Transfer Talk Tuesday: Transfer Journey – Community College

Transfer Talk Tuesdays are a series of personal blogs where current USC transfer students dive deeper into their real-life stories, perspectives, and experiences in transferring to USC. Note that each transfer application is unique and there are no guaranteed paths to transfer. For guidance on how to put together a competitive transfer application, please review our Transferring to USC brochure. 

The transfer process was an immensely enlightening project that allowed me a chance to seriously consider my academic interests for the first time. Before my application to USC as a second-year transfer student, I applied to other colleges for freshman year admission, but the process was very haphazard. My mindset departed very little from the immature notion that college was a mere step towards a generalized ideal life path. While I received offers from several colleges with scholarships, my own uncertainty and doubt prevented me from ascertaining a sense of direction at any of the universities that admitted me. The year in community college where I took GE (General Education) courses and did my best to correspond my coursework with the guidelines laid out by USC gave me a needed boost of discipline, rigor, and confidence to confront the overwhelming question of, “what I want to do in college?”  Going into the application process with a much-needed sensible approach, I was able to truly envision myself at USC. With USC’s research focus, I realized the institution could allow me to continue my search for the greater truths within my academic interest. In many ways, students are scared to research their colleges in fear that research would reveal truths that shatter their idealistic illusion of college; but my maturation in community college has allowed me to shake away this unfounded fear. I applied to USC not because I became enchanted by their football games or culture, but because I developed a liking to their research focus in the realm of my historical interest and their generous financial aid. 

Overall, the process went without many issues. I attended a community college that had a Articulation Agreement with USC, so I was able to gain necessary counseling and advice through both in-house community college advisors and email communication my USC Admission Counselor. However, I must stress this notion that it is very much a necessity for you to do individual research on USC; there is plenty of available and accurate information on the USC website. While the act of talking and confirming with knowledgeable people is an amazing tool to fully understand whether USC is the right institution for your goals, please conduct your careful research of the school. 

Written by Tae Jin Suh (he/him/his), 4th year student majoring in History, transferred from El Camino College  

Transfer Talk Tuesday: Transfer Journey – Non-Traditional Path


Transfer Talk Tuesdays are a series of personal blogs where current USC transfer students dive deeper into their real-life stories, perspectives, and experiences in transferring to USC. Note that each transfer application is unique and there are no guaranteed paths to transfer. For guidance on how to put together a competitive transfer application, please review our Transferring to USC brochure. 

My name is Sammie Zenoz and I am currently a senior at USC. I transferred in from Miami Dade Community College in South Florida. I am majoring in Creative Writing with a double minor in Screenwriting and Theatre. At USC, I work with the Office of Admission as a Transfer Ambassador, helping community college students navigate the transfer process and sharing my own experience as a successful transfer applicant.  

My Transfer Journey: The Non-Traditional Student 

From Past High School Dropout to Future Valedictorian 

“It wasn’t long ago that I defined who I was by my single greatest failure: being a high school dropout. I wore it like a mark of shame and ached with regret for all the missed memories, forgotten friendships, and lost opportunities. It was agonizing to watch from afar as my former classmates stumbled through all these important milestones while I went through the hardest time in my life. It was a difficult decision to drop out of school at fifteen years old, but something terrible happened to me and I couldn’t ignore it. I needed to take the time to understand it, heal from it, and find my own way back. I struggled for a long time but in the end I learned one important thing: the most difficult lessons are those with the greatest rewards.” 

This was the beginning paragraph to my letter of appeal when I was initially rejected by USC back in 2020. To this day, I consider it to be the single greatest thing I’ve ever written and the very letter that changed my life forever.  

At the time I was in the middle of my own transfer process, like many of you are now. I had just graduated from community college and I didn’t know where my next step would lead me. Every waking moment since graduation day and even before, I wondered whether I’d actually be able to transfer to a 4-year university. It sounded like a fantasy. I wasn’t sure whether I’d ever find my way to somewhere new that I belonged. I was filled with self-doubt and fear of failure. I agonized over whether I’d even get into any schools at all after applying to so many. When filling out my transfer applications it was hard to ignore the fact that I was different from other students applying. I was a former high school dropout with a G.E.D. I spent a decade out of school working late nights as a waitress and bartender. Could a high school dropout really find a place at a top university? Was I too old to have dreams of attending university? Would my troublesome past hold me back from moving forward with my life? I wondered often if there was any hope left for me after so much time had passed me by. I know that I’m not alone. This is the story of millions of students across the world who have been faced with difficult hardships that set their academic progress off course. The non-traditional student’s educational journey is one that is filled with surprise twists and turns. Hopefully I can share with you a little bit about my own journey to USC and give all my fellow non-traditional students some inspiration and advice to help you along the way.  

