I Have Some Complicated Feelings Experiencing Senior Year as a Transfer Student

This piece has been syndicated from University of California Santa Barbara. You can join a chapter at your school (or start your own!).

Last year at UC Santa Barbara was actually my first year at UCSB, and now this year is really my last year at UCSB. Confusing, right? That’s what it’s like being a transfer student. You go to a community college for two or three years, then apply to a four-year university, and before you know it, that first year is already over. Next, you realize what little time you have left. People who come in as freshmen are students for four whole years, but as transfers, we only get to experience two of those years.  

Yes, I’m technically a graduating senior now, but do I feel like one? Not really. I feel like I’m just beginning this journey at UCSB, but in reality, it’s coming to an end quite soon. I don’t feel like I’m ready for what’s coming next (although who ever does, really?). There’s an immense pressure now to make the most of this year and to spend time with friends, while also figuring out our rapidly approaching futures.

My friend Kyrie, a fellow senior transfer, told me, “I feel like I didn’t have enough time here.” My other friend Lauren says she “feels like a sophomore,” because it’s technically only our second year here. These are pretty common opinions among us transfers. Don’t get me wrong, deciding to go to community college before transferring was the smartest decision I made. I wouldn’t have been ready straight out of high school – for a multitude of reasons. The only reason I’m able to attend UCSB is because I attended Cabrillo College beforehand. It gave me time to figure out what I wanted to study, and I was able to boost my grades and GPA tremendously. Also, I didn’t do very well in high school, so there was no chance that a university like UCSB would’ve accepted me upon graduation. This was the right path for me, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t come with challenges. 

I spent my first year as a junior transfer trying to get into my major, struggling a lot of the time, and then ultimately, not getting in. This basically wasted the majority of my first year and I felt pretty discouraged – and disconnected. It feels unfair to me that I spent three years getting an associate degree in communications, but then I wasn’t even able to continue in that major after transferring because of the a highly competitive system in place. I decided to switch to sociology, and only petitioned for that major a week ago. I won’t be graduating on time unless I take five or more classes a quarter which is nearly impossible unless you’re a super-student. However, I do have the option of walking in the graduation ceremony alongside my friends, I just won’t officially graduate until I’ve completed all my courses. But on the bright side, I’m going to take advantage of studying abroad while I still can, most likely in the fall of next year.  

As the years have gone by and I’ve experienced what life in college is truly like, the idea of spending four years at a university and graduating on time with a diploma seems less and less like an “ideal” goal to achieve. Everyone is experiencing something different. We’re all going in different directions, at different paces, and some people are further ahead than others — not that it’s any kind of competition. I mean hey, we’re not all just seniors who are wandering aimlessly with no direction. The more you realize this, the more you understand that there’s no right way to do things. You should only be worried about what’s right for yourself. That can mean taking time off for mental health reasons, wanting to do a gap year and working for a while, or deciding to change your major halfway through. I may not be graduating on time, but that surely isn’t the end of the world and it ultimately won’t determine how successful I’ll be. It just means that’s how things have worked out for me, and I’m working at a comfortable pace that suits me. I don’t have everything figured out yet, but I don’t mind taking more time if that’s what I need.  

If you’re a senior transfer like me, just remember you don’t have to let that define your overall experience, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to fit into the “ideal” senior image. Anyways, it might be nice having to stay an extra year if you feel like you didn’t have enough time to have a well-rounded college experience.