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Transfer Student Transfer Credit

Transfer credit policies for Transfer Students

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Registrar Caution
i've been told This page is "text heavy"
Please read it anyway


A word about introducing yourself -- say: "I am a transfer student."  Please every time you introduce yourself during Orientation or over email this summer, open with "I am a transfer student."  This will help faculty and deans assist you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How am I assigned an academic advisor?

Transfer students are assigned to a faculty member who will act as your academic advisor. This assignment is based on your intended major or area of study.

You will learn who that person is when you arrive in August and pick up your orientation packet. If you are arriving as a junior, then your advisor will, in most cases, be the chair of the department in which you intend to major.

How do I choose courses, especially for the Fall semester?

Computer registration occurs in August during what we call "Orientation".  Expect to come to Orientation (starts August 27, 2019).  Orientation is for all new students, both new transfer students and new first-year students. Please don't be put off by being called a "new student." Many of the things in Orientation are for transfer students as well as first-years, so please don't tune out until you know it is not for transfers too.In July, you will receive all the academic information that we send to incoming first-year students. Most of it will be just as relevant for you, so please read it carefully. You should discuss this with your academic advisor and think in advance about placement issues as necessary. Registrar Martin Warner is also available for individual sessions to discuss your past work and to help ensure a smooth academic entry into Swarthmore.

Transfer students must meet as soon as possible with the chairs of any departments in which you plan to major or minor. This is critically important in any department where a sequence of courses is necessary, such as Engineering or any of the natural sciences. Please begin planning now.

Syllabi: Be prepared to provide syllabi of the courses you took elsewhere to demonstrate to faculty here what you have studied so they can help you plan your courses here. Try to obtain PDFs of all the syllabi of all the courses you took before you came to Swarthmore.

Are First-Year Seminars open to transfer students?

No, they are not open to transfer students.

Will I be able to meet with other transfer students?

There will be special sessions for transfer students in the orientation period. At those session, you can ask questions and meet other students also transferring to Swarthmore this year. Your orientation group will be comprised of transfer students.

Once you decide to come...

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). Final transcripts must be sent FROM the other school directly TO the Swarthmore Registrar -- we accept official paper from them to us or official secure electronic transcripts from them to us. To be considered for credit at Swarthmore, courses elsewhere must have been graded straight C or better. 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, nor for online or distance education courses.

Have official final transcripts sent directly to:
Swarthmore Registrar
Transfer Student Records Desk
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA  19081

Obtain syllabi for all your previous courses. Before you come to Swarthmore, the registrar strongly advises you to obtain PDFs of every syllabus of every course you took, and save them until you graduate from Swarthmore. These syllabi can be very helpful to Swarthmore faculty advisors in helping you plan what courses to take here. The syllabi can also enable revision of the course by course credit awards (see more below) to better facilitate your success at Swarthmore, particularly in your major(s) and minor(s).

For all entering transfer students: important General information

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. Notice that our unit of credit is rather different from most other schools, which either use the semester hour of credit, where approximately 120 semester hours is required for the BA degree and 3 or 4 semester hours are earned per course, or quarter hours of credit, where approximately 180 quarter hours are required for the BA degree and 3, 4, or 5 hours are earned per course.  Swarthmore's 32 credits roughly equate to 120 semester hours, and 180 quarter hours. I encourage you to do the math to compare your earned credits elsewhere to Swarthmore credits. Notice that 8 Swarthmore credits makes you a rising sophomore, and 16 Swarthmore credits makes you a rising junior.  For more details about our unit of credit, see chapter 20 of our catalog.

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 liberal arts 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 holistic evaluation incudes liberal arts courses, but it excludes most pre-professional courses including Business (or Accounting or Management or Marketing) courses. Business courses (of any category) have a transferable limit of 2 at Swarthmore; over 2 do not count toward the holistic evaluation.

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.

How transfer credit is recorded: Credit originating elsewhere is recorded toward the Swarthmore degree as follows: The course subject and credit are Swarthmore's, reflecting the approval of the registrar or department. The course title and grade are recorded from the other school's transcript. The other school's grade is marked with an asterisk and does not factor in to Swarthmore's graduation grade average requirement.

