Transfer Talk Tuesday: Expectations vs Reality 

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 everyone! My name is Savanna Fakhoury, and I am a current junior studying Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. I was born and raised in Southern California, and I come from a very large and fun Jordanian and Syrian family. I enjoy traveling, spending time with family and friends, going to the beach, reading, listening to podcasts, baking, going to concerts, and watching reality TV. I hope to one day become a physician and work in underserved populations, specifically within displaced refugee groups. My journey to USC was quite an interesting one, and I am excited to share a bit about my experience and what I have learned so far.  

I went to an all-girls Catholic high school and was a part of the choir group at school. Our choir group was invited to perform at USC’s Caruso Catholic Center – my first-time setting foot on what I had not known would become my home. I remember telling myself not to get too attached to the school because I did not think USC would be an option for me. That was my first expectation that was far from reality. Little did I know, I was offered an opportunity to apply to transfer to USC for my sophomore year. Although I knew for quite some time USC was for me, I was worried about not assimilating into the school well. So many questions were at the forefront of my mind. I did not know what to expect, but as I have been here for a few years now, I thought I would share some things I learned along the way.  

Expectation #1: “It’ll be hard to meet people and form connections, especially due to the pandemic” 
Reality: This is SO not true. USC has more than 1,000 student organizations and so many opportunities to find people and organizations you mesh well with. I found my home in many different places: Keck Student Ambassadors, the American Medical Women’s Association, through my research on prostate cancer at the Keck School of Medicine, and with my fellow ambassadors at the Office of Undergraduate Admission. College is what you make of it. Put yourself out there, and wonderful experiences and people will come your way.  

Expectation #2: “USC is a big school, will I get swallowed in the crowd?”
Reality: No! Professors and the university really foster a welcoming environment and give many opportunities for us students to make connections. Class sizes are smaller, and our personal educational experience is of great importance to USC.  

Expectation #3: “It’s tough finding people who have similar interests and goals.” 
Reality: Not at all! USC aims to have a very diverse and inclusive environment for all students. The 1,000+ student organizations help students find a group with similar interests and goals.  

Expectation #4: “If I struggle in school, I am on my own.” 
Reality: This is so not true! There are so many resources USC offers to give us students support. Professors host weekly office hours, many classes offer free supplemental instruction, and we have the Kortschak Learning Center to help guide and support us through our academic journey.  

Expectation #5: “It will be easy to take a full course load, be involved in many organizations, and have lots of free time to spend with friends and family.” 
Reality: In all honesty, I thought I would be able to do it all. I have since concluded that academics at USC are very rigorous, and organizations require time and commitment. I have learned that the key to balance is time management. With a calendar, planner, and an optimistic viewpoint, college life will be very fulfilling and balanced. It’s all about being open minded!  

In conclusion, we all have expectations about what an experience will be like and how things will turn out to be – in every situation, even beyond college. Expectations are comforting, as they help us mentally plan for the unknown ahead, but they are also limiting.  

There is no standardized formula to have the perfect college experience because the college experience is different for everyone. Everything that occurs is unique to our own stories and paths, in order to help form us into the humans we are meant to become.  

Attending USC has been the best decision I have ever made. I have had many expectations, some aligning and some not aligning with reality. My advice to you: just go with it and enjoy all that is to come! 

Written by  Savanna Fakhoury, (she/her/hers), 3rd year at USC studying  Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. 



Transfer Talk Tuesday: Research as a Transfer Student 

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 Darya Esmaeilshirazi, and I’m a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences on the pre-dental track. I transferred from El Camino College, and I want to be an oral oncologist working in underserved community dental clinics. I transferred to USC in fall 2020 and started my journey at USC during the COVID-19 pandemic. While my journey of adjustment to USC and being on the pre-dental track could’ve been challenging, I still truly felt that I received the whole Trojan experience and explored USC via research and other meaningful extracurricular experiences.  

My decision to apply as a transfer student at USC started with a four-day program at the USC Ostrow School of Dentistry called the Pre-Dental Explorers program. While I was among the few community college students attending the program, I felt a true sense of support and community amongst the students. With guidance from the faculty, I decided that I’d like to transfer to USC for my undergraduate studies. Initially, I was concerned about the cost of attending USC and finding extracurricular opportunities given the big student body of the school. I was contemplating whether attending a smaller school would allow me to explore more close relationships with my professors. I thought it would be easier for me to do research and other activities if the school size was smaller. However, through asking friends I made during my dental internship program and my conversations with my Admission Counselor, I realized that there is a ton of support for all students despite the size of the student body. Now that I have been a Trojan for two years, I can say that the individual support and attention I received were impeccable, and I’m so glad I decided to attend USC despite my initial concerns.  

