Graduates at the 2023 San Diego City College’s Chicano Latina Graduation ceremony May 19, 2023. Photo by Nathaly Alvizures/City Times Media
Graduates at the 2023 San Diego City College’s Chicano Latina Graduation ceremony May 19, 2023. Photo by Nathaly Alvizures/City Times Media

Former community college students share their transfer success stories

Transferring can be a complicated process, here’s some advice from students who have done it successfully

Transferring from a community college to university can be a fraught process. There are pitfalls waiting for students at every turn. 

Students must make a plan of where they are trying to go, then keep up with that goal as things go along.

“A lot of times, students will come in, get their education plan and then they won’t come in until they’re ready to transfer,” City College transfer counselor Melody Valencia said, “and then things happen along the way where they could have found out about information ahead of time.”

Here are the stories of some students who have been down the transfer path and their advice for other students.

Ciara Conklin graduated from UCLA and is now preparing to take the  LSAT. Photo courtesy of Ciara Conklin.


Ciara Conklin, 27

Conklin  grew up in Carlsbad and started college at Palomar College, but quickly realized it wasn’t a good fit. She switched to MiraCosta College where she felt much more at home. 

High school had been difficult, but something shifted when Conklin got to college.

“I really felt like my professors cared to see me do well,” Conklin said.

Things started to turn around. She made use of her professor’s office hours, and the math and writing centers on campus.

Conklin stayed at MiraCosta for four years. She was working a lot at the time and appreciated that community college gave her the opportunity to go at her own pace. 

The transition to a university wasn’t easy for Conklin.

“When you’re transferring to a four year, you’re just jumping right into upper division courses at university levels, and I think it was definitely jarring,” Conklin said

To deal with this, Conklin started a transfer student initiative as part of the Diversity Climate Group, which advocated for underrepresented students at the university. Through their work, they were able to get more resources for transfer students. 

After spending four years at community college, she transferred to UCLA where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. She is currently preparing to take the Law School Admission Test.

Conklin advised younger students not to overdo it when it comes to their course load.

“Just being realistic with the time you can put in, you don’t have to pack your schedule,” Conklin said. “That’s why community college is so great, because you can sort of go at your own pace.”

She also encouraged students to have a plan from the start.

“I would have been able to transfer sooner if I had a clearer idea of what the schools I wanted to transfer to needed from me,” she said.

Conklin recommended using the website to check whether one is on track.

Drew Cisse in action for for City College, March 5, 2022. Photo by Colton Brown.

Drew Cisse, 22

Cisse is a San Diego native who came to City College out of high school. 

“I didn’t think I was ready to go to a four year school. I didn’t feel like my work ethic was good enough.  I didn’t feel like my study habits were good enough,” Cisse said. “I knew there was a good support system at City that would always make sure I was taken care of,” He added. 

While at City, Cisse was able to develop his study habits and work ethic. It gave him a chance to build his confidence before going to university.

He also got the opportunity to play basketball, a formative experience that introduced him to people from all over the country. 

After his time at City, Cisse transferred to the University of Missouri-St. Louis, then to Western Illinois University, where he is currently studying psychology and playing basketball.

“Make sure you start strong instead of trying to just like BS it for the first few weeks, then trying to catch up,” Cisse said. “It’s way easier to bring yourself to shore when you’re already at sea level than whenever you’re drowning and trying to swim your way up.”

He also emphasized the importance of having a good working relationship with your teachers. 

“If your teacher likes you, they’re going to be more willing to help you at the end of the semester. Whereas if you’re just in the back of the class the whole time, then she’s not going to have any incentive to go out of her way to help you,” Cisse said. 

Esmeralda Quezada, 23

Quezada grew up in Los Angeles County.  She initially planned to go to Cal State Channel Islands, but decided it wasn’t for her at orientation. She unenrolled and went to Cerritos College instead.

At the time, this felt like a gut punch. 

“I tried so hard in high school to get the best grades and be on top of everything so I can go to a college or university. Once I transferred to Cerritos College, I was a bit disappointed in myself,” Quezada said. 

“But it ended up being the best thing ever because it was covered by financial aid. I even had leftover money and I feel like if I did go to Cal State Channel Island, I was probably going to be in debt by now,” Quezada said.

She was impressed with the variety of people she met at school and the paths they were on and also had a good experience with most of her professors.

After getting her GE at Cerritos, Quezada transferred to Cal State Fullerton, where she is working toward a degree in psychology.

She suggested students meet with their counselors and make sure they were meeting their requirements and had some practical advice for people coming working through the same process.

Quezada advised students to look for creative ways to pay for textbooks.

“When I started at Cerritos, I was eager to just buy the full book,” Quezada said, “I would spend like $80 until I learned that my peers around me don’t buy books. They either rented or they always tried to find books online.”

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