If you have already begun your college education, you don’t want to waste the work you have done or the time and money you spent on your classes. Transferring the college credits you have already earned is a solution, but not every school makes the process easy.

Transferring College Credits

When you have already completed some college studies, you should research the transfer credit policy of any new school you consider. Students run into a variety of problems when attempting to transfer credits. Schools with regional accreditation may not accept credits from schools that are only nationally accredited. Schools with different requirements for comparable programs of study may not count a course toward the student’s major or recognize the course at all. At some schools, the credits themselves transfer but the course doesn’t meet any degree requirements, resulting in what’s called “empty credits.”

Some institutions seek to make the credit transfer process simpler by entering into transfer agreements with other institutions. This is especially common between community colleges and four-year schools, and it’s used to guarantee students who graduate with their associate’s degree that they can seamlessly go on to earn their bachelor’s degrees at the four-year college.

Due to the complexity of the process, USA Today recommends contacting any school you are considering to discuss transfer credits before you enroll. Some schools have dedicated transfer advisors who can help you figure out how many of your credits will transfer and what the process entails, while at other schools, you’ll need to discuss your situation with admissions personnel.

By doing your research before you commit to attending the new college, you can prevent yourself from making a big and costly mistake. If you find out you won’t be able to transfer as many credits as you would like, don’t be afraid to try the next school on your list, instead.

Your School Choice Matters

Many colleges limit the number of credits or classes a student can transfer from another institution. If you only have a small amount of credits to transfer, this may not be a problem. If you have already completed a substantial amount of credits elsewhere, though, you don’t want to lose any of them. It’s important to look for a school that will allow you to transfer as many of these hard-earned credits as possible.

Some colleges permit students to transfer an unlimited amount of credits from other institutions, so long as they are regionally accredited. For example, Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, New Jersey, allows students to transfer the full amount of credits required for entire associate’s or even bachelor’s degrees. Its program is considered “one of the most flexible transfer credit policies in the country.”

It might take some research to find schools with similarly liberal transfer credit policies. You can start by seeking schools that are known for flexibility and that cater to adult learners.