Transferring to a UC or CSU from Community College

Parent Q&A

  • Dear fellow parents,

    My 20-something son has taken a couple of gap years but has now settled into a routine of taking courses at one of the local community colleges. We have tried to figure out how to arrange his schedule to get him ready for transfer to a four-year school (with UC and CSU in mind), but we are flummoxed by the conflicting information presented on the numerous websites, and meetings with the community college's transfer counselors have been less than helpful. Is there a local professional we could hire for advice?

    thanks for any leads!


    Hi, this is a pretty straightforward process; what school is he at?  All California Community Colleges participate in the TAG (TransfervAdmission Guarantee) program; the school the students may be accepted into vary by particular CC.  None of them will get him into UCB or UCLA, I’d those are schools he is looking at (they don’t participate in TAG). Has he studied the information here?  It’s all laid out. Best of luck

    A "transfer" is a little more complicated than applying as a "first year with college credits." If your son was UC/CSU eligible upon high school graduation, and does not yet have 60 credits at community college, then it might be better to apply as a freshman with college credits.  The Contra Costa College website looks pretty useful:

    Transfer to UC or CSU is very straightforward, you do not need to pay anyone for advice on this as it is readily available from the UC and CSU admissions folks. For UCs other than Berkeley or UCLA, all he needs to do is take the required prereqs for his desired major with the required minimum GPA and he can be admitted through TAG (Transfer Admission Guarantee) or through the general application process. I suggest attending a transfer info session at a UC or CSU that he is interested in, ASAP. I went to one at a UC with my son during his first year of cc. The admissions person laid out exactly what you need to do to be admitted and showed examples of the student snapshots they use for transfer admission for students who were admitted and were not admitted. It's not all about the highest GPA: taking the required prereqs is crucial. He can find these on each UC or CSU'ssadmissions website under Transfers. There are general requirements for all transfers to UC and CSU (they are different), plus major-specific requirements for many majors (all of the STEM ones and some other ones depending on the school). Then you go to to find which classes at your cc match these required classes. He should make a plan how he will complete all that by the end of the spring before he transfers and he can run that by an admissions counselor at the desired 4 year school as well as his cc counselor. He can't use the summer right before transfer to fulfill any requirements, they must be completed by end of spring and the plan for that final spring can't look unrealistic compared to the courseload he's been successful with at the time he applies (fall). My son checked his planned courses with admissions at his first choice UC, 2 or 3 times before applying; also, some of the UCs and CSUs will have an admissions rep who is assigned to your cc, they have a schedule of visits to the cc (probably over zoom currently). My son found he had to take classes at 2 nearby ccs to get all requirements for his science major in within 2 years. (He got in to his first choice, plus the other UCs whose specific requirements he had met.)

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Is it still possible to transfer from community college to UC in two years?

April 2014

Is it still possible to transfer from a community college to a UC in two years? I have a 16-year-old 10th grader who is beginning to identify possible paths through college. If she heads to community college it will likely be to complete requirements to transfer into the UC system. We hear that it much more difficult to get into required classes and to complete requirements in a timely manner than it was 25 years ago when I was a student. Why? We want her to be able to consider her path with as much information as possible. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Not signed up for 6 years of college...

I work with admissions at Berkeley and can tell you in the last few years it has been challenging for transfer applicants to complete all their needed requirements in 2 years. This is because ccc's have cut hundreds of thousands of class sections throughout the state due to budget cuts. With the passage of Prop 30 we have started to see class sections being added, but slowly. It may require attending classes at multiple ccc's and seeking out those ccc's that offer summer courses (or taking summer courses at UC Berkeley - summer has open enrollment) to ensure your student finishes in 2 years. Berkeley staff

I suspect that if you transfer from community college to a UC or CSU that it will take more than four years. My husband's experience was that he did many years at Laney College part-time while working, only to find, when he arrived at SFSU, that not all the classes transferred, or it was mid-year and he had to wait until the beginning of the year for a two-part class to start again. He ended up at SFSU for three years full time in order to earn his BS. He was sorry he hadn't just started with SFSU but he needed to warm up to college (he started as a 25-year-old). Also: he ended up at SFSU after Laney because at Laney he was in a program to help him transfer from to UCB...and was turned down by UCB after meeting all the requirements of the program because his GPA was too low, something his advisor never even considered (she was floored, she must have been incompetent). IMHO, there are no guarantees about transfers.

