Transfer Types


What is a Transfer Student?

A transfer student is defined as any student who completes course work at one institution and moves to another institution.

Transfer students are considered Non-Traditional or Post-Traditional students.

Non-Traditional/Post-Traditional students make up a large population in higher education, and can include anyone who has at least one of the following characteristics:

  • Is over 24 years old
  • Took a “gap year” or delayed entering college after graduating high school
  • Transferred from one college to another
  • Has a spouse
  • Has dependents
  • Is a caregiver
  • Is working full-time or working part-time
  • Is active duty or a veteran
  • Is a military spouse
  • Attends college part-time
  • Attends college online
  • Is financially responsible for themselves
  • Received a High School Equivalent like a GED
  • Is in a period of transition like getting divorced, relocating, or is unemployed
  • Is a commuter student (not living on campus)
  • Began college but took a break for 3 or more years before returning

Looking at this list, you likely meet more than just one of these characteristics.

The type of transfer student you identify as may depend upon which and how many of the non-traditional/post-traditional characteristics you possess. After you identify your Transfer Type below, you can view valuable resources to assist you as not only a transfer student, but as a non-traditional/post-traditional student.

What kind of Transfer are you?

Though often lumped together as one population, there are multiple types of transfer students.

Follow along to learn more about your transfer type and discover valuable resources.


Vertical transfer may also be referred to as traditional, upward, forward, 2+2 or 2 to 4.

Essentially, you are a vertical transfer student if you begin at a two-year institution and move to a 4-year institution. Usually, vertical transfers complete an associate degree before transferring to a college/university to complete their bachelor’s degree, but they do not have to complete a degree at a 2-year institution to be considered a vertical or traditional transfer student.

What resources benefit Vertical Transfer students?



Lateral transfer refers to students who are transferring from one institution to another similar institution. In other words, a 4-year institution to another 4-year institution, or a 2-year institution to another 2-year institution.

If you are transferring from another UNC System university, we’re excited to have you! While all 16 public universities under the UNC System share similarities, we’re sure you’ll find some differences at ECU.

If you are transferring from an out-of-state four-year institution, we recommend both the in-person orientation and a transfer student section of COAD 1000 – Student Development and Learning in Higher Education.



Reverse transfer students transfer from a four-year to a two-year institution.

In the UNC System, this does not necessarily mean a student physically transfers back to a community college. Students who attend a North Carolina Community College and transfer to ECU before completing their degree can apply for a Reverse Transfer. They would not be leaving ECU to return to their community college, but once they have enough hours to transfer back to their community college and complete their associate degree, they can be awarded that degree while attending ECU.

For more information about Reverse Transfer, click here.



Swirling transfer students attend multiple colleges, potentially at the same time, in order to either economically or efficiently complete their degree. In other words, they are attending multiple schools and transferring vertically and/or laterally to create the cheapest and fastest path to completing their bachelor’s degree. They may also be called co-enrolled or concurrently enrolled students.

As a “swirler”, you’ll want to make sure you know how your credits will transfer to or back to ECU. You’ll definitely need the Course Equivalency tool.

Once your transfer courses are complete at your other colleges, you’ll need to submit official transcripts back to ECU for credit evaluation. You may send your official transcripts to or to



Any student who completes an associate’s degree while still enrolled in high school, whether through an Early College or by a Dual-Enrollment program, may be referred to as a stealth transfer. These students apply as freshmen, and be admitted as freshmen, but they share characteristics with transfer students.

If you are stealth transfer, you may struggle with your split classification as freshman and transfer student. However, you are more likely to complete your bachelor’s degree on-time or earlier, as well as with less debt as compared to traditional freshmen students!

We encourage you to participate in both freshmen and transfer events and resources.

Some things you may not think of…

  • Dual-Enrollment credits can only be evaluated off of an official transcript from the college where the courses were taken; we cannot evaluate the courses as they appear on a high school transcript.
    • You should send your official transcript to
  • If you’re using financial aid, your max time frame (credits allotted to complete your bachelor’s degree) began while you were in high school.
    • For more information about financial aid and Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), click here.
  • If you are struggling academically, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can book an appointment with the Pirate Academic Success Center here.


For more information about transferring to ECU, visit the other resources on the Transfer Hub: