Transfer Talk Tuesday: Transfer Journey – First Generation 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. 

Eliana Cotom is a junior from Los Angeles, California, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Education and Society. In 2020, she transferred from Santa Monica College (SMC) to USC. In addition to being a Transfer Ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Admission, Eliana is also a Dornsife Intern and is involved with student clubs at USC.  


Attending USC had always been my dream, yes I know…very cliche but true. Growing up around USC, I always wanted to attend and be a part of the Trojan family.  

Like many first-generation students, I was unable to ask parents or family members for guidance on what to expect from the college application process, how to answer certain questions, or how to consider what college was the best fit – so – I heavily depended on school and outside resources for guidance. There is an extra layer of stress, anxiety, worry, and pressure that many first-generation students can resonate with. This ranges from the stress, worry, anxiety of entering the application process on your own, how to attend college without being a financial burden on family, the pressure of being the role model for those who follow, and figuring out how to apply for scholarships and financial aid without much help. I remember having to navigate the application portal and figuring out financial aid on my own. There were many questions that I didn’t even know I had until I reached an issue, because I didn’t know what to expect from the application process. I went through the first-year application process almost completely alone, and the transfer process with guidance, but even with guidance I still felt anxious, worried, and stressed.  Applying and transferring to USC was a journey of its own but attending a community college was definitely helpful in learning to adjust to college courses, gaining independence, and growing as a student and person. During my time at SMC, I had a variety of resources at my disposal and was even able to have resources from USC specifically that helped me navigate through the transfer process more easily. One tip I will give for prospective transfers is to make appointments with your counselor, get to know them, and make yourself known. My counselor was very helpful in my transfer process. Many first-gens are lost in the first-year college application process already, and the transfer process is a completely new experience for many, so reaching out to your counselor is very helpful – you can even reach out to your assigned USC Admission Counselor. Another tip I will give, especially for those attending California Community Colleges (CCCs) is to constantly look at the articulation agreements that USC has with CCCs – this document was my best friend when looking for classes. I cannot emphasize this enough for CCC students. USC also has a handful of resources specific to transferring to USC, such as the Transferring to USC brochure

Many questions and worries that first-gens have when applying, including myself, are regarding finances and affordability. I am happy to say that USC has a handful of scholarships for admitted students and provides full USC determined financial need (please keep in mind that this number is determined by USC, not the student). USC has scholarships that are geared towards first-gen students and low-income students, such as the Norman Topping Scholarship and specific scholarships based on communities that one identifies with. More scholarships can be found here. Another worry that I had (I receive a lot of questions about this too) is about inclusivity and diversity here at USC. The school has a handful of resources and student organizations that provide students a space to feel at home and find support and “your people.”  

One key differentiator that USC has is definitely the Trojan Family. The USC logo is recognizable worldwide. I have heard stories about people being in different continents while wearing USC merchandise, seeing the “V for Victory” sign and hearing “Fight On” from random people. Explaining the Trojan Family is much harder than expected because it goes beyond words but simply put, it is a family that provides connections and support.   

Before attending USC I had already heard and known about the Trojan Family, but I had never truly experienced it until I was attending USC and began telling people that I was a USC student. I would create connections with people from simply stating I was a USC student.  

Lastly, I encourage everyone to apply to USC, especially first-gen and low-income students. Entering a new environment is scary, and being a transfer student and being first-gen makes the process a lot more nerve-wracking, but this should not discourage anyone from applying. USC has a multitude of resources for its students. If you’re worried about finances, apply to scholarships both in and outside of USC. If you’re worried about whether you’ll fit in because you’re a transfer student, a first-gen student, and/or low income, there are many clubs and organizations (such as the First Gen+ Center on campus where you can find community. ) If you’re worried about being seen differently because you’re first- gen or a transfer student, believe me – you won’t. Everyone here has their own journey. My overall piece of advice is to apply, apply, apply.   

Written by Eliana Cotom, (she/her/hers), 3rd year at USC studying Psychology.