Transferring to Northern

NIU welcomes transfer students from community colleges and from other four-year institutions. We have a very large number of transfer students who do very well, and have a long tradition of cooperation with other schools in the state. If you would like to transfer to NIU, we would be most happy to work with you to make the transfer as seamless as possible. You may also complete the bulk of your work at NIU but take a few courses at another institution if you prefer.

This document contains items of interest both to (A) students coming from another institution who wish to transfer to NIU and begin a major in the mathematical sciences here, and to (B) "native" students attempting to transfer individual mathematics courses from another institution back to NIU.

Policies regulating the use of coursework from another school to meet requirements for an NIU degree are itemized in the Undergraduate Catalogue. Among them we note that (i) there is an upper limit to the number of credits which can be transferred to NIU; (ii) NIU reserves the right to classify a transfer course as a substitute for whatever NIU course we believe it best matches, or possibly only as an elective not matching any single NIU course, or possibly as not offering any NIU credit at all; (iii) grades from another institution are never transferred to an NIU GPA; however, NIU advisors will look at your transfer grades, and transfer grades are considered when assessing whether NIU course prerequisites have been met with a transfer course. Other regulations address the manner in which General Education requirements may be met by transfer students, course repeat benefits, and so on. For further information consult the Undergraduate Catalogue, or see an NIU advisor in your department or college office. Some useful links are given below.

Note for potential mathematics majors: It is often true that during a transfer, a student finds the requirements to be completed will take somewhat longer than might have been the case for another student who started at NIU as a freshman. This is particularly true for students who have not previously declared as a mathematics major at another institution. For example, NIU native students expecting to become mathematical sciences majors have typically completed their calculus sequence by the middle or end of their sophomore year. If you transfer to NIU with the calculus sequence incomplete, you cannot reasonably expect to finish the bachelor's degree in our department with just another two years at Northern.

There are some special facts particular to mathematics courses and mathematics majors who transfer to NIU:

  • Incoming students who have taken no previous post-secondary mathematics class must take our placement exam. Other students are placed into their initial mathematics courses based on their prior academic work. We will attempt to place you into a course where you are most likely to succeed; in some cases this may mean a course which has some overlap with courses you may have already taken. Note: NIU offers no transfer credit for mathematics courses below College Algebra.
  • NIU has no control over the placement policies or other decisions taken by other institutions. If you wish to transfer a math course to NIU from another school, they may impose additional prerequisites or otherwise restrict your ability to enroll, beyond what might be required of a comparable course at NIU.
  • Students with an Associate's degree are considered to have met the General Education requirements for NIU bachelor's degrees, including the Core Competency component. If you are pursuing a major with no specific math requirement, and have an Associate's degree, you will need no further math course at NIU. However, the General Education requirements for the State of Illinois Teacher Certification are distinct and are not automatically met by completing an Associate's degree. If you are pursuing teacher certification, please contact us for advice while arranging your community college coursework so that you can make progress on your General Education coursework. This applies both to potential math teachers (who need to carefully select General Education courses outside of mathematics) and to potential teachers in other fields (who may need mathematics courses beyond the minimum required for the NIU degree).
  • NIU does not always recognize courses at another institution as being wholly equivalent to its own. In order to avoid having to take additional coursework after transfer to NIU, students are encouraged to check the Transfer Credit and Program Major Guides or contact an NIU advisor even while registering for courses at other schools. We can often advise in advance about courses which do or do not transfer.

There are a few courses about which we receive frequent questions:

