 3 will be placed into another subject and included in the holistic evaluation so they continue to count overall. The initial transfer of credits is provisional pending the major or minor departmental review and possible revisions. Again, the holistic evaluation and credit total will not change, but the course specifics might, to better serve majoring or minoring at Swarthmore.

Distribution Requirements: All transfer students are required by graduation to have either transferred from elsewhere or completed at Swarthmore at least three full-credit courses in each of the three Divisions, and within each division, all students must do work in at least two departmental subjects. The divisions are Humanities (HU), Natural Sciences and Engineering (NSE), and Social Sciences (SS). One of the NSE courses must be a Natural Sciences and Engineering Practicum, or NSEP, (an approved lab science course). Also, by the end of the senior year, all students must have transferred and/or completed at Swarthmore 20 credits outside their major. Transfer courses count toward distribution requirements as courses taken elsewhere and in the course subjects and divisions approved by the Registrar.

The "at Swarthmore" requirement: Sophomore transfer students are required to complete at Swarthmore one (only one) full-credit course in each division (see the end of catalog section 7.2).

Writing Course Requirement: Sophomore transfer students are required to complete at Swarthmore two (only two) approved Writing Courses, and you should complete one in the sophomore year. (See the end of catalog section 7.2.)

The Physical Education (PE) requirement for sophomore transfer students: The registrar strongly recommends that transfer students complete the PE requirement including the swim test or swim class in the sophomore or junior year (don't wait until senior year). Transfer students can either apply transfer PE units toward the normal 4-unit physical education requirement or opt for a reduction in the PE requirement based on the student's transfer status, but transfer students cannot both transfer PE units and receive a reduction in the requirement. Sophomore transfer students can opt to complete 3 units of physical education and pass a survival swim test (a reduction of 1 PE unit).

A word on AP credit: AP is handled completely differently than college credit from the previous school. AP credit will be awarded in addition to transfer credit, but AP credit is not a part of the transfer credit evaluation. Credit comes directly from the department based on AP scores, which transfer students need to have sent from the College Board. The complete rules for AP credit are the same for all students and are available from the Swarthmore Registrar web site. AP credit is normally recorded after the student arrives at Swarthmore.

Regarding financial aid, please read the section below "About Financial Aid for transfer students."

For Entering Junior Transfer Students and their Advisors

(Jump link back to section for sophomores)

As mentioned above, Swarthmore uses the semester-course-credit unit of credit, one course at Swarthmore is normally worth one credit, and 32 semester-course-credits are required for the BA. Because one of Swarthmore's graduation requirements is four semesters of study at Swarthmore, the maximum amount of credit awarded for work done elsewhere to junior transfer students is normally capped at 16 Swarthmore credits. Another significant consequence of the four semester rule is that semester study abroad is not possible for junior transfer students.

A caution about majors: Some of our most popular majors, such as Computer Science, or Engineering, may not be possible to complete in four semesters unless the transfer student is advanced in the field already. On the other hand, most of our majors are available for completion in four semesters if the junior transfer student upon arrival at Swarthmore carefully plans the path to graduation with the major department. All transfer students are expected to meet with and carefully plan their academic program with their academic advisors upon arrival at Swarthmore, normally during Orientation (in the week before Fall semester classes start). Junior transfer students must apply for a major at Swarthmore as soon as possible after they start at Swarthmore. The College cannot assure any student of being admitted to any major program in advance of the student's personal consultation with the department chair. Students may be deferred admission to a major until satisfactory completion of Swarthmore College courses in the department.

Junior urgency: As soon as possible during Orientation (the week before Fall semester classes) entering junior transfer students should meet with their assigned adviser in their intended major department. Further, also during Orientation, entering junior transfer students should meet with department faculty in all of their prospective majors and minors. Tell them you are a junior. Keep in mind that the entire first-year class is on campus during Orientation and the first-years are also seeking departmental advising, so when you schedule departmental advising meetings, please be clear with departments that you are a junior transfer student needing advising appropriate for junior transfer students.

