Understand What College Credits Are And How They Work

Transferring is a difficult process in and of itself, so failing to understand how college credits work will make the process even more difficult. Simply put, college credits are the academic equivalent of money.

They are a way for colleges to measure how much progress a student has made toward their degree. They can be transferred between schools to allow students to continue their education without losing progress.

The number of college credits a student has can be found on their transcript (which we will discuss next), but there are also ways students can receive college credit while still in high school.

For example, high school students who successfully completed an Advanced Placement (AP) course, including receiving a minimum AP Score of 3 in all subjects, can receive college credit.

College credit can also be received through dual enrollment courses, which are college-level courses offered at the high school. 

A certain number of college credits are generally needed to graduate from a four-year university. 

The number of required credits varies by school and degree program but is typically between 120 and 180.

Some classes are worth 2 credits, while others are worth 3 or 4 credits. The credit value of a class is determined by the number of hours spent in class and on homework each week.

For example, a 3-credit class will require about 9 hours of work per week, while a 4-credit class will require 12 hours of work per week. Additionally, some classes, like labs, can be upwards of 5 credits.

Access Your Transcripts to Find Out How Many Credits You Have Earned

You have been in school long enough to know what a transcript is. Still, that document’s importance increases when you consider transferring from a community college to a university. 

Transcripts are everything for college credit. It is a document that shows all previous coursework at all previous institutions you attended (both college and high school.

If you attend multiple community colleges, you will have to request a transcript from each one to have your credentials evaluated. The transcript will show the class, units awarded, grade mark, and transferability.

Colleges use this information to determine how much progress you have made toward your degree and how those credits will transfer to your school.

Universities typically operate on a semester system, while community colleges may operate on a quarter system. If this is the case, your transcript will need to be converted to reflect the number of credits you have earned accurately.

Your local community college should be able to provide you with a list of schools that have an articulation agreement and how many credits will transfer. These articulation agreements are created to make transferring credits as seamless as possible.

If you have any questions about your transcripts or how many credits you have, be sure to reach out to a college advisor. They will be more than happy to help you understand everything you need to know about credits and transcripts!

Speak With Your Community College Counselor

If you want to know how many college credits you have quickly and with surety, then the best option is to speak with your community college counselor.

They will have your transcripts on hand and be able to tell you exactly how many credits are being transferred over. Additionally, they can help explain any sorts of discrepancies that may appear on your transcript.

Community College Counselor Website Featured Image Transfer Process
Speaking with a counselor is critical to understanding transferable credit and in recognizing your transfer credits

This is the most foolproof way of getting accurate information about your college credits.

Additionally, if you are looking to transfer to a four-year university, your community college counselor will be able to tell you what schools accept credits from your community college.

Do not hesitate to contact your community college counselor with any questions or concerns about credits and transferring!

Identify the Benefits of Knowing Your College Credit Information

One benefit of knowing how much college credit you have is it clears your pathway of transferring to a university

If you know that you have 57 units and need 60 to transfer, you will have to select a 3-credit course that satisfies a general education or major preparation requirement.

There is no need to enroll in more than one 3-credit class if you are missing only those units. 

Still, many students will enroll in more without realizing that the transfer institution will only accept a certain amount of transfer units.

Knowing how many units you have also allowed you to better schedule your time at the community college. 

For example, if you only need 9 more units to transfer, you may want to take a course load of 3 classes per semester for two semesters instead of 4 classes per semester for one semester and then taking a summer class.

This would save you time and money in the long run!

Additionally, knowing your college credit information can help you better plan for your future. If you know that you only have 30 units left to complete your degree, you may want to start looking for internships or jobs in your field of study.

If you are taking a break from school, it is important to know how many units you have completed to pick up where you left off when you return.

Lastly, if you are having trouble with a certain class, knowing how many college credits you have can help motivate you to power through and get a good grade. If the class is required for your successful transfer to a university.

Use Resources to Help you Understand Earning and Transferring College Credits.

You can use several resources to see how many college credits you have and how many college credits are available for transfer. When you transfer credits from community college to university, you will have to make sure that you use college transfer credits websites like ASSIST or Transferology.

ASSIST-org will help you with transfer credits and what credits transfer

ASSIST.org Transfer

These are online resources that showcase transfer credits equivalency metrics that will let students figure out if they have too many credits to transfer or not enough. 

Not all college coursework will receive college transfer credits, so it is important to identify transferable courses by using ASSIST or other course articulation programs.

Recommended Reading: Transferring with ASSIST | Ultimate Guide + Strategies


Another important resource is planners, specifically the UC TAP (Transfer Admission Planner). Suppose you are interested in transferring credit to a UC school (University of California). 

In that case, you can input your college coursework, standardized test scores, and other helpful information into the UC TAP.

We have an entire article on how to use UC TAP, so be sure to check it out HERE!

When you fill in all of your academic information, the website will automatically show you how many credits you have, which IGETC, 7-course pattern, or GE breadth it fulfills, as well as college credits earned for AP or IB exams.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About College Credit

How Do I Check If Courses Transfer?

There are several ways you can check if a course will transfer. The first and most obvious is to set a course plan with a counselor and indicate that you only want to enroll in classes that are transferable. Second, when you are signing up for classes, many community college interfaces will show whether the course is transferable and will specify, quite proactively, for the user. Lastly, you can check websites like ASSIST-org to see if the course you enrolled in has transferability with a local university or college.

Do Transfer Credits Expire?

Generally, no college credits do not expire. If you earn college credit, it will stick with you for decades, but there may be exceptions. For example, some programs have a limit of 10 years for STEM-related majors or minors, and graduate courses can have more stringent regulations concerning old college credit.

How Do I Find Out How Many College Credits I Have?

In order to find out how many college credits you have, it is necessary to consult the appropriate resources. One of the first steps is to speak with your community college, high school, or university counselors. These professionals will help assess the total number of credits on your student record and can provide an official or unofficial transcript detailing each course that was taken and the corresponding unit and credit value for each. It may also be possible to access this information online via your school’s website if they offer a student portal that provides access to a centralized database or records system.

Additionally, some schools may offer an academic audit service that can review all courses completed to date and calculate the total number of credits earned. This will typically include both earned and in-progress credits as well as those that have been transferred from other institutions. Knowing exactly how many credits are needed to reach a certain academic level—such as graduation requirements or prerequisites for graduate programs—can be helpful in determining overall progress toward educational goals.

It is also important to note that there may be discrepancies between institutional definitions of what constitutes a “credit” when transferring between schools or universities. In some cases, one institution may award more credits for a single course than another does for the same coursework at their institution. Therefore, it is important to understand any such discrepancies before transferring from one school or program to another.

Overall, understanding how many college credits you have requires you to take advantage of available resources such as counselors and academic advisors who can provide up-to-date transcript information along with an accurate count of all credit hours earned towards your degree or certificate program(s). Additionally, it is important to factor any potential transfer credit discrepancies into account when making decisions regarding transferring between schools or programs in order to ensure all requirements are met for success in your higher education endeavors.


College credits are an important part of your academic journey. They can help you save time and money by completing your degree faster or transferring to a different school. By understanding how college credits work, accessing your transcripts, speaking with a counselor, and using various resources, you will be able to identify the benefits of knowing your college credit information.