  • Most community colleges offer courses labelled "Intermediate Algebra". These do not transfer to NIU for any graduation credit. However, you must take such a course if you wish to take our College Algebra course, MATH 110, and received a placement group of D or E on our placement exam. There is an Intermediate Algebra course, KCMA 098, offered on the NIU campus by Kishwaukee College; but please note that this is in fact not an NIU course. You are welcome to take the corresponding course at any other institution instead of the KCMA course. You will not be allowed to register for our MATH 110 until you provide evidence of a C or higher in the Intermediate Algebra course. We will not reserve a place in MATH 110 for you during registration if you are still taking Intermediate Algebra.
  • Many colleges do not offer an equivalent to our MATH 101. The fact that a school calls its course "General Education Mathematics", for example, is insufficient; such courses are often closer to our procedurally-oriented College Algebra (MATH 110), and are in particular not sufficiently broad to meet NIU's Quantitative Literacy requirement. Look instead for the IAI code M1-901 in a school's course description. The community colleges having a comparable course at this writing include: DuPage (MATH 1220 or the former MATH 120), Elgin (MTH 101), Highland (Math 165), Illinois Valley (MTH 100), Kishwaukee (MAT 101), Moraine Valley (MTH 120), Oakton (MAT 125), Triton (MAT 101), and Waubonsee (MTH 101). (It is also possible at some schools to take a mathematics course which does not articulate to any single NIU course but does meet the NIU Core Competency requirement in mathematics. Consult an advisor for further information.) A transferrable course has in the past also been available on-line at Waubonsee and Moraine Valley Community Colleges. We are still evaluating a similar course at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
  • Students wishing transfer credit for NIU's MATH 201, typically Elementary Education majors, must complete another school's whole sequence in Mathematics for Elementary School Teachers. This is commonly a two-semester sequence at other schools (e.g. Moraine Valley's MTH121 and MTH 122). Note: MATH 201, with a C or higher, is a prerequisite for MATH 402 (Methods of Instruction in the Mathematics Curriculum for Elementary School) which is required for most students seeking certification to teach elementary and middle school. Students taking MATH 402 are assumed to have the background of our MATH 201 students, nearly all of whom (by meeting the NIU Admissions requirements) have two years of high school algebra and a year of high school geometry. So if you wish to transfer in an equivalent to MATH 201, you are responsible for ensuring that you also have a background at least comparable to the Intermediate Algebra and Basic Geometry courses offered at most community colleges.
  • It is better, if possible, to complete the entire calculus sequence at a single school (usually three semesters or four quarters). Note that the appropriate calculus courses for mathematics majors are not the common one-semester calculus courses designed for students in business or the social sciences. If you have taken only such a course, you will need to start with our MATH 229 (Calculus I) and will not receive any transfer credit for your other calculus course. Note that MATH 229-230-232 use trigonometry heavily, so a trig-based pre-calculus course (our MATH 155) is a prerequisite.
  • Few community colleges' Linear Algebra courses will transfer in as the equivalent of our MATH 240, which is a four-semester-hour course; the fourth hour is essential in order to work adequately with axiomatics and proofs. If you expect to transfer to NIU please contact us before taking a linear algebra course elsewhere. (Three community colleges whose Linear Algebra courses do articulate as NIU's MATH 240 are those at Heartland, McHenry County, and Waubonsee Community Colleges.)
  • NIU's MATH 402 (Methods of Instruction in the Mathematics Curriculum for Elementary School) cannot be taken at a community college but there are other colleges and universities which may offer this course. Illinois State University's course (also numbered MATH 402), Dominica's EDU 566 and Roosevelt's ELED 321 articulate as our MATH 402. The corresponding courses at Elmhurst, UIC, and North Central will not (they will carry only elective credit). Courses at other institutions may be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • While NIU's computer programming courses are 4-credit-hour courses, the comparable courses at other schools may not be. The difference is particularly important for students intending to seek State of Illinois Secondary-School Teacher Certification in Mathematics. Please consult with our department for further information.

During your orientation sessions before you begin classes at NIU, you will meet with advisors from your College (for math majors, that's the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), who will review your transcripts and help identify the remaining coursework to obtain an NIU degree. You should also meet with an advisor within your department, who will help plan a sequence of courses which will take advantage of work you have already completed at another institution. You are encouraged to consult with our advisors even before matriculating at NIU so that we can help you make optimal use of your time at another institution in preparation for the transfer.

Students who transfer to NIU with the intention of completing the requirements for the Initial Teacher Certification in secondary-school mathematics are urged to review the recommendations at The requirements are dictated by the state but each institution must interpret these requirements in the context of its own course offerings. Again, we encourage an individual consultation with one of our advisors to work out the details.

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Last modified: 09/19/2016