Swarthmore's four-letter course subject codes: Many of Swarthmore's four-letter codes are obvious, such as ARTH for Art History, but some are less obvious, and you can search the college catalog to figure those out. GNST is the one code you won't find in the catalog. GNST (General Studies) is a generic credit category the registrar uses in your transfer evaluation to signify that the course counts toward the Swarthmore degree as generic "elective" credit, but at least so far it does not have a department. Any of the these GNST courses are potentially changeable into a departmentally coded course, depending on departmental approval and in particular depending on the needs of your major department at Swarthmore. Changing the codes can happen later.

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).

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.

A word on work done during the High School years: Swarthmore normally does not grant Swarthmore degree credit for college work done prior to starting a degree program (including the summer before starting the degree program). See the catalog policy.

A word on work done online or distance education courses: Swarthmore does not award credit for online or distance education courses.

About the Physical Education (PE) requirement for transfer students: Transfer students can either apply transfer PE units toward the 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. The optional reduction in PE units depends on the transfer class of the student. Transfer students who enter Swarthmore as sophomores can opt to complete 3 units of physical education and pass a survival swim test (a reduction of 1 PE unit). Transfer students who enter Swarthmore as juniors can opt to complete 2 units of physical education and pass a survival swim test (a reduction of 2 PE units).

Regarding transfer of foreign language introductory courses, Swarthmore policy requires the full year of introductory language to have been completed for credit to transfer for the first part of the course. After the first year of language, courses transfer directly.

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)

Writing Course Requirement: Sophomore transfer students should take a Writing Course in their sophomore year at Swarthmore. Notice that unlike other course requirements, Writing Courses are not transferred, but rather the requirement is reduced for transfer students - see the end of catalog 7.. Sophomore transfer students are required to take two approved Writing Courses at Swarthmore before graduation. Although the rules do not require sophomore transfers to take a Writing Course in the sophomore year here, the registrar strongly advises it 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.

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 2 to 3 Swarthmore credits into any one departmental subject in the initial course by course transfer evaluation. This limit of 2 or 3 courses allows transfer students to do most of their major track work at Swarthmore. Courses over the limit 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).

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.

Credit No Credit (Swarthmore's version of pass/fail): Transfer students do not have the mandatory Credit/No Credit semester required of entering new first-year students. However, all transfer students may take up to four courses optionally Credit No Credit. Under the rules for Credit No Credit, work done at the C- or better level gets recorded on the transcript as CR, "credit" (which is our version of pass/fail pass). Work done at the level of D+, D, or D- gets that grade on the transcript. NC is Swarthmore's version of fail, and earned NC goes on the transcript, but NC does not count in the Swarthmore GPA. There is a limited option to "uncover" the letter grade for CR graded courses, see the full policy about this.

First-year Seminars are not open to transfer students.

Read the Guide to the Degree Requirements, regarding all the degree requirements.

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)

A caution about majors: Some of our most popular majors, such as Biology, 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(s) in their intended major department(s). 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 subject.

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 2 to 3 Swarthmore credits into any one department in the initial course by course transfer evaluation. This limit of 2 to 3 courses allows transfer students to do most of their major track work at Swarthmore. Transfer courses over the 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.

The Four Semester Rule, the 16 credit cap, and no study abroad.  One of Swarthmore's graduation requirements is four semesters of study at Swarthmore. Because of the four semester rule, the maximum amount of credit awarded for work done elsewhere to junior transfer students is normally capped at 16 Swarthmore credits. Furthermore, a significant consequence of the four semester rule is that semester study abroad is not possible for junior transfer students.

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. Plan this with your advisor. Notice that unlike other course requirements, Writing Courses are not transferred, but rather the requirement is reduced for transfer students.

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.

Credit No Credit (Swarthmore's version of pass/fail): Transfer students do not have the mandatory Credit/No Credit semester required of entering new first-year students. However, all transfer students may take up to four courses optionally Credit No Credit. Under the rules for Credit No Credit, work done at the C- or better level gets recorded on the transcript as CR, "credit" (which is our version of pass/fail pass). Work done at the level of D+, D, or D- gets that grade on the transcript. NC is Swarthmore's version of fail, and earned NC goes on the transcript, but NC does not count in the Swarthmore GPA. There is a limited option to "uncover" the letter grade for CR graded courses, see the full policy about this.

First-year Seminars are not open to transfer students.

Read the Guide to the Degree Requirements, regarding all the degree requirements.

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.