The College Conversation: Get strong start for successful transfer

Daily Pilot

Two thousand Orange Coast College graduates walked the stage earlier this week and worked their tails off to get there. They beat the odds because half of the students who started with them a couple of years back never returned for the second year.

Those who are off to a UC school will need all the tenacity and patience they can muster. The research shows that after two more years of study, only 14% of them will graduate with a bachelor's degree from that institution. And, if they took remedial classes at their community college, they're half as likely to ever earn that bachelor's degree.

Yes, we all have those stories of students who did it — those who earned a degree in four years after starting at a community college. But the statistics prove the odds are stacked against them.

My own "clinical" experience adds to the evidence. Just this week, I sat down with a client to review her progress toward meeting the transfer requirements.

Thanks to California's budget crisis, the community colleges were forced to shrink summer sessions, so her required English composition course was full before her day came to register. Hopefully, she'll get a seat in the fall. We outlined her class schedule back in April, and it took three hours to get her registered in the right classes.

There's a lot of research out there that suggests there's only one way to just about guarantee you'll earn an associate's degree in two years, or have enough credits to transfer after two years (and have the grades to boot).

If your goal is to take the community college route on your way to a four-year university, you'll have a better shot if you do the following:

1. Go beyond your high school's course and credit requirements for graduation. Complete the course path for basic eligibility to a four-year university. If you are minimally UC/CSU eligible at high school graduation, you will be guaranteed admission to at least some universities if you complete 60 units at a community college and maintain a specific GPA.

You will also have a higher chance of passing your required placement exams. That means skipping over remedial English and math — increasing your chances of getting out in two years.

Don't fool yourself. Community college is not a piece of cake — especially if you weren't challenging yourself in high school. Keep in mind that your high school transcript will still be reviewed if you look to transfer after you complete less than 60 units. So don't blow it your senior year.

2. Build your college list while in high school. By entering your community college with some specific colleges in mind where you hope to transfer, you can research the matriculation agreements your community college has with those universities. Not all colleges and universities are transfer-friendly, so get to know the colleges who seek out transfers. Keep in mind that the most selective colleges often have little space for transfers and transfer admissions to these schools is even more competitive than freshman admission.

3. Attend full-time. Don't allow life to get in the way. Take a minimum of four courses a semester. Don't take time off. Plan your work schedule around your school schedule, not the other way around. Make sure your employer knows you are a student and is flexible with your hours.

4. Focus on your goal of earning a bachelor's degree. Communicate early and often with your transfer counselor. Do your own research about what it takes to transfer. Don't randomly select classes. Carefully choose classes that meet transfer requirements. OCC's fall schedule is now online and registration begins July 6.

5. Your grade-point average in transferable classes will be the single most important factor for transfer admission. Study hard. Seek out the tutoring center. Get help early and often. This year, the UC's received a 20% increase in transfer applications. The CSU's shot up by 32%. Being minimally eligible for transfer admission won't cut it anymore.

I'm certainly ready to hear more positive statistics about our students in the community college pipeline. To those about to matriculate to OCC or its counterparts, it's time to prove the data wrong.

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