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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

My journey to UCLA was an unconventional one. UCLA is the third higher education institution that I have had the pleasure of attending, with the first being a four-year university and the second being my local community college. During all of the transitions, I learned the ins and outs of transfer applications, and here are my best tips for any prospective UCLA transfers:

**Disclaimer: Please consider that these were what I personally believe helped me get into UCLA. Doing everything on this list does not guarantee your admission!

Transfer from a community college

If there was a single piece of advice I would give to a prospective UCLA transfer, I would tell them to avoid transferring from anywhere but a California community college. I started my college career at another four-year institution when I realized that I wanted to transfer to UCLA. Upon doing some research, I found out that 94% of admitted transfer students came from a community college. The UCLA admissions website even cites “junior-level transfers from California community colleges” as their “highest priority.” It isn’t impossible to transfer from another four-year institution to a UC, but if you want your application to be prioritized, I recommend making the jump to a community college. When meeting with UC counselors, they explained that having at least 30 units completed at a community college will give you a standing as a community college applicant.

Join a tap/tag program

TAG (Transfer Admission Guarantee) and TAP (Transfer Alliance Program) are programs available to first-year community college students that can greatly help your chances of getting into a UC. TAG programs guarantee admission to certain UC schools as long as you complete a set of requirements. TAP programs do not guarantee admission and provide priority consideration instead. UCLA, Berkeley and UCSD are the only UCs that do not have TAG programs. However, there are ways of boosting your application by enrolling in the TAP programs. Personally, I chose to obtain an Associates Degree for Transfer rather than partake in a TAP program given my second year standing in community college. However, I highly recommend joining the program to boost your application!

explore the courses that interest you the most

Community college is a much cheaper alternative for exploring classes than a UC is. I took a marine biology course to satisfy a GE while at my college, and it ended up igniting my passion for the environment. It even inspired my favorite UC essay on my application and guided me towards picking up my minor in conservation biology at UCLA. On top of taking diverse and interesting classes, I highly recommend that you look into the programs that your college offers for your intended career. I personally partook in a Law Pathway Program that provided me with internship experience in a courthouse. After completing the program, I not only got to show my interest for law in my application, but I also now have priority consideration from certain California law schools when I apply! There are hundreds of similar resources to help you find the perfect career path for you.

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don’t be someone you’re not in your application

I know that the college application grind can be all-consuming. For me, it took the shape of considering everything I did through the lens of a potential admissions board critiquing me. Do not do this! I can’t emphasize enough that your first two years of college should be spent exploring your potential majors and minors. Once admitted, it is really tricky for transfer students to change their majors due to the lack of time left in their degree. Be realistic with your goals and pursue something that you’re passionate about. For example, don’t complete math prerequisites just to look good on your application if you’re more liberal arts-oriented. If you aren’t authentic to yourself, you risk making yourself not stand out when you apply. Instead, look at your current strengths and activities and recognize how they have helped you grow.

prioritize your essays and grades

As much as these other factors on this list will help, a lot of your application consideration will boil down to your GPA and essays. UCLA releases an annual profile of the general GPAs of every major. These profiles are a good tool when figuring out what GPA to aim for if you have your heart set on a specific one. You should also take note of impacted majors, which are majors that are notably harder to get into due to the amount of people applying. As for essays, I personally went for goofier subject topics that showed my growth and interests. For example, one of my essays was entirely about making juice at a juice shop where I gave advice on how to make a good smoothie. The goofier the better! Give the application readers something entertaining to read while also doing your best to reflect your strengths and passions.

become igetc certified

IGETC certification is the community college way of saying you completed your lower division requirements for UC consideration. With a websites like ASSIST.org, you are able to match each community college course to a current UCLA class and see what kind of requirements you are satisfying. Completing your IGETC is not mandatory for admission. However, with how competitive UCLA is, it is a good idea to try to complete as many as you can. After all, becoming IGETC certified is the cheapest way to complete your lower-division courses and save you thousands of dollars.

Applications are hard and confusing, and having to put your entire life’s work into a portfolio for someone to review can be daunting. Even if UCLA seems like your destined path, keep your heart open to other schools and steer clear of labelling any of them a “dream school.” You will end up where you’re meant to end up!

Madenn is a fourth-year Political Science student with a minor in Conservation Biology at UCLA. She is passionate about all things environment, pop culture, and activism!