My Best Advice: New on Campus? My Advice for Incoming College Transfer Students

 

As a third year, I’m currently still in the process of adjusting to university’s quarter system -- I am a transfer student at University of California, Irvine. Most of us have already experienced two or more years of college. I spent two years at my community college before I arrived to this campus. I was often identified as a freshman during welcome week because the way I was navigating myself that made me look like I was new, but I wasn’t asked if I was a transfer though. We are different than freshmen when it comes to academics, maturity and overall life experiences but we’re similar to freshmen because we are both new to the campus, people and environment. Now that I’m in my third quarter at UCI, I realized that the process of transferring by no means simple. It requires some effort to acclimate to a new academic system and social environment, especially if you're transferring far from this city. Being a transfer from the Bay Area, at times can be hard because I don’t know anybody in SoCal and I don’t get to go home until winter and spring breaks. For some transferring students, new academic and living norms can even be a “shock” if it’s really different than the environment you’re used to be in. Studies have shown transfer students experience drops in their GPA, especially in the first quarter. And there are many different reasons to that. (Just a reminder that your GPA from community college will not carry over so in a sense, your UCI GPA is starting from scratch. Your GPA basically resets to 0.00 when you transfer. This is also an opportunity to start over.) Since you’re new, you may not spend as much time on your education as much as you want to after working your butt off going through the transferring process at a community college. You’re trying to find new people, enjoy the new life here and explore around.

 

My mind goes back to the things that I have learned from going through the process of getting used to the new system, city and overall environment. So here are just some of the few things I thought might be helpful for the incoming transfer students to make their transition as successful as possible.

 

1. Don’t estimate your classes. Be prepared to get work done in 10 weeks

Usually transfer students are more prepared and tend to perform better academically. We seem to be more self-directed and focused at this point in college. Therefore, many transfer students tend to assume their classes will be easy when they first get to UCI and almost forget that we are going into the quarter system, which is pretty different. Terms are shorter which means we have to learn faster. We might not push ourselves to work hard if we were in the semester system since we would have more time to engage in other non-studying activities. Coming from a semester schedule, my first two weeks classes seemed super easy. But the speed of the quarter system actually threw me off. I had to learn the hard way when I found out I was falling behind with the massive readings and books assignments. So be sure you make time to study a little everyday. A lot of us tend to procrastinate until the end of the week and do the work over the weekend. I tend to spend my weekend for relaxations, exercise and more sleep. However if you get lost for a few weeks on the quarter schedule, it's going to be much harder to get back up. That's a legitimate downside. Really though, it’s very stressful sometimes since the pace is much quicker. The bottom line is that if you like to move quickly, be efficient, and don’t mind an extra workload, then you will most definitely find the quarter system to be for you. If you are not the best test-taker like me, you like to get super in-depth, and you value taking your time, then you probably hate the quarter system. Again, some transfer students are well prepared and some are not. It really depends on the situation and the determination of the student. 

 

2. Talk with an adviser.

Another thing I would tell transfer students to do when they arrive on campus is talk to their academic adviser, and work through the details of which credits transfer, which don't, and just to get a better understanding of your major courses. Transferring can be a very stressful process and many times you will seem lost. The Transfer Student Center at UCI (located right across from Zot-N-Go) provides programs and services for transfer students. They help students transition effectively into college and maximize their UCI experience. They also provide students with one-on-one meetings if you ever have any concerns or needs. Always stop by the center and check it out. I usually pass by the building when I am on my way to class. It will never hurt to just walk in and talk to someone. You can discuss the topics such as time management, coping with stress or goal setting. They have a mid-quarter check in where you can talk to a counselor who can help you during a stressful time. I encourage you all to take advantage of these services. I actually went in and met with a counselor a couple times during the quarter when I felt overwhelmed and stressed.

