Finding Success as a Transfer

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The Transfer Student Experience

Being a transfer student comes with a unique set of challenges, many of which are related to the two-year time frame in which you get to attend Berkeley. Some of these experiences are universal to all undergraduates, such as doing well in your classes and exploring career paths. Others, like questioning “How can I truly be a part of the undergraduate student experience?” are very pointed toward transfers.

With Transfer Student Center staff member Nicholas Sypherd (Class of 2023, Media Law & Policy), I dive into all of the services offered to transfers at the Transfer Center as well as how to make friends, be successful in academics and extracurriculars, and combat “imposter syndrome.”

A selfie of Nicholas wearing a white bucket hat.

Nicholas Sypherd (they/them)

Transfer Center’s Services

“To me, the Transfer Center is more than the sum of its parts,” they said. “We offer things such as a community space for studying, making friends, having lunch, or guidance counseling with our fantastic counselors”

Alongside having a safe space for transfers, the center offers academic resources such as the transition course for the jump from community college to Berkeley-level coursework and the that pairs current community college students with a transfer student mentor. Many of my friends have vouched that the transition course was helpful for their first semester at Berkeley. There are also community-based programs such as the Transfer OSOS that provide resources and space for Latinx-identifying people. Nicholas reminds me that even if you’re not in a program, it’s beneficial just to experience the space.

“While this list is long,” they added, ”I don’t think it encompasses the joy and fun maintained in the center. I, along with my peers, have made so many friends and relationships with the transfer students that come into the center. It genuinely feels like a community (even if you just come for the free printing). In sum, it’s a place where we transfers can feel seen, valued, and represented on campus.”

Students watching and amused at a presentation at the Transfer Center.

Transfer Center

Academic and Extracurricular Success

As a Berkeley student, academic success can be an integral factor to your undergraduate experience. I was concerned about my academic performance prior to coming here so it was a relief to realize how many people were in my corner wanting me to succeed. Building relationships with teachers and mentors alongside joining programs is Nicholas’ advice for students wanting to succeed academically.

“To augment my academic success, I made friends with my professors and GSIs and would just make casual conversation with them,” they said. “Eventually, when the time came, I was so comfortable with them that asking academic questions came easy.”

Nicholas added that they also used services like the SLC writing center which improved their writing skills to bridge the gap from community college to UC. “In sum, ask for help and you will receive it. If somebody isn’t giving you help, move to the next and don’t get too down. Somebody will be able to assist you!”

Receiving good grades is great, but life post-graduation also requires attention and effort. Landing internships and jobs are stressful but similar to academic achievement, personal relationships will take you far in what you want to pursue after the graduation ceremony.

“Personally I have found great success in internships and post-grad life by taking a work-study position” said Nicholas. “I know this isn’t something everybody is able to do, but by working closely with professionals and building those relationships, unexpected doors are opened. Relationships generally are the most potent way to get into fields so make sure to hang with professors, mentors, GSIs, counselors, and other professionals.”

A Transfer Center worker smiling in front of their work desk.

Transfer Center

Building Relationships

College is about learning your intended areas of study, but there is another type of learning at play: forming friendships and relationships. This is essential to your personal journey here as well. Coming from attending community college during the pandemic, I was incredibly excited to meet new people and viewed it as integral to my college experience as my classes. Nicholas offers advice on taking the initiative to connect with others.

“One of my biggest pieces of advice is to put yourself out there and make friends with the people that sit in the front of the class. From my own experience, many of the people that sit in the front love to make study groups, which in turn can become social groups and can help you segue into new social circles that you may not have previously expected to find yourself in. Similarly, join fun clubs! Berkeley is known to have somewhat of a competitive club culture, and while this can be great for applying to grad schools, college is not just about posturing yourself for future goals; it is also for you to learn about yourself and enjoy being in like-minded groups. Join clubs, meet people who sit in the front of your classes, and remember we are all humans who crave social interaction.”

People talking with the clubs tabling on Upper Sproul.

Club Tabling on Upper Sproul

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome, or “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s efforts or skills,” is an infamous concept surrounding transferring.

I didn’t hear of this term before transferring to Berkeley and I don’t subscribe to it now. As a transfer student, my outlook is that I’ve had to take an untraditional route to go where I want, yet that doesn’t detract from my sense of capability and accomplishment. If anything, it reminds me of my resiliency. You were chosen to attend Berkeley not by chance or out of charity, but because you belong here.

For Nicholas, imposter syndrome “came from finding myself at a level of inherent prestige while simultaneously existing at an intersection of perfectionism that didn’t allow me to internalize the immense effort it took me to get here. I felt like I hadn’t done much other than attend class to get accepted and suddenly everybody not included in the UC/ivy-adjacent/ivy community was looking at me as if I were some kind of genius.”

This was especially the case for Nicholas because, as they said, they graduated high school with a ~2.0 GPA and had never been viewed like this before. “I wish I could tell people a magic trick that makes it go away, but that would be mendacious,” they said. “I will say that speaking out loud about what I was working on with my clubs, my work-study position, and extracurriculars made it harder for me to deny my efforts. Sometimes you need to just straight up gas yourself up — you’re already here, so why waste the opportunity feeling you shouldn’t be?”

After doing the personal work to understand why they somehow couldn’t recognize their achievements, it “inevitably pushed me to radically change my perspective to one that recognized the difficulty of my own achievements and allowed me to celebrate my accomplishments.”

I consulted with Nicholas for any parting advice on making the most out of your time at Cal. In return, I received a message that comforted me as well: that we have more than enough time to do what we want to do while we’re here.

“The greatest advice I can give is to take your time. I know the stress. I know that it feels like you have to hit the ground running to achieve half of what traditional students can and I’m grateful that I can tell you it’s not true. You have more than enough time to succeed here. You can do research, study abroad, build relationships, join clubs, and whatever else you want to do without fear that your achievements will be truncated due to your transfer status. Furthermore, a fifth semester is a great way to continue your education here and study abroad to get all you can out of Berkeley before graduation. Have faith in yourself and do your best.”

As Nicholas said, you have plenty of time to make the most out of your experience. I’m only in my second semester here, and I’ve been able to take phenomenal classes, join multiple publications, be a part of Greek life, and meet lifelong friends. Moreover, I am about to study abroad this summer.

Your time here will be just as beneficial and fulfilling regardless of when you’re arriving at Cal. Take advantage of the Transfer Center and all it has to offer as well as consider this advice for achieving success here!


Preslee Vanlandingham is a third-year at UC Berkeley majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing.

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