A four-year university degree generally includes two years of core courses that most students must complete, plus two or more years of classes more specific to one or more courses of study. Your general education requirements (GERs) usually encompass basic English and math, lab sciences such as astronomy and geology, and humanities, such as psychology or art history. Taking these courses online, especially through a community college, is often less expensive than completing all four years on campus at a traditional college.

Step 1

Determine the general education requirements your college or university. Some schools require specific beginner-level courses (often labeled 100 or 1000-level classes, or 200 or 2000-level), such as Intro to Philosophy or Beginning Calculus. Others require a certain number of credits in each given subject area.

Step 2

Investigate schools that offer online college courses. Confirm that course credit you earn at an online institution transfers to your chosen university. Some state universities have cooperative programs with area community colleges that simplify the transfer process. For example, at Bellevue Community College in Bellevue, Washington, you can earn an Associate's Transfer Degree online. The degree requirements cover the core curriculum at the University of Washington, which allows for a smooth transition into junior standing at the University of Washington.

Step 3

Speak to academic advisers at each school. Explain to each one that you're trying to fulfill the GERs of one school while enrolled at another, and ask for their advice in how to ensure that all of your credits apply and transfer properly. This process can take several months as each school sends paperwork back and forth to the other, so start early.

Step 4

Apply for admission to the school whose online courses you intend to complete. Most applications require high school transcripts, scores from a college entrance exam and personal information.

Step 5

File a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and any separate financial aid forms required. The cost of online classes is often significantly less than traditional college courses. You can use Pell grants and student loans to pay for online education.

Step 6

Register for classes after you've accepted admission. Often, students can enroll online. Register for a course workload that is challenging, but realistic based on the time you have available outside of work or other responsibilities. Many universities also require a certain number of lower division elective courses. Use this requirement as an opportunity to explore new subjects.


Online courses often require more diligence and discipline than traditional classes because you must manage your time and monitor progress. Take care to learn good time management skills and to set priorities that help you succeed.

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