Discuss with prospective major and minor departments at Swarthmore your course work done before Swarthmore and how it might fit into the major or minor here. Bring to meetings with departments a copy of your final transcript from your previous school (copies are normally available from the Swarthmore Registrar), and bring syllabi of course work done in the field.

Swarthmore departments can revise the transfer credit awards for courses in their field by contacting the Registrar. Sometimes courses are revised to be inside or outside of a major or minor if the department requests it, but even if a course is moved out of the major or minor, it can be given an elective subject code in order to retain the holistic credit award toward the degree.

The Registrar normally transfers no more than 3 Swarthmore credits into any one department in the initial course by course transfer evaluation. This limit of 3 courses allows transfer students to do most of their major track work at Swarthmore. Transfer courses over the 3 limit will have been placed into another subject and included in the holistic evaluation, but these subject awards are eligible for revision into the the major or minor as appropriate by the department in consultation with the Registrar.

Distribution Requirements: All transfer students are required by graduation to have either transferred from elsewhere or completed at Swarthmore at least three full-credit courses in each of the three Divisions, and within each division, all students must do work in at least two departmental subjects. The divisions are Humanities (HU), Natural Sciences and Engineering (NSE), and Social Sciences (SS). One of the NSE courses must be a Natural Sciences and Engineering Practicum, or NSEP, (an approved lab science course). Also, by the end of the senior year, transfer students must have transferred and/or completed at Swarthmore 20 credits outside their major. Transfer courses count toward distribution requirements in the course subjects and divisions approved by the Registrar.

Writing Course Requirement: Junior transfer students are required to take at Swarthmore one (only one) approved Writing Course (see the end of catalog section 7.2). Plan this with your advisor.

Junior transfer students are exempted from the "at Swarthmore" part of the three courses in three divisions requirement for first-years (see the end of catalog section 7.2).

The Physical Education (PE) requirement for junior transfer students: The registrar strongly recommends that transfer students complete the PE requirement including the swim test or swim class during junior year (don't wait until senior year). Transfer students can either apply transfer PE units toward the normal 4-unit physical education requirement or opt for a reduction in the PE requirement based on the student's transfer status, but transfer students cannot both transfer PE units and receive a reduction in the requirement. Junior transfer students can opt to complete 2 units of physical education and pass a survival swim test (a reduction of 2 PE units).

A word on AP credit: AP is handled completely differently than college credit from the previous school. AP credit will be awarded in addition to transfer credit, but AP credit is not a part of the transfer credit evaluation. Credit comes directly from the department based on AP scores, which transfer students need to have sent from the College Board. The complete rules for AP credit are the same for all students and are available from the Swarthmore Registrar web site. AP credit is normally recorded after the student arrives at Swarthmore.

Regarding financial aid, please read the section below "About Financial Aid for transfer students."

About Financial Aid for transfer students

From the Financial Aid Office: Student eligibility for financial aid is limited to the equivalent of eight (8) semesters. Transfer students are placed into those eight (8) semesters according to the number of Swarthmore accounted credits with which they enroll. For example: Sophomores beginning Swarthmore with approximately eight (8) Swarthmore credits have completed the equivalent of two (2) semesters and should expect to be eligible for up to six (6) semesters of financial aid at Swarthmore. Juniors beginning Swarthmore with approximately sixteen (16) Swarthmore credits have completed the equivalent of four (4) semesters and should expect to be eligible for up to four (4) semesters of financial aid at Swarthmore. A transfer student's decision to add a second major at a later point would not change their level of financial aid eligibility. Junior transfer students, at the beginning of their first semester at Swarthmore, are encouraged to plan carefully their major(s) and minor(s) in accordance with their expected, remaining financial aid eligibility. Please confer with your assigned financial aid director (listed on the Financial Aid Office website) regarding your financial aid eligibility.