Once I started at USC, as a first-generation student on a pre-health track, I felt as though I had to do everything. My first semester was filled with volunteer activities, clubs, and other extracurricular activities. However, I honestly struggled to find a research position – specifically a research position that was meaningful and rewarding to me. Most labs, if not all, were not taking students due to COVID-19 restrictions, and I remember many failed trials to find a lab or a professor that allowed me to do research with them. I explored various ways to find volunteer positions. Initially, I started by reading the research work of the faculty in the Psychology department, and I began by ‘cold’ emailing the professors whose work was interesting to me and explained to them that I’d like to do research with them. They all were very supportive and told me with regrets that they wouldn’t offer me a position due to COVID-19 restrictions, but that I can email them back again in a few months. I then started to ask my friends and other professors about positions if they knew of any. Finally, I was able to apply for a position at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), which I learned about through the Instagram page of the psychology department. While doing my research at CHLA, I learned about a short-term position at the Social Psychology department through a professor whom I expressed interest in researching with months ago.  

My best advice to find a research position at USC as a transfer student is not to give up and explore all means of resources! The process of transferring and finding meaningful extracurricular experiences is a little challenging. However, I genuinely believe that there is an experience for all types of interests at USC to be explored and with patience and hard work, finding those experiences is possible!  

Written by Darya Esmaeilshirazi (she/her/hers), 4th year at USC studying Health and Human Sciences. 



Transfer Talk Tuesday: Campus Resources

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. 

Jacqueline (Jackie) Lutz-Hibbard is a junior Biochemistry major from Pasadena, CA. In 2020, she transferred from a small liberal arts college on the east coast to USC. Jackie is on the pre-health track and is a research assistant for multiple studies at USC’s Health, Emotions, and Addiction Laboratory. She is involved in student clubs, ranging from book clubs to clubs which promote health education.  

Transferring to USC felt quite daunting at first. I moved from a tiny college on the east coast smaller than my high school, to USC, which at first felt like a metropolis. As transfer students, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost socially as well as academically. However, once I arrived, it was like a new world had opened up to me –  I was able to dive right into campus life. The good news is that USC offers numerous resources, honestly too many to list. USC truly supports its students in every aspect of life –  job/career opportunities, academic support, and social and cultural support.  

Academically, there are many programs set in place to support students. My favorite resource available here is Supplemental Instruction, or SI, which is an academic support program for difficult classes. SI is where students who have taken and passed specific classes  run study sessions and offer academic support. These are great opportunities to review the material in a more casual setting as opposed to lectures, and I think is one of the main reasons why I passed my organic chemistry class! There are other tutoring options such as the Writing Center or the Math Center, which offer one-on-one feedback and support for classes or other projects.  

Something I was anxious about when starting USC was how to get accommodations for my disability. At my previous college, I gave up on getting accommodations after the first semester because of how difficult the process was. However, at USC it couldn’t have been easier. Accommodations are run through the Office of Student Accessibility Services (OSAS), and the process (which is entirely online) took about 10 minutes on my end. Beyond testing and course accommodations, OSAS offers other personalized support to students with disabilities.  

As someone on the pre-med track planning on applying to medical school, there are a lot of ins and outs that can make the process overwhelming. USC offers specific resources such as the Office of Pre-Health Advisement and the Office of Pre-Law Advisement, as well as assistance for continuing education and pre-graduate students; offering students advisement, support, opportunities, workshops, and mentorship. Exciting events and academic talks are offered constantly throughout the year, with the chance to see and speak with leaders in many prospective fields.  

College is not just about academics and the transition can be hard for students, both physically and mentally. USC offers general medical care, as well as mental health programs including counseling, group or individual sessions, and also hosts wellness events.  

USC has numerous cultural and support centers on campus that host events, offer support, and have student lounges for identifying students to study, relax, or hang out with friends in specially designated spaces. Student cultural centers include the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs (CBCSA), Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS), and Latinx/Chicanx Center and Advocacy for Student Affairs (La CASA). Other groups include the First Generation+ Success Center, which offers resources including mentorship for first-generation, undocumented, transfer, and former foster youth students. Additional support centers are the LGBTQ+ Resource Center and the Veterans Resource Center.  

Finally, here are some fun, honorable mentions I wanted to highlight!  

USC Special Collections is in my opinion one of the coolest and most unique resources available at USC. Special Collections at USC is a department of the library which holds and cares for rare and historical books, manuscripts, archives, and historical photographs. This resource is available to all students, and one of my favorite memories at USC was being able to hold and flip through the pages of a book of maps from the 1700s!  

Another great USC resource is USC Visions and Voices, an arts initiative that hosts events to help all students regardless of major become engaged with the LA community and arts as a whole, which even includes taking students to plays and musicals in the LA area.     

Starting at a new school is nerve wracking for everyone, and being a transfer student can add  even more pressure. USC provides plenty of services and programs to help, transfer and first-years alike, successfully acclimate and welcome them into the Trojan family.  

Written by Jacqueline (Jackie) Lutz-Hibbard, a 3rd year majoring in Biochemistry