You ask why it's harder to get the classes you need. The community colleges these days are overcrowded, I assume because of the recession--everyone needs a degree to be considered for work. On top of that, there have been massive cutbacks in California education, so there are fewer classes offered. Classes are hugely impacted. Wait lists fill immediately. So it's hard for students to get in their required classes but if they don't keep up a full unit load they lose financial aid, so they end up taking anything, even classes that don't meet their needs, to keep up their load. It's just awful. My daughter was affected by some of this even at UC Santa Cruz (graduated 2 years ago).

It's not like it was when I attended FREE community college classes 29 years ago, that's for sure. Your child's mileage may vary, but these are some of the issues right now. glad I'm not going to school in this day and age

Though it is technically possible to transfer from community college to a UC in 2 years, it is unlikely unless your student is very focuses and can take a heavy courseload in community college. My daughter is just finishing at DVC after 3 years there. One of her friends was able to get out in 2 years by taking 15-16 units per semester & summer school. Your son/daughter must be very mature & able to minimize distractions in order to keep up their GPA. In other words, they will probably sacrifice their social life for studying to maintain the good grades necessary to finish and transfer out of comm. college. DC

It is much more difficult to transfer to a 4-year college from a community college than it used to be because classes are so impacted that students cannot get the classes they need. I am a high school teacher and of all my former students who went to community college with the plan to transfer, I do not know a single one who actually did it in 2 years. I'm not sure if it had to do with their motivation or effort or skill or life circumstances, but for whatever reason, it has yet to happen.
--I think it's still possible, I just haven't seen it

I have read previous responses to this question and want to add 3 things/corrections:

1. I have taught at the Ohlone College and the Diablo Valley College, both, for the past 7 years, and the trend with fewer classes and turned down students is far in the past: starting at least a year ago many classes go under-enrolled and many new classes have been added (added back) in the past 2 years. So the info you were given previously is out of date. We are on the lookout to recruit students.

2. You can use a UC (not a community college) counselor from the very beginning, if you target a UC admission. UC counselor will open a file for you and advise you on particular courses to take at YOUR PARTICULAR community college after s/he will review their content, so you will never end up having completed community college courses and realizing they are not transferable. Even if they change the requirement set down the road, they will honor your courseload since it was done under their advice. Besides, every college catalog in CA marks each course as transferable to UC & CSU if they are.

3. Someone said that one can complete a transfer in 2 years by taking a tremendous in their view 15-18 unit course load. Well, this is just a regular course load by UC standards. Berkeley requires at least 15. Community college counts 12 as a FT enrollment but this is to help most struggling students to qualify for full financial aid sooner. Most of motivated students routinely take 18 units - this does not ruin anyone's life. Many (not single standouts!) of my students take full load of classes, plus work full-time, and succeed. Maria

Community college then transfer (TAG ) to UC versus CSU

April 2014

I would really appreciate the opinion of this forum about the option of Community college then transfer (taking advantage of the TAG program) to a UC. Especially in comparison to a CSU option. My daughter is a Junior, last year her GPA was 3.71, this year 4 so far but this is a challenging trimester, probably she'll end up with a 3.7 (max 3.8) She has a huge amount of credits because of all the music classes that she takes and took(she could graduate November of Senior year but she does not want to); she has a passion for music but she does not know if that is what she wants to do because it's so hard to find jobs with it. She has taken 2 AP classes (English and French) so far and did very well,is in precalculus and physics, her grades are all A and B but she did get a C in Physics last trimester. She would like to explore careers that she has not had the time to explore yet. My daughter favorite colleges are in order UC Davis,UCSB,UCLA, UCB; but she might not get in;we don't know her SAT results yet, she took it once but had not prepared much because of lack of time. Her school counselor pushes toward a CSU but my husband (a UCSB graduate)really does not like that option at all. My daughter has so far strongly rejected the help of a private counselor; she thinks that they cost too much. We are middle class and can afford 2-3 years of UC payments, 4-5 would be possible but quite hard.I would love to have a private counselor to advise me so that I can guide her (she somewhat listens to me, to some extent) but is that a good idea or even possibility and at a reasonable price ? Thank you so so so much for any opinion or advise! Cristina

I work at UC Berkeley so I am only answering the UC part of your question (rather than comparing CSU v UC). TAGs are great because if your student follows the contract they do, in fact, guarantee a transfer admission. However, not all UC's offer TAG. Berkeley and LA do not, and San Diego only does to cc's in their local area. Of the UC's in your post, Davis and Santa Barbara do. Just didn't want you to get too far in without realizing the distinctions among the campuses. Berkeley staff

I don't quite understand your question. Your daughter sounds like UC material to me. Why not apply and see where she gets in? I'd also apply to CSUs as a fallback. With her grades and drive, I don't see the point of starting with a community college. That's for people who either have absolutely no money (been there myself) or who need a high-school-like experience to ease into college (that was my husband at first).

