What to expect when transferring to a four-year college

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Michelle Huang
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For students who begin their college journey at a community college, transferring to a four-year school is an important milestone. We get excited to move into the next step in our lives yet when school starts, all this excitement can turn into a nightmare. Four-year college is not the same as a community college. Before I did not believe in the impostor syndrome, but it is real. At first I felt uncomfortable at my new campus, but I learned to embrace the struggles I experienced and also obtained a valuable lesson through it. Let’s explore some tips on surviving the transition to a four-year college.

Prepare your mindset 

Doing well academically in community college does not guarantee academic success at a university. I was overconfident when I transferred since I did very well at community college. That was a mistake. I failed to take into account that my community college was on a semester system, while my four-year college is on a quarter system. All the courses were at a faster pace, and I had midterms as early as week three or four with a lot of material covered. The lesson I learned: do not procrastinate. As soon as you begin a new class, go ahead and self-study ahead of time to excel in your courses. Most importantly, refrain from being overconfident and stay humble. Your state of mind influences how you face what is ahead of you.

Build your connections

Many classes are conducted in huge lecture halls. It is almost impossible to have discussions when the lecture is in session. You might not even be able to see the professor from your seat. However, you can still meet your professors during office hours and build your connection with them. Of course you can ask questions clarifying course content, but I would suggest asking other questions as well, such as career advice and research opportunities. I had a really great experience during office hours and was amazed by how brilliant the faculty are. Trust me, you will learn so much by visiting your professors and you might even receive a job opportunity. Keep in mind those professors have a bunch of connections, and when it comes to recruitment, networking plays a big role.

Don’t forget about self-care

Yes, college is tough and we all need to work hard to get those grades so we can apply for graduate school and jobs. Yet college is not only about studying; you should take some time to relax and pamper yourself. Self-care is the most important thing I learned during my first quarter. I have always been an overachiever and I tend to focus only on studying, but I reached the point where I got burned out which made me realize the importance of self-care. Your body will be able to function better when you are in a relaxed condition. Additionally, it is a new environment. Go and explore what your new college and surrounding areas have to offer. Treat yourself to some good food or do something you enjoy. Find a balance in your life. Grades are important, but your health is more precious.

Regardless, every four-year university is different. The tips above are drawn from my first quarter experience at UCLA, and your experience will not be the same. Hopefully, these tips can give you an overview of transfer life. When it comes to adjusting, you will encounter challenges, but eventually you will find your place. Think of it as a process of growing to become a better version of yourself.


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