 

3. Live on campus.

I realized that living on campus over at AV, VDC Norte, Camino Del Sol and VDC will help transfer students be more connected to their new school. Also another plus is that the Anteater Recreation Center is only a quick walk away from these campus housings! As transfers, you are basically like a first year student at UCI and you should get that first year student experience. Living on campus can help you meet other students and make friends easily. I had a few friends who opted to commute a few miles to their new school admit they lament their decisions, because they felt detached and difficult to fit in and make new friends. Plus I don’t have a car to drive down here so living on campus was the best option for me. It could be very pricy to live on campus if I didn’t have financial aid covered. If you decide to live off campus to save a little and don’t mind commuting, it will just require some extra work to meet people and stay connected. I would say to live somewhere closer but then again there is always other ways to get into the social scene and stay connected to the school campus such as join clubs or finding an on campus part-time job!

 

4. Get involved on campus.

Living on campus can help, but it's integral for transfer students seeking a new social group to be active in student organizations. Getting involved on campus will be the best way to transition. When it’s a new beginning, you are given a fresh start. You can make the most of your time in college by challenging yourself and seeking new and exciting opportunities. I have also heard someone said that if someone ever asks you to attend anything with her/him, say yes. It’s just an opportunity for you to get out there, and a great way to make friends and jump out of comfort zone. A part-time job on campus can make it easier for you get more involved on campus as well. If you are moderately interested in joining a club and their meetings are right before or right after your shifts, you might be more inclined to attend. There are more than one hundred of clubs and student organizations at UCI, as well as other activities such as club sports. Find something that you are passionate about, related to your major, or interests will help you build the connection and friendship with the right people. Make sure you check them out before you think about what you really want to join and weather it is really for you. You never know if you’re interested until you actually attend the meeting and meet the people. But don’t become too involved and join too many at once though. That was me my first quarter. I wasn’t focusing as much on my classes. It became hard to follow through towards the end since I was still adjusting. I ended up not being able to stay committed. So I would suggest join no more than 2 clubs in your first quarter.  To me, however, each quarter is like a fresh start. So maybe you’ve always wanted to try another new sport, intern at UCI’s radio station like I did (KUCI 88.9FM) or study abroad in Taiwan – well, you can definitely start off trying something new next quarter.

 

5. Join Facebook groups or pages!

There are tons of UCI Facebook groups as well as transfer student Facebook groups. I didn't even realize that social media outlets are actually useful to stay connected and meet other transfers students. You can post questions on Facebook, and there are other fellow students usually willing to respond. It’s way easier to interact with people since everyone is in the same boat as you. I met most of the transfer students through a transfer student Facebook group. Also, be aware of events happening on your campus. You can easily find updates and posts about campus events such as concerts, or club fairs through the Facebook page. Attending events such as volleyball or basketball games are a great way to express and reinforce a strong sense of pride in your school. So joining Facebook groups will be one of the quickest and easiest way to look out what’s happening on campus.

 

6. Know your workload. Balance your social and academic life.

The two hardest parts of college to balance are academics and having a social lifeWhen you just get here, you might tend to focus more on your social life. Make sure you know your workload before you decide to go out and party. It’s natural to have fun and go out with friends, but it’s also important to understand that doing work will make it easier for you to relax and have fun after all the work is done. You just need to make sure what goes first and last. Being a student in college has so many responsibilities; it consists of attending lectures, going to office hours, completing readings, finishing assignments, studying for tests and exams and more and more. It can be hard to maintain a sense of balance. No doubt that we will face a time when we feel unmotivated - stressed - depressed - anxious - exhausted  - become run down or sick - feel anti-social - not be able to sleep or sleep too much and unable to study or work. So I tend to spend a lot of time for exercise, and especially, relaxation before I can even study or function. I feel that they are necessary to my life. We are all human with human needs. I make sure I take care of my body and mind before I can do anything else. Nonetheless, every person has his or her own mindset and way of doing things. If you stay focus and prioritize in college, then you will sure have a successful and eventful college experience.

 

These are just some of the many things that I have acquired as a transfer. Ultimately, the transfer experience is what one makes of it. It can be as simple as opening yourself up to new things. So get excited for what’s to come and make sure you get the best college experience possible!