At a minimum, if your finances don't allow for a UC all the way through, I'd start with a CSU and then transfer. But honestly--go with what she wants. She wants a UC, so apply and then look at the financial packages you're offered. Don't make any assumptions about what you'll get; apply and then evaluate. My daughter was far less qualified and got into UC Santa Cruz, her first choice. Our share of cost varied from $15,000 one year to zero two years, because our income dwindled with the recession.

Make sure to do the FAFSA, of course, and make sure when she fills it out that you double-check everything for accuracy, and that her name EXACTLY matches the way she fills in her name for her UC and CSU applications (if she uses her middle name, for one, don't use middle initial for the other, as this will screw up your financial aid).

I agree with your daughter that a private counselor is expensive and in this case, pointless. Your daughter knows what she wants, so work towards getting her that. As for careers, that's what college is for. Any of the UCs and CSUs will give her an exposure to a broad array of subject matter. let your daughter lead

Hi Cristina,

You and your daughter are on the right track just by asking these questions early! I'm a College Advisor at a local high school, and helping many of my students with this same question right now. Given the cost and difficulty of getting into a UC these days, community college can be a fantastic option for the right student. I started at a community college myself, and ended up at UC Berkeley - a school I would have never been admitted to right out of high school - and it was the best decision I could have made. This was 15 years ago of course, and even though a lot has changed, I'm still a big advocate of community college, especially when a student isn't quite sure what they want to study or what kind of college they want. It can save a ton of money while giving them time to grow and figure out their path. The UC acceptance rate for transfer students is higher than for freshmen, so she could also have an increased chance of admissions, especially with the TAG program.

Is there a specific reason your husband is opposed to the CSUs? Although the quality, size and reputation varies drastically, there are a number of CSUs in the system that are fantastic and well worth checking out. Ultimately, it comes down to what your daughter wants from her college experience and where she is most likely to be successful. I wouldn't recommend ruling out the CSUs, especially if you are concerned about cost of UCs!

The trickiest thing is that you still don't have a lot of information needed to make this decision - her SAT scores, whether or not she's admitted to the UCs she will eventually apply to, and the exact amount of financial aid they will offer her, plus any outside scholarships she gets. I think you should continue to learn as much as you can now, but be open to adjustments as time goes on. Nicole

Our Experience: I have to say, I'm very disappointed with California Public Schools and actually with our experience in College prep High Schools... Everything starts when the High School Counselors and parents and society think that Community Colleges are only for kids less intelligent, or with less money or for adults. I think that is wrong. Community Colleges are a great option, as a matter of fact, I believe this society wants to send kids away from parents when they are 17 or 18, what an obsession! but that is another story...

My son was not a high achiever but he was a good student. He did not know what he wanted to do so he went to Chico State, where he spent 2 years, finished almost 60 credits, still did not know which major and decided to come back- probably partying got in the way and also not having us around...

My daughter went to University of Oregon, she did not get in any UC, a gpa of 3.3 is nothing this days, an ok SAT is worth nothing, so a good kid, good student, smart, savy, travelled, bilingual/bicultural was not good enough for the UC's.... 1 year at U of O, experiencing freshman year, she love that but hated the style and weather...decides to come back to Bar Area, gets to Berkeley City with the intention of finish her General Credits.

There is TAG and IAGTSI and all this agreements with UC's but there is no counseling unless you spent hours trying to set it up. I personally saw 2 private counselors, 3 counselors at Berkeley City and 1 at UC Berkeley, to try to figure out the way to transfer, the requirements, the best options...long story short, she wont be able to get into any UC because most of them are impacted and the majors are impacted too.... M.

Transferring to a CSU from community college - help for disabled student?

