How I Transferred Out of Community College

The university application system was designed to keep you out. Community colleges were created to get you in.

The university application system was designed to keep you out.

Community colleges were created to get you in.

Notice I did not say community colleges were “designed” to get you in.

The system is hard. Not all credits are transferrable. And there isn’t a universally accepted curriculum across the US, or within states.

So here’s how I did it. I hope this guide can still help people outside of California.

How I Started Out

When I was 17 and enrolled in community college, I didn’t know how hard it would be.

I was lucky that my wake-up call came 3 weeks into my first semester. I qualified for Calculus, so I took it, thinking it would be smart to knock out 5 credits in one class.

Mistake. I was terrible at calc. By the 3rd week, my grade was already so low, the professor pulled me aside and asked what my major was.

I was set on liberal arts. So she kindly suggested I drop her class before it ruined my transcript.

This was the best advice she could have given me.

I was in way over my head. I had no idea what I was doing, and the fact that I had to drop a class freaked me out.

How I Figured It Out

So I went to the admissions office and got one of those IGETC flyers, which outlined the curriculum I needed to follow in order to transfer.

What’s IGETC? Pronounced “I-get-see,” it’s the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum. These are the courses that California community college students can take to satisfy general education requirements for most University of California campuses & majors.

I was set on UCLA, UC Berkeley, or UC Irvine.

Then I picked up a course catalog and circled all the classes that fulfilled IGETC requirements.

I considered only those classes. And there were plenty to choose from.

Then I figured out how I’d finish all the courses based on the 4 semesters I had, while being mindful of the 5 credits I just lost. I had to make sure I took 5 classes each semester.

At this time, first semester, first year, I didn’t know exactly what my major would be.

Though I had a feeling it would likely be Communications, English, or Literary Journalism.

For second semester and onward, I chose only those transferrable classes based on ratings and reviews on RateMyProfessors. I don’t know how helpful that site is today, but 10+ years ago, it gave me a good sense of what to expect from each professor.

Meantime, I met with several guidance counselors. I’d open up the course catalog or point to the IGETC form and do a sanity check.

But when in doubt, I always followed the catalog or form. This looks to be a similar but better resource than what I had.

But then I made another mistake.

Wanting to get ahead, I signed up for 2 classes during the short, 5-week winter quarter at another community college.

The professors actually crammed the 3-month semester into those 5 weeks. I couldn’t keep up. I eked out a C- and a B.

I was afraid these grades would tank my GPA. So I resolved not to use these transcripts.

This meant I had to take even more classes during the remaining spring and fall semesters to transfer within the 2-year time frame. I took 7 classes each semester.

I hustled. Applied to the 3 UCs on my list. Got into all of them. Though I’ll admit, I had a 3.9 GPA. Did I get in because of my grades? Maybe.

But UCs give highest priority to community college students, who make up 90% of junior transfers. And the minimum GPA required is 2.4.

The overall takeaways?

By the end of your first semester at CC (or sooner):

  • Get a sense for which college you want to transfer to
  • Narrow down your major to 3 options, max
  • Choose only from transferrable courses
  • Double check with a counselor or ask for help

Transferring out of community college is hard, but it’s doable.

Though my parents were happy to have me at home, I knew they were disappointed. I heard whispers of friends-of-friends saying how “sad” my life was because I was “supposed to be smart.”

When I dropped that Calculus class, I had something like a 10% grade. I even had a friend tutoring me after class. I had never felt so stupid. What business did I think I had being there?

I was lost.

I figured it out mostly on my own, but I don’t think it should be that way for anybody.

Still, it was worth it for me, and I’m proud I did it. And I hope more high school students consider this in the future.