As a transfer from Berkeley City College, I thought that going to UC Berkeley would be a smooth transition. I would be able to live in the same student co-op, keep all my old friends and feel right at home here in Berkeley. In fact, the only real difference would be my daily walk from one campus to another — and, of course, the cost.
So why do I feel like I’ve already dropped the ball after only a few weeks?
Going to a community college only a block away from Cal has definitely given me an edge over most transfers. There was no need to figure out a new housing situation or worry about getting situated in a new city far away from home. Instead, all my efforts would be solely focused on getting adjusted to the increased academic rigor — or so I thought. What I had not expected was the competitive atmosphere that engulfed most of the extracurriculars on campus.
In hindsight, I should have expected that most opportunities would be as competitive as the students who were fortunate enough to be granted admission, but I was caught off guard. By the time I write this, I have either been rejected from or missed the deadlines for most DeCals, Mock Trial, The Daily Californian, all those premier business clubs and a few other opportunities I recently learned about — the majority of which will only open again next fall.
As a transfer student, I have only two years — maybe 2 1/2 years, if I’m lucky — to make use of this campus. I not only have to adjust to the greatly increased workload that Berkeley presents, but I have to compete against other students to partake in extracurricular activities that I’m interested in. It almost feels like I have to live two different lives: one as a full-time student and one as a competitive applicant in the student-life marketplace.
Deciding to solely focus on my academics would be an admirable choice. But that would feel like I had made it to the big leagues only to sit on the bench. So in deciding what to get involved with, I’m hit with a trifecta of dilemmas: I’ve either learned about the opportunities too late, I don’t have enough spare time from studying or there’s an overchoice of decisions available.
There is also another important factor to mention about getting involved early. As transfers, we only have a short amount of time to decide what direction we want to take. Whether that is sticking with our intended degree, specializing in a specific field or going into another focus entirely, our extracurriculars can help us decide what we want to do. The significance of deciding early allows one to prepare more and have access to more specific resources.
The thing is, transfers exist in a different realm than freshman admits; we share the same sense of achievement for making it here and feel the same imposter syndrome that most do, but there is an extra feeling of exclusion. It’s a feeling that makes us want to prove ourselves against the freshman admits to feel that we are all equal and deserve to go the same university. With roughly a third of the undergraduates being transfers, it’s important to know you’re not alone in this feeling. Reaching out to the transfer community can put your mind at ease and introduce you to many resources.
For myself, the advice I received from year-two transfers has made a world of difference. Because of it, I’ve learned and utilized such resources as the Transfer Transition Program, the Berkeley Connect classes, Berkeley Transition courses, transfer-friendly clubs, ASUC transfer positions and the Starting Point Mentorship Program. The transition from being a new student to a well-rounded upper-level one who’s expected to graduate in two years seems more attainable.
For those who are new to the area or simply don’t know many other transfers, my biggest piece of advice would be to make the Transfer Student Center, or TSC, a home away from home. All the resources mentioned above, along with the insider tips from those who made this journey before you, can be found there — along with plenty of friendly faces. The rush of being a new student and getting involved is something that the TSC can make more student-friendly.
On the one hand, I feel overwhelmed by how much I need to take into consideration, but on the other hand, I feel as though learning how to take initiative is exactly what Berkeley strives to teach its students. Keep in mind that even Golden Bears aren’t afraid to reach out for help when on the hunt in the wild.