Los Angeles — Deciding to take the community college to the University of California (UC) pathway is the best thing I’ve ever done. As a homeschooler, I started taking classes when I was 14 as a dual-enrolled high school student. I joined the Honors Transfer Program at my community college and graduated with my Associate’s degree three years later. UCLA was the perfect fit for me, and my community college prepared me well. There are many transfer students and helpful resources, including the Transfer Student Center.
In June, I graduated with the highest honors as an anthropology major and a French minor. I just turned 20 and I am now a graduate student at UCLA. Without community college, this path would not have been possible. I want to share some advice on how to succeed as a transfer student, from a community college to a larger university or college and beyond.
A community at your college
If you want more of a challenge academically, look for Honors Program opportunities at your school. Not only can it make you a stronger applicant, but can also be a great way to find community on campus.
Don’t limit yourself to courses offered at your community college. Especially with the pandemic, many schools have robust online offerings, including lower-division summer classes at universities. However, check to make sure they transfer, and, in general, it is a good idea to see your academic counselor regularly.
Go to your professors’ office hours. It will improve your grade and understanding of the material, and build a connection with your professor; instructors enjoy talking to students. Throughout the semester, make lists of assignments and deadlines, prioritizing what comes first. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, such as tutoring and mental health services.
Applying your knowledge
Start researching and applying to colleges early, including a variety of different schools, and be sure to have multiple people look over your essays and application. Don’t wait until the last week or even a month to start your essays. For UCs, transfer decisions are not released until late April.
You’re transferring! Now what?
When you transfer, know that your first quarter will be an adjustment, and that’s OK. Consider a lighter course load at first and be sure to prioritize mental and physical health in addition to schoolwork. If there’s a Transfer Center on your campus, make use of the space and resources, and go to transfer events. Some schools even have options to live in housing with other transfers.
If you transfer to a school on the quarter system, know that it moves quickly but that you’ll get used to it. And the quick pace allows you to take a variety of classes. Do study abroad if you can! Summertime can be a good opportunity to study abroad if you don’t want to spend one of your few semesters/quarters away from your campus, and there are often scholarships available. Students often take classes or apply for internships over the summer.
Oh, the places you’ll go!
If you’re thinking about grad school, it is a quick turnaround time! Make faculty connections early on — go to office hours — and ask professors whose interests align with yours if they need undergraduate research assistants. Start doing research about your next steps, including attending career fairs and open house events, and don’t be afraid to meet with directors of different graduate programs to ask questions and distinguish yourself as an applicant.
I wish you the best of luck in your next steps and future endeavors, whether that be graduate school, employment, research, or something else wonderful. Above all, my most important piece of advice to you is to be proud of your unique path as a transfer student and wear it with pride.
Aliya Glatt (she/her) is an anthropologist and writer from Santa Cruz, CA and is currently a graduate student at UCLA. Follow her on LinkedIn @aliyaglatt.
Edited by Nykeya Woods and Emmie Wolf-Dubin