What is a Non-Traditional Student? 

There is a lot of debate about what specifically makes a non-traditional student, but the general definition refers to students who are over the traditional college age of 24 years old. Other definitions include students who earned their G.E.D diploma instead of a standard high school diploma, students who work full-time jobs while attending college part time, or students from low-income backgrounds who are not financially dependent on their parents. For the sake of this blog, we will define a non-traditional student as anyone who has returned to school after previously taking a break from achieving their educational goals. As more and more older adults return to school, non-traditional students have become more common in the admissions process. Every year, millions of non-traditional students return to college. You are not alone in your journey to return to school. Non-traditional students make up a small percentage of USC’s campus, and you’re bound to run into one eventually during your time here. 

Knowledge is Power 

I dropped out of high school at a young age. Because of this, I never had the opportunity to learn about the college admissions process. I didn’t have SAT scores. I didn’t even know what the Common Application was. I dreamed of attending a top university, but I didn’t know specifically what that process entailed. I was fortunate enough to have a couple wonderful professors at my community college take me under their wing and share with me what they could. Eventually, I won a community college transfer scholarship that helped fund my continued education and also included a weekend-long trip to West Hollywood, California where I was invited to attend a “Transfer Student Symposium” that would educate and train me in all aspects of the transfer process. This event changed everything for me. As a first-generation student whose parents never attended college and as someone who never finished high school, I didn’t have any foundation of knowledge to help guide me through transfer applications, supplemental essays, or building up a competitive resume. Thankfully through my scholarship foundation’s help, I was able to learn so much that it kicked open door after door for me as I finished my time in community college. This is the first piece of advice I’d like to give all of you: learn as much as you can about the transfer process. This new journey to transferring will require a lot of hard work and research on your part. Everything that you learn will be another piece of the puzzle.  

You will want to know a lot of the basic stuff at first: the difference between a college and a university, the difference between a non-profit and a for-profit institution, the difference between a public university versus a private university, which schools practice need-blind admissions and which ones are 100% meet-need schools (which is especially important for low-income students).  

Once you have gone through those important foundational questions, you’ll need to decide which schools to apply to. You will need to research which schools best fit your needs as a student while considering which schools have the best programs for your intended major. Your top choice school may have an impressive football team and an amazing dining hall, but does it have a well-funded science program for you as a biology major, or does it offer generous financial aid for you as a low income student? Perhaps a question that applies to returning adults reluctant to move out of state for school – will the schools near you have strong well-funded programs and scholarships, or other financial aid, that makes it possible and plausible for you to attend? At some point, USC must have ended up on your list of schools to attend, otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading this fabulous blog! I would love to share with you why I ended up applying to USC. 

Why USC? 

The University of Southern California isn’t just one of the top schools in the country, though that certainly is reason enough to apply. What many don’t know is that USC practices need-blind admission while meeting 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need, meaning that they don’t take your family’s ability to pay tuition into account when deciding whether to admit you. If you are admitted, they will assess your situation and do everything they can to meet your financial need in a way that would make it possible for you to attend USC. This was crucial to my decision to attend. 

As a non-traditional student, I also chose USC because of their large transfer student population. Over one-third of undergraduate students at USC are transfer students from other schools around the country. Over 55% of those transfer students are from California community colleges. Knowing that USC valued community college students so much meant a lot to me. I wanted to attend a school that understood my unique journey and recognized my potential. USC’s application process also takes a very holistic approach, considering many different factors of an applicant’s profile, not just leaning heavily on grades and test scores, but diving into who potential students are through many different essays aimed at getting to know the whole person applying.  

Once I knew which schools I wanted to apply to, I started my research into what previous successful transfer applications looked like. Online I was able to find many examples of personal statements and transfer essays from students who found success in transferring. Each of these resources helped me to craft my own competitive application. Arm yourself as much as possible with all the resources and knowledge available to you. The information is all there, you only have to find it. 

