What do colleges look for when you apply to transfer?
First and foremost, colleges and universities look for evidence that the applicant can benefit by being admitted. This "benefit" does not mean, "Being admitted will make you happy." It means does the applicant show the where-with-all to survive, and the potential to graduate from that institution. This is particularly true for transfer students. Transfer students are very important to four year institutions. Transfer students will fill those seats left empty by other students who have left the institution. Unlike freshman seats, which always have lots of applicants waiting to fill them, upper level seats can only be filled by students who have completed college credits. It is for that exact reason, that transfer students have an easier time being accepted into four year colleges. The guess work is over; the transfer student has proven they can handle college level work.
Transfer students are evaluated on the basis of the GPA earned and the college work they have completed. If a student is right on the edge between being accepted or not, then in that case Letters of Recommendation may make an impact in the decision process. They will not overcome a poor academic record but in a "close call" a strong reference can make a difference.
Four year colleges and universities prefer applicants who have earned the Associate degree. Degree holders send an important, unspoken message: "I am a student who sets goals for myself and I achieve my goals! Let me in your institution and I'll do the same there too." Colleges want to admit students who show the potential to succeed and to graduate.