For most of my life, I have always felt pulled in different directions and hesitant to make big decisions, afraid that I’ll make the wrong one. When my senior year of high school came around, I applied to around 20 colleges with different majors for most of them, which clearly showed that I did not have any real idea of what I wanted from college. When I started to receive acceptance letters, I realized that I knew neither what I wanted to major in nor where I wanted to go out of my choices.
Upon this realization, I decided to attend community college and figure out what I wanted to do. My brother had attended community college and successfully transferred to UCLA as a mechanical engineering major. Once I saw his acceptance letter from UCLA, I realized that I too could achieve this feat and transfer to what had become my dream university. However, there is no doubt that being a transfer student comes with a unique set of challenges that few students outside of this community understand. Having now finished my first two quarters at UCLA, I have learned a lot about myself and the transfer process, including tips that I have to share about this transition to a new university.
1. Welcome Change
One of the most important things that I have learned as a transfer student is to welcome change rather than fight it. I spent most of my first quarter at UCLA comparing it to my community college and complaining about how different it was. This made me really unhappy because I was focused on the past rather than the present and not celebrating where I was and how hard I worked to get here. This is a trap that many transfer students fall into right from the start, which can create resentment towards the university and mental challenges. It is important to anticipate change and embrace it as a transfer student because every college is different and the mindset we choose to have when we transfer is vital to our success as well as personal growth and happiness.
2. Be Patient
Patience is something transfer students should expect to build when transferring to a new university. Transfer students have to learn to navigate a new environment and culture in a lot of ways when transitioning to a new college. During my first quarter, I grew incredibly frustrated with not knowing how to schedule a counseling appointment or how to receive help in classes. It was also hard to make friends at the beginning because most students already have a group of friends during their junior year of college. Transferring to a new college can be difficult, but being patient and understanding that changes are not easy to deal with will make the transition easier.
3. Get Involved
I knew right away that getting involved in something at your new university was crucial for building a community on campus. This was something that my brother stressed to me before I got to UCLA, and now I know firsthand that finding your community on campus makes the transition to a new environment much easier. I have struggled to find my community on campus, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still making it difficult to maintain social connections, but I recently joined an organization composed of other transfer students and have been able to make connections with them. Having people that you can de-stress with is crucial to your well-being during a transition by helping you make stronger connections to the university and improve your academics.
4. Be Positive
One of my biggest mistakes when I first started at UCLA was having a negative attitude towards the university. Positivity was something that I really lacked because everything was different, which meant that I had to learn a new school system all over again. Having a positive attitude and a growth mindset as a transfer student is extremely important because transitions are stressful and difficult to deal with. Being negative towards your new school can make you feel isolated from those around you and make it difficult to form friendships. It is important to recognize transitioning to a new college as an opportunity to grow and challenge yourself.
5. Ask For Help
Asking for help is incredibly important as a transfer student because your new university has a completely different way of doing things, and being a new student means that you are not going to know a lot of things when you first get there. It is also common to make mistakes as a transfer student, which is why it is important to ask for help so that you do not make the same mistake again. It takes time to get used to a new university, but reaching out to others for academic or social advice will positively impact you in a lot of ways. Building a support system should be a top priority for transfer students, as transitions can be emotionally draining and tough.
The transfer experience is a challenging process, but it is well worth it.