March 2014

My son is thinking of attending community college and then transferring to CSU East Bay. I'd like to hear your experience if your son or daughter has done that. Was it difficult to do so? Also, I've heard that there is a disabled students' program at CSUEB that helps with the transfer/application process. Has anyone had any experience with that program and know how to contact the program director? Mom of a Senior

My daughter is finishing up at Diablo Valley College and has applied to Cal State East Bay for fall admission. She worked with the disabled services division at DVC without much success. However, the Cal State East Bay contact person is very helpful! His name is Brian Johnson, Accessibility Counselor, at 510-885-3868, and email is brian.johnson [at] He works Mon-Thursday, 8am-4:30 pm. He will advocate on behalf of your son for admission to Cal State East Bay. He quickly emails and returns calls to my daughter when she has questions about the transfer process. DC

Our son graduated from CSUEB in June, 2013. His three-year educational experience there was wonderful.

Depending on your son's level of functioning, there are different tiers of support for students with diabilities.

Our son is sufficiently high functioning that he was primarily able to navigate the academic and administrative bureaucracies on his own, without much help from either the accessibility office or his formerly helicopter mom.

Early in the enrollment process, we went to the accessibility office to meet with a counselor. Ours, Brian Johnson, determined what accommodations our son was eligible for - increased time on exams, note-taking service - and set up the computer system to handle them.

After this initial meeting, I never again met with Brian face-to- face, but throughout our son's time at CSUEB, Brian was the go- to guy on the rare occasions when we encountered a bump in the road.

We had two difficulties: On one occasion, a professor was obtuse and our son knew that he would not be able to get an A in the class. This guy thought he was being nice by offering a ''gentleman's C''. Our son had to advise him that he needed to keep up his GPA in order to go to graduate school. Brian helped with the mechanics of dropping the class.

The second problem was supposedly resolved several years ago, yet we did encounter a recurrence. For students with disabilities whose tuition at CSU is paid by the state Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), it is often the battle of the bureaucracies. In the old days, if DOR was late in sending the fee voucher at the beginning of the term, the CSU computer system would drop the student from all her/his classes due to unpaid fees. This was corrected by flagging the enrollment files of the DOR eligible students. But when our son was a senior, the DOR got a new computer system that was not recognized by the CSU system, so I had to scramble to fix the problem.

For students needing a greater degree of support, there is Project IMPACT, that provides a comprehensive program for students on the autism spectrum. They had a 5 year grant; not sure whether it is being renewed.

Other supports include formal programs that introduce students to each other for group study sessions. This gets great reviews, although our son did not participate.

The strongest factor correlated with success by students with disabilities is their ability to self-advocate. IF your son is able to pro-actively, regularly attend the office hours of each of this professors, it will be tremendously enriching.

The faculty at CSU, in our experience, were 99.999% absolutely wonderful, and I would certainly recommend the school to others.

Good luck! Amelia

I just attended the annual Alameda County post-secondary Transition Fair for disabled students on Mar. 15 and now have the current service guide. It looks as if Alamdeda CC has a very attuned special ed./disabled student dept.

(A former student of mine is having a difficult time at Laney even though they do have a special ed/disabled student division.)

Start by checking in with East Bay Special Education Center (SELPA) through Alameda County.

Be aware that there is a HUGE shift for special ed students after graduating HS. Public Schools are REQUIRED to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) until a student graduates from high school. After that, special ed services are ''available'' not required. It is all up to the student/family to find those appropriate services and for the student to gain skills in self-advocacy.

DREDF can help you for little or no cost with rights and resources. Best of luck, Belinda

Diablo Valley College vs. Berkeley City for transfer to Cal?

Nov 2013

My daughter, a freshman at UC Santa Barbara,would like to transfer Cal and understands that her chances will be much greater if she applies to transfer from a California community college. She's heard that Diablo Valley and Berkeley City are both strong feeders into Cal. My daughter is planning to major in political science. We'd appreciate any insight people have to offer in the key differences between DVC and BCC from the student standpoint, and re: maximizing one's chances of being accepted at Cal. My daughter is a strong student with good test scores and grades; she attended a small boarding school with only 1 AP class, and took and passed a couple other AP tests on her own, but didn't have the rigorous course load that other applicants to Cal did. Would appreciate any tips and advice those who have gone before can offer! Thanks. joyce

I would be very nervous about encouraging a student to leave one UC on the chance of eventually transferring to a more competitive UC. Please examine the motives, and the upsides and downsides, very carefully. This is a good time to ask serious questions and listen thoughtfully.

