February 2, 2017
Student Highlight: Transfer Student, Xavier Garcia
As our application deadline for Transfer applicants just passed, we wanted to hear from a Transfer student here at USC. This month we’re meeting Xavier Garcia a junior from Sacramento, California. He is a pre-med student majoring in Health and Human Sciences with a minor in Public Health. His passion is studying the health disparity in low income communities by focusing on social determinants of health. He is also active in Chicanos/Latinos for Health Education, volunteers with Schools on Wheels to mentor and tutor homeless children in Los Angeles, as well as volunteers with Kicks with Kids. Xavier also speaks about the Norman Topping scholarship, a scholarship that I hold dear to my heart through my own involvement as an undergraduate student. The Norman Topping Student Aid Fund is a scholarship (and an incredible resource on campus) available for first-year, transfer, and graduate applicants to apply. In fact, the Freshman application is coming up on February 21, 2017 and the Transfer applicant is due May 21, 2017 but for more information go to usc.edu/ntsaf.
It is late on January 31st, 2016 and I am sitting with my mom ready to submit my USC transfer application. After I built up the courage to press the submit button, I started panicking, thinking I might have accidently submitted the draft of my personal statement instead of the final version.
You see, I needed this application to be perfect. I did not apply anywhere else. A decision I am glad went well, but not the smartest decision I have made. Going on a tour of USC and being able to see the campus in person, I knew I did not want to attend any other university. I would have never imagined myself to be in the position to apply to one of the best universities. Throughout high school, I was not the best student. I remember clearly when my final report card came in and my mother saw all D’s she disappointedly told me “out of all my kids, I counted on you to succeed in life so you can give me a better life.” Hearing those words come out of my mother’s mouth and realizing that many members of my community, including my siblings, did not pursue higher education, something changed inside of me. As a result, I decided to attend community college with the hope of being able to not only help out my mother, but also my community. When I decided to enroll in community college after high school she was ecstatic.
My first semester of community college was a learning process. I was not aware that some courses were non-transferrable and that there were specific major requirements needed to transfer. I selected my first semester courses based on courses that were medically-related, such as Psychology, since I knew I wanted to be a doctor. During my first semester, I was not involved in any clubs or activities on campus. I would go to class every day then head home to study constantly, making sure I had the A’s needed to transfer. It was not until I joined a pipeline program at my community college called RISE that I learned that even though I was an undergraduate student, I was still able to help my community out by being a tutor and a role model for community college students and high school students. Every day as I tutored students from various backgrounds pursuing higher education, I got inspired to continue working hard in school so that I can be that role model in their life. Through the RISE program, I was able to meet previous RISE students who were now students at many of the top universities. Seeing how they were once in my position and now at top universities motivated me to aim higher as I pursued higher education, so I applied to USC.
I still remember the moment when I received my acceptance package from USC in the mail. I got home from studying for a biology exam at my community college library at 11pm and my mother was in the kitchen and told me something from USC arrived. She handed me a huge envelope and my first thought was that USC needed more paperwork. When I opened the enveloped and the cardinal package slipped into my hands I was confused. It still did not register with me that USC was not asking for paperwork. I opened the first flap and the words that I never imagined myself reading in high school appeared, “Welcome to the Trojan Family!” I still did not believe that I was accepted to USC until I opened the package completely and read my acceptance paper. I screamed to my mother and she started crying and hugging me, while I called family members to share the news.
I knew that as soon as I got to USC, I had to hit the ground running. Fortunately, I was selected as a Norman Topping Scholar, a USC scholarship for first-generation freshmen, transfer, and graduate students that I learned about through an email from the USC Admissions Office. Before the semester started, the Topping Scholarship staff took all the new and current scholars to a retreat to learn about the different resources at USC and how to take full advantage of each one of them. We heard about USC programs such as the Kortschak Center where we can go to enhance our academic learning strategies through one-on-one coaching as well as the Writing Center. More importantly, our biggest resource was each other. They introduced me to the other scholars, welcoming me into the “Topping Family.” With the knowledge of the resources USC offers before the start of the semester, it really helped with my transition to a much bigger school.
I’ve heard many stories from other transfer students who felt alone once they got into other universities. Hearing those stories gave me anxiety of having a terrible transition my first semester. However, that was not the case once I finally got to USC. The USC Welcome Week workshops designed for transfer students such as “Transfer Student Lunch” and “Academic Success Strategies for Transfer Students,” which provided information that helped ease the transition as well as a space to meet other transfer students and make friends. USC really does care about its transfer students and it shows.
What I found surprising during my first semester at USC was how much the professors care and want you to succeed. I had professors constantly check in with me to make sure my transition to USC was going well, my grades were okay, and that I was enjoying myself while at USC. I shared with one particular professor, Dr. Dennis Green, how I wanted to improve my writing. Although he was a health and sciences professor, he still offered to help me improve my writing skills. Overall, my experiences with professors have been amazing and I am continuously becoming a better student than I was before entering USC.
Completing my first semester at USC has been interesting but rewarding. There were many obstacles I had to overcome. Coming in as a junior, I was taking upper division courses while trying to explore the social life of USC. There were moments where I got sidetracked due to all the different extracurricular activities available on campus. A friend I met at USC who was a senior taught me that the key to doing well academically is to find a healthy balance of social and academic life to maintain positive mental health. Considering his advice, I would make time to walk through Exposition Park near USC or walk through campus admiring the campus, still in awe that I am a student here. With that being said, I am a student at the University of Southern California, a school that takes pride in their network and in each other. Despite being a transfer student, I have never felt anything less than a Trojan and a part of the Trojan Family.