The transfer process typically involves spending two to three years at a community college, completing all required general education and major preparation courses prior to transferring to a four-year university.

As straightforward as this process may seem, no two transfer students will experience it the same way, as presented at the Learn, Inspire, Transfer (LIT) Forum on Oct. 4 at the Creveling Lounge, hosted by the Associated Students.

A panelist of four students and graduates discussed their experiences as products of community college transfers. Topics covered included financial aid, the college application process, and the differences in environments between community college and four-year universities. These panelists showed that there is so much more than just going from one college to another.

Kiely Lam, the vice president of cultural diversity of Associated Students, kept first generation and minority college students in mind when organizing the forum. The forum intended to encourage students of all races, socioeconomic statuses, and other backgrounds that they aren’t alone in the transfer process by listening to the alums’ anecdotes.

“Since I am a first generation college student who is Chinese Mexican, American Indian and White, I know the pressures of having to do well by their family, having people doubt you or not having people at home to help you navigate through the four-year university/CC system,” Lam wrote in an email to staff.

Lam recruited panelists through the directors of different campus programs, asking if they knew of any alumni with inspiring experiences worth sharing.

One of these panelists was Austin Barraza, a University of California, Los Angeles transfer from Riverside Community College, who’s working towards his degree in political science. He intended to go the University of California, San Diego after high school, but he withdrew after an overwhelming first year.

“It was so hard to navigate my way through the campus and my courses. Time management was really hard for me,” Barraza said. “As the first person in my family to be accepted into a four-year university, I felt the pressure from leaving from UCSD. It felt demoralizing to go a community college.”

The weight Barraza felt was immediately lifted when he saw community college as a chance to get a fresh start on his undergraduate journey again He was a part of RCC’s honors program, which opened him to take college tours that helped him with deciding which university to transfer to.

“I was rejected from UCLA in high school, and I saw RCC as a way for me to start over so they could give me one more chance,” Barraza said. “When I visited the campus, I already saw myself going to school here, and was motivated to push harder in my academics. Community college really helped me learn more about myself.”

PCC’s cross culture coordinator Emily Roh faced trials similar to Barraza. Originally, Roh was supposed to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara with an intended major in art, but a series of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, caused her to leave UCSB and enroll at PCC.

Fortunately, PCC had the right resources she needed to recover and move forward with her undergraduate career. From there, she transferred to UCLA and graduated with a degree in Asian-American Studies.

“These [mental health] issues are common among many college students, and it’s because they don’t take advantage of the resources PCC have available, such as their psychological services,” Roh explained. “I took advantage of these at PCC, and I encourage all the students here to.”

While the beginning of the forum had panelists discuss their obstacles and accomplishments at community college, the latter half was devoted to telling attendees what to prepare for when transferring to a four-year university. PCC and UCLA graduate of an American Literature and Culture degree, Shanel Fennessy, remembers how intimidated she was of UCLA’s classroom environment.

“I used to have a fear of raising my hand and speaking in class,” Fennessy explained. “I learned to be less close-minded, and realized that it’s easy to show that you’re eager to learn. I look forward to every class, even when I didn’t finish the readings.”

All four panelists gave attendees quick synopses of important logistics that’s vital to the transfer process, such as financial aid, personal statements, and student service programs.

They shared their mistakes and encounters with these services that they don’t want future transfer students to experience. One tip Fennessy gave was that a financial aid plan that applies one year will not carry on to the next, which she didn’t know, and it crippled her tuition one year.

Also, PCC and California State University of Long Beach alumna Desiree Ramirez advised students to thoroughly research what services are offered at their respective campus, and take advantage of professors’ office hours.

“Once I heard of the EOPS program at PCC, I wanted to learn what else PCC had because I didn’t know there was so much available to help me,” Ramirez said. “Also, I used to be too shy to go into office hours, and I look back on that not knowing why. The faculty at PCC is always at their office waiting for you, wanting to help you with anything.”

The forum ended with a question and answer session between attendees and the panelists. Lam was pleased that so many students were intrigued with the panelists’ stories, and that they found themselves a space where they can relate to graduates who were once in their positions.

“My goal was to create a space where people can get inspired to transfer,” Lam said. “Also, [I wanted] to create a supportive space for students who are going through similar obstacles and give them the help they need and can’t get at home.”

When the event concluded, some students didn’t leave, but instead kept talking to the panelists individually for more advice and questions. The panelists happily kept sharing more, and it showed that students have found others they could relate to in the transfer process. It was then that Lam knew the LIT Forum had reached its goal.


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