Why does your daughter wants to transfer from UCSB to Cal? Does she hate UCSB? (She can get a great education at UCSB, and there are people she could be good friends with there-- she just has to figure out how to be herself and find them. The heavy party scene there IS pretty overwhelming.)

Is there a better program in her field at Cal? (Or could she prepare at UCSB for a graduate program?) <p> Is this purely a money issue-- does she want or need to live at home? (This is frugal but makes it harder to make college friends. Does she have lots of hometown friends still around?)

Did she always dream about going to Cal and will do anything to realize that dream? (Okay-- and what is her backup plan in the worst case scenario if her transfer to Cal is rejected?)

Is there some other emotional thing going on besides first quarter discomfort with a new big school far from home? I hope this helps.

Diablo Valley College has a high rate of transfer to the UC system but Berkeley City College has a very low rate of transfer to the UC system.

The rate of transfer from every California community college to the UC system is available online in a list which shows which colleges have high transfer rates, but I cannot remember where online the list is located. You could try to find it by googling Berkeley City College transfer rate to UC system and see if you can access the list. Or google something similar. Anonymous

A community college faculty member in a letter to the editor in Saturday's (Nov 9) SF Chronicle stated that Diablo Valley Community College is the top transfer community college to UC Berkeley. Anonymous

Community College Route to a UC

April 2013

Hi, Because I was a single parent for the first 15 years of my son's life, and then married and moved to the Bay area from Cincinnati, I did not have the wherewithal to put away college funds for him. Although a long shot, we had hoped he might get into UC Berkeley and be able to live at home, but he was not accepted. He did get accepted to Davis, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, but we can't afford the tuition and room/board at those schools. He's going to go the community college/transfer route now, enabling him to live at home, save money, keep working at Safeway. My question is: how doable is this solution? Has it changed like so many other things in higher education in the last 20 years -- and what was once a good alternative is now very difficult or even impossible? I hear that it is still possible, for an individual who can remain focused and committed. Any other feedback? Thanks. L.

Are you sure you can't afford the UCs your son was accepted to? Davis in particular is a very affordable town; our cost of living here is low (rent and food). You don't need a car to get around. Did you do the FAFSA? Have you looked at what your schools are offering? Would your son be willing to take out loans/work his way through college? I just want to be sure you've explored all the options here, since you kind of skipped over that in your explanation.

As for going through community college to get to UC, yes, you can do it. Actually, my husband did Laney College to SFSU for his undergrad and now we are in Davis doing his PhD. But the community colleges are in terrible shape these days in terms of budget cuts. There is no guarantee that your son will get into a UC after he's done his GEs. And even if he does, that will only save two years of tuition. Is it worth it? I'm a big fan of working your way up when that's what you need to do (my husband definitely needed to). But do you really need to?

I have good news for you. A third of every graduating class at UC Berkeley was admitted as a transfer student. The master plan established this and it continues on as a means of providing more access to Californians to achieve a four year degree. If your son should decide to go that route, be sure that he takes courses that will make him eligible for the degree his is seeking at UC Berkeley. At the transfer level, students are admitted to the major (not just the college as they are as freshmen) so he will need to be sure he's completed the correct courses in order to be transfer eligible. He can go to the transfer admissions website to learn more. Do not despair, transfer admissions are a great affordable opportunity for students who were not admitted as freshmen. someone who knows UCB admissions

Yes! Very doable. Most important thing though is that in the student's FIRST semester they have to meet with a counselor at the community college and say they want to transfer to a UC and do a contract related to that. Then it is super easy to get in. My understanding is they are not committed to that UC and can apply to others but good to have that guarantee, which can only be done FIRST semester. best wishes

Transferring from a Junior College

Oct 2005

My son, now 17, dropped out of Berkeley High, and passed the high school proficiency exam this past summer. He's now at Peralta, and enjoying school for the first time since starting high school (and doing well!). Does anyone know anything about transferring to a 4 year college, other than a UC? UC has told me that they look solely at the grades obtained at junior college. What about other schools. Do you need SAT i/II test scores? Are there are requirements? Thanks.

I know that Laney and Merritt have excellent Transfer Centers, contact Manuel Alcala and Kimm Blackwell, respectively. I'm not familiar with Vista's or COA's but call to check. anon