Reframing Your Story 

Your story is everything, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a creative writing major. When I first thought about transferring to a 4-year university after graduating from community college, I saw all the supposed red flags in my story. I didn’t finish high school. I had a G.E.D. I was a 30-year-old waitress barely getting by. I didn’t see what I could possibly have to offer a prestigious university on the other side of the country. Through the transfer process and especially while crafting my application essays, I was able to start seeing a new side to my story. Maybe I wasn’t just a high school dropout. Maybe I was a smart, talented student who went through a difficult time. I considered that maybe having a G.E.D. meant that I never truly gave up on myself or my education. Yes, I had a less than ideal GPA, but my transcripts told the story of someone who struggled at first academically and ended with a strong upward trend in grades by my final semester. Where I once saw failure, I now saw proof of my resilience and strength. After all, I was beginning the race to attend a top university from behind the start line, but even knowing I was behind I ran as fast and as hard as I could anyway. I knew that I might not compare with other more privileged students who had more opportunities than me but it didn’t make me feel any less than. Reframing your own story is essential and something that, quite frankly, you owe to yourself. Throw away any negative ideas you may have about your journey and give birth to a new version. What if all the mistakes you once made were actually gifts to help you better understand yourself and make you strong than you ever were? Would you still have your same regrets? The truth is, you can’t change the past. You will never be able to gain back that time lost, but what if it wasn’t time lost, but time spent getting to where you need to be. You are the incredible person you are today because of everything you have gone through. Own that. Reshape your story to fit the new you.  If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you convince the rest of the world to believe in you? Besides, I know for a fact everyone loves an epic comeback story, especially the amazing admission committee at USC.  

My Story 

Though I was initially rejected by USC, I was given the opportunity to appeal, one last one-page letter explaining to the committee why I feel they may have overlooked my application. It was agonizing to be rejected, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because it pushed me to write a terrifically beautiful, powerful letter that helped convince the admission committee to take another look at me. I can’t begin to explain to you the overwhelming emotions that overcame me when I received news that my appeal was successful and I had officially been granted admission to the University of Southern California, my very own dream school.  

Two amazing years at USC later and I am about to graduate with a 4.0 GPA and fielding an invitation to apply as Valedictorian of my graduating class. Not too bad for a former high school dropout, right? Just a few years ago, this felt like a wild and impossible dream for someone like me. Now it is my everyday reality. Even after all this time, I’m still in awe that I’m really here. I feel so lucky and grateful that I pushed through and never gave up. I was able to ignore that crippling self-doubt and those around me that told me I was too old and foolish for ever daring to dream so big. As I walk through campus and watch the younger students enjoy their time at USC, I often wonder how things would be if I was ten years younger but as I well know by now, youth is entirely wasted on the young (I’m kidding! Well mostly). I don’t think I could’ve ever appreciated USC as much as I do now, where I spend every moment here taking part in as many opportunities as possible. Really, I’m just soaking it all in. Just know that there are many returning adult students like myself and even older that have found their place at USC. I have met other non-traditional students in my classes and on campus, and it is always a joy to hear the stories of their journey back to school. I’ve been able to make so many friends with fellow classmates, professors, and the brilliantly kind staff all throughout campus. My final and perhaps greatest piece of advice for you now is to be brave enough to dream big and never give up on yourself. You are worthy of greatness. You are moving on to that next great step in your journey. You need only to believe in yourself. You are ready. Fight on.  

Written by Sammie Zenoz, (she/her/hers), 2nd year at USC studying Creative Writing.


Transfer Talk Tuesday: Transfer Journey – Out of State 

Transfer Talk Tuesdays are a series of personal blogs where current USC transfer students dive deeper into their real-life stories, perspectives, and experiences in transferring to USC. Note that each transfer application is unique and there are no guaranteed paths to transfer. For guidance on how to put together a competitive transfer application, please review our Transferring to USC brochure. 

Hi! My name is Kamilah. I transferred from a large state school across the country to the University of Southern California. I am a Transfer Ambassador for the 2021-2022 school year and a third-year transfer student studying Business Administration (likely to emphasize in Leadership and Innovation).  

