You’ve probably heard about transferring from a community college to a UC institution, but did you know it’s possible to transfer between UC campuses? This is the path I took—I spent my first two years at UC Santa Barbara before transferring to UC Berkeley for my last two years of undergraduate studies. If you’re interested in hearing about my experience at both universities, please read my Insight Alma Mater: UC Santa Barbara and Insight Alma Mater: UC Berkeley blog posts.
As someone who has successfully transferred between two UC institutions, I want to share my experience; however, I do not want to downplay the potential challenges (and rewards!) students who choose this path may face.
Ultimately, this blog post aims to give an honest account of my experience and things you should be mindful about if you’re considering this option in the future.
Transferring Between UC Campuses: Who, What, and Why?
What Does This Mean & Who Is Eligible: As alluded to previously, students who attend one of the nine UC campuses can apply to transfer to a different UC campus and finish their degree, as long as they meet the transfer prerequisites to do so.
(The requirements to transfer are beyond the scope of this article; however, I strongly recommend consulting Insight counselors if you’re interested in pursuing this option).
The degree conferred is from the latter UC. In my case, I have a BA in Linguistics and a minor in Chinese from UC Berkeley.
Reasons for Considering This Option: A few notable reasons to consider this path include a student’s ideal major is not offered at their UC campus; a student feels that another UC institution may fit them better; personal reasons; or special circumstances. However, please read the full article to better understand what this may entail.
10 Things To Know Before You Transfer
Now that you hopefully have a better idea of what it means to transfer between UC campuses, I’ve compiled ten things you should be aware of if you’re interested in pursuing this option.
#1 From My Experience, Transferring Between UC Institutions is Not Easy
Like I said, I want to provide an honest account, and from my experience, IT IS NOT EASY to transfer between UC institutions. During my sophomore year of college, I had to complete the UC application again and take college-level courses while balancing my other commitments, which was a lot to handle.
What’s more, the official University of California, Office of the President website states, “we give the highest priority to California community college students transferring as juniors—who make up over 90% of our transfer class.”
With few spots available for students transferring from 4-year universities, a strong profile at your original UC institution will only benefit you if you plan on pursuing this seriously.
#2 Try to Make the Most of Your Time at Your Original UC Institution
While transferring is an option, I also strongly encourage you to make the most of your time at your original UC institution by building community; being engaged with your professors, TAs, and the material you’re learning; and exploring all that your school has to offer.
After all, college will pass by quickly, so take advantage of it! Your school could potentially grow on you, and you might prefer completing all four years there.
You now know that you need to work hard at your original school and that you should make the most of your time there. What happens if you’re still looking to transfer in the future? Keep the following in mind:
#3 You Might Feel Like a Freshman…But with University Experience and Less Time
When I transferred to UC Berkeley, I felt like a freshman all over again in some ways, even though I was technically an upperclassman. I got lost multiple times during the first few weeks of school and knew very few people. On the flip side, I already had a sense of how lectures and discussions section worked; I knew how clubs and organizations generally operated; and I had experience living in the dorms from UCSB.
This could possibly be viewed as an “advantage” of transferring from another UC institution—you already have a sense of what being at a 4-year university is like. Nonetheless, this dichotomy of being an upperclassman but feeling like a freshman was something I had to grapple with.
In addition, as I will explain in more detail below, you inherently have less time than freshman by nature—less time to get acclimated, less time to make friends, less time to join clubs, and less time to explore all that your new school has to offer. This will be the reality you will face should you choose to transfer.
#4 People Might Not Understand What It Feels like to Transfer Between UC Campuses
As previously mentioned, California community college students make up the vast majority of transfer students. Even within the transfer community, you’ll likely be in a unique position if you transfer from another UC campus, which can feel isolating. I would strongly encourage you to reach out to your support system as you try to build a community at your new school.
#5 There is a Big Difference Between Quarter System & Semester System
I spent my first two years in the quarter system before transferring to a school that uses the semester system. From my experience, that was an adjustment. I had to learn how to pace myself so that I wouldn’t burn out by the end of the fifteen weeks. So, if you plan on applying to schools with a different system, I suggest taking that into account. Also, your units might not transfer, as I will elaborate on below.
#6 You Might Need to Retake Classes
I had to retake many of my major classes, perhaps partly because quarter system units and semester units might be weighted differently. On one hand, this was a chance to solidify the information in my major classes or see the information presented in a different way.
On the other hand, I also had to decide if I wanted to take all the classes I was interested in and risk not graduating in four years, or focus on taking the mandatory classes which would give me a higher chance of graduating “on time.”
This is something that would be imperative for those seeking to transfer between UC institutions to consider. To better understand your specific major, I recommend reaching out to the major adviser of the schools that you are interested in transferring to and asking if you would need to retake your major classes should you decide to transfer.
#7 You’ll Likely Experience Activities You Wouldn’t Have Had the Chance to
While I had to retake many of my classes, one thing I appreciated about transferring was the amount of extracurricular activities present at UC Berkeley. As I mentioned in my Insight Alma Mater blog post, I taught Taiwanese; joined a dance club for a semester, which was something I’ve always wanted to try; and mentored some community college students. Take advantage of these organizations and experiences that were not present at your old school, especially when you theoretically only have two years to do so.
#8 You Will Gain Some & You Will Lose Some
To sum up, you will gain some and you will lose some if you decide to transfer in case that wasn’t already clear. However, a few years from now, you will ideally have a stronger sense of your values and what you are willing to compromise on if you choose to reapply, given that school culture, environment, weather, relationships, extracurricular activities, academic rigor, research opportunities, and future job prospects are just a few areas that can change should you choose to transfer.
#9 Understand Schools from the Perspective of a Transfer Student
If you receive acceptance as a transfer student, it’s imperative to not only try to understand the school and environment but also understand the school from the perspective of a transfer student.
How big is that particular school’s transfer population? What specific resources are available for transfer students and students transferring from another UC institution? How much support is given to the transfer population? What courses can you transfer over, and what courses do you need to retake? Know the answers to these questions.
#10 You Will Get a More Holistic College Experience
I learned quickly that UC campuses, at least the ones I attended, are unique schools in many ways, even if they’re all classified under the UC system. From noticing the difference in school culture down to the nitty-gritty of how students get to and from campus, you’ll gain a more holistic experience and nuanced perspective of what university is like that other students don’t experience should you decide to transfer.
After witnessing what culture and learning environment best fits you, this could be incredibly valuable insight if you plan on applying to graduate school in the future.
Since it’s uncommon to transfer between UC campuses, I hope this blog post has provided some insight into what this may entail should you pursue this in the future.
However, your Insight counselor is a great resource who can provide more details about the process and offer suggestions given your individual circumstances, so please consult your Insight counselor if you’re interested in hearing more about this path.
Thanks for reading! Good luck, and you got this!
Authored by Jenny Huang.