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Early College

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Early college high school students who will not graduate with an associate's degree in addition to their high school diploma are considered a first-year applicant.


High school students who have taken courses through a dual enrollment program at a Community College or University are considered a first-year applicant, regardless of if they will earn an associate degree.

Early college students from North Carolina Cooperative Innovative High Schools (CIHS) receive special consideration in admission to UNC system universities based on North Carolina law. CIHS students who will graduate from a cooperative innovative high school program, AND graduate with an Associate in Arts or Associate in Science degree, have the option to apply as a first-year or transfer applicant. The full list of CIHS programs can be found through the NC Department of Public Instruction.

If you have not yet graduated from high school but are enrolled in a North Carolina Cooperative Innovative High School, you may have the option to apply as a transfer student if you will complete your Associate in Arts or Associate in Science prior to enrolling. See our Admissions Requirements for Transfer Students for further details. To choose the path that’s best for you, consider the below differences and review the implications carefully:

Admission Options
If you apply as a First-Year student: If you apply as a Transfer student:
Application deadlines First-Year students have two concrete deadlines for applications. November 1st to be considered for Early Action and February 1st to be considered for Regular Decision. Notification letters are mailed in January for EA students and in March for RG students. Applicants cannot apply for Spring semester. Transfer applicants can apply for entry in the Spring, Summer, or Fall term. The priority deadline for the Summer or Fall term is March 1 and the Spring deadline is October 15. Decision letters are sent on a rolling basis.
Application evaluation Your application will be evaluated on a holistic review of your standardized test scores, essay, recommendation letter, high school grades and college transcript. Your application will be evaluated based on your performance in your previous college coursework.
Scholarships There are more opportunities for scholarships. Scholarships are limited.
Major selection University College advisors work with students in their first year until they are able to declare into their major. Advisors work with students to meet major admission requirements and explore career options suitable for their interests. Transfer students are advised by their academic major department unless they do not meet the necessary pre-requisite requirements. Students who are not major ready will work with a University College advisor
Orientation First-Year Orientation is mandatory. Transfer orientation is mandatory. Parents/guests are not able to attend transfer orientation.
Housing On-campus housing is mandatory. On campus housing is not guaranteed and space is limited.

Regardless of how you apply, your transferable college credits will be evaluated and your class standing will be determined based on the number of credit hours you've successfully completed. Please note that an associate degree does not necessarily ensure that you will be able to complete all remaining degree requirements in two years.

Regardless of how you apply, all students will be required to submit final high school transcripts if admitted. Admitted transfer students will also need to submit final college transcripts.


Early College Frequently Asked Questions

North Carolina's Cooperative Innovative High Schools, consisting of early colleges and other innovative high schools, are small public high schools, usually located on the campus of a university or community college, which expand students’ opportunities for educational success through high-quality instructional programming. 
  • How Early College Credits Transfer into UNCW

    UNCW will accept a maximum of 64 semester hours of credit from a regionally accredited two-year institution. Credits earned at another institution with a grade of a "C" (2.0) or better are accepted by the university if the work transferred is comparable to offerings at UNCW.

    While many of the courses completed to earn your Associates of Arts or Sciences degree are transferable and may be applied to UNCW's University Studies (general education) requirements, an AA/AS degree is not interchangeable and does not replace the University Studies curriculum. Students will need to take additional coursework once admitted to the University in order to fulfill the University Studies requirements. For information regarding transfer of credit, visit the Office of the Registrar website.

    If you’d like to discuss your options, we invite you to contact our Office of Admissions. We are happy to meet one-on-one with students, their families, or high school counselors and groups.

  • All students will receive credit for college courses completed during high school as well as AP, IB and CLEP exam credits.
  • Students completing college coursework through a community college or university can review how college credits will transfer using our Transfer Credit Equivalency tool.
If you’re graduating from a CIHS in North Carolina AND will or have earned an associate degree, you have the choice of applying as either a first-year or a transfer student. We encourage you to carefully review the different UNCW support services that are available to you based on your applicant type. Remember, once you apply, you will be unable to switch applicant types, so we encourage you to review your choices carefully.

As an Early College student, we understand that you might move through your degree requirements at a different pace than most First Year students. Please know that your timeline to graduation is contingent on the transfer credit evaluation, fulfillment of UNCW University Studies (general education) requirements, and major requirements.

An associate's degree may fulfill many but not all University Studies requirements. Additionally several majors have separate admissions requirements and highly sequenced coursework.

Interested in a personal virtual meeting with a member of the UNCW Office of Admissions? We are happy to meet one-on-one with students, their families, or high school counselors and groups.

Early College students are advised through University College during the first two semesters, while working toward major requirements. Students officially declare their major after completing coursework at UNCW.

CIHS students will receive the same transfer credit, regardless of which way you choose to apply. Please review the Transfer of Credit website to learn more.

Students admitted as a first-year student will be required to live in on-campus housing for their first and second academic years.

Students admitted as transfer students are not guaranteed on-campus housing and are encouraged to explore off-campus housing resources.

If applying as a first-year applicant, an unofficial transcript can be used when we review your application for your initial admission decision as your coursework will be listed on your official high school transcript.

If applying as a transfer applicant, an official transcript is required to complete our review of your application.

All students will need to submit their official and final college transcript to receive transfer credits at UNCW.

UNCW Academic Advisors will work with you to answer questions about major and career exploration, graduation requirements and timeline, University policies and processes, and class registration.

Both first-year and transfer applicants are considered for UNCW’s need-based aid as long as they submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Please visit the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to learn more about applying for financial aid.

First-year students are required to attend an in-person orientation session. Parents or guests are also able to attend first-year orientation. Transfer students have the option to participate in a virtual or in-person orientation. Parents or guests are not able to participate in transfer orientation.

No, if you are admitted to UNCW, you are not able to apply again as a different student type for the same year.

If you are admitted to UNCW as a first-year student but would prefer to enter UNCW as a transfer student, we encourage you to consider applying for a future term.

If you are denied admission as a first-year applicant, you may be able to be considered as a transfer applicant. Please contact our office if you are interested in this option.

Students who are not competitive as transfer applicants are encouraged to contact their Transfer Counselor to create a plan for transferring.

If you’re a first-year student, you will receive academic advising and will register for courses on the date you attend first-year orientation. First year students may be eligible to participate in early course registration if they have met certain Orientation registration deadlines. Please visit the website to learn more.

If you’re a transfer student, you will receive academic advising and will register for courses after completing the virtual Orientation for which you registered for.