Part One: Headed to USC…just kidding…unless | The Transfer Journey 

My journey to USC started in 2019 when I received the QuestBridge scholarship during my senior year of high school. If you are unfamiliar with QuestBridge, they are an organization that seeks to connect “high performing, low-income students with prestigious universities.” There were 16,248 people who applied for the honor and 1,044 were chosen to receive it – myself being one of them. Receiving this honor also meant that I had received a ‘full-ride’ for college. I was beyond honored to get this award. I remember the elation of myself and everyone around me who had helped me get to that point in my life. A full-ride to college had been my goal for the past four years, but finally attaining it became…bittersweet. My joy began to transition to anxiousness as I looked up and down the list of 40-something schools but didn’t feel truly called to any of them. To make a long story short, I am the kind of person who doesn’t do anything that doesn’t feel right. In the end, I basically voided my scholarship and traded the prospect of a full-ride to go to my local state university.  

I know. You’re thinking, “are you insane?” Everyone around me thought the same, and many didn’t hold back on letting me know it.  

Circling back, it was a few days after we had to submit our college decisions for QuestBridge when I realized there was a school on the list I had never seen before: the University of Southern California. How did I miss this? I had scrolled through that list some 50 times and I had never seen USC. I began researching it and I realized this is what I had been looking for. It checked off literally every box I had for the college I wanted to attend. I hurriedly looked up the USC application deadline and saw it was only a few days away. I scrambled together the best app I could over those next 72 hours, but, ultimately I was denied admission that year. I loved my state university, so although I was sad about USC, I moved forward. What’s meant to be will be, I thought.  

A while later, I learned about USC’s transferring options and I was excited but again anxious. I was beginning to no longer feel like my previous university was right for me anymore. I thought “What if I get rejected (again)? USC is very expensive; how can I afford it without QuestBridge? How will I afford to get across the country multiple times a year?” and many more doubts. I had so many worries – so many that I almost didn’t even turn in my application. If not for the encouraging words from my USC Admission Counselor, I probably wouldn’t even be here. Fast forward, I was accepted to USC a few months later during the summer after my Freshman year. I am currently in my third year and I am now on campus.  

Part Two: Wait, y’all have airports in Tennessee? You don’t travel on Horse-back? | Being an Out-of-State Student 

I grew up in Chattanooga: the third largest city in Tennessee, but nothing compared to the size and diversity of LA. If you’re like me, and you’re from a city that is not LA or NYC, you may get the odd “do y’all still use candle-lit lanterns for streetlights” type of statements. Such comments are few and far between (and often harmless), but if I do get them I just quickly let them know that “I do read by candlelight, but only for the aesthetic” and move on. The point of this is to tell you much of what is in LA is also back home, and vice versa. It may be one concern for people moving from one city to LA, especially if those cities’ cultures are vastly different. Of course there are some places special to you and your town (i.e. mine and my friends’ beloved pizza place called Mellow Mushroom). However, I also have a beloved pizza place here in LA –  Blaze (my friends here love it too).  

As a Transfer Ambassador, I hear that many transfer students worry about adjusting socially. My advice is to just be you and do you- that’s how you will find your people. There are so many types of people here, don’t worry about fitting one mold or another.  

Another concern may be travel time and airfare costs. Personally, there is little we can do to mitigate travel time unless teleportation becomes real. Until then, you’ll just have to carve out a day or two to travel. For me, the time I spend traveling to and from school to home is about 12 hours, only about 6 are spent in the air. It is honestly very tiring, so I recommend you give yourself a day or two to get adjusted – especially if you’re crossing time zones. Regarding cost, I try to buy my tickets as early as possible so that I can get a good price on airfare. I recommended not booking your flight until the day after the USC academic calendar ends. This will help you mitigate any ‘take-my-final-exam-or-fly-home’ conflicts in case anything happens that you did not foresee. This will also give you more time to pack!   

Part Three: Fight On | My conclusion + advice to future Trojans 

Many places like to talk about their ‘school spirit,’ but the Trojan spirit and family are some of the most formidable ones I’ve ever seen. I feel very welcomed and proud to be a Trojan. Trojan alumni truly want to see you win and USC puts so much effort in crafting us into well-rounded, supported individuals upon graduation. I feel like there is no tool available that USC doesn’t offer.  

Even while dealing with a global pandemic, I am glad that I took the leap of faith and  transferred to USC. The 12 hours of flight time is worth it, 10 times over. I would fly 24 hours straight if it meant that when I touched down, I got to be a Trojan. 

Written by Kamilah Jones, (she/her/hers), 3rd year at USC studying Business Administration.