Annenberg Radio

Transfer students face unique challenges at USC

Those transferring in have all the problems typical of a college student, and more- but without community support that comes with it.

A lot people talk about the “freshman experience.” Fighting for spots in a course, struggling to make friends, drowning in classwork. But newly transferred Trojans can have the same problems, if not worse. They’re beginning a new college journey, only to have no community to turn to for support. Lillian Goodwin has the story.

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Psychology major Alyssa Delarosa is outspoken. She worked with her community. At her previous college, she was passionate about social justice and spent a lot of her time in related on-campus clubs.

“I ended up being involved in a lot of clubs. I was president of a psychology club. I was in some other honors societies. It was really great to just come together and talk about the issues that were facing campus.”

So when she transferred to USC last fall, she was ready to make the most out of her new college experience. But, even in the first week of orientation, she didn’t get the warm welcome she expected.

“For transfers, it’s just one orientation session. That’s a couple hours. It’s not like a full orientation week.”

Orientation is intended for all trojans to get used to their new environment. But according to business major Dario Arganese, another transfer student, the week didn’t have programs designed for their needs.

USC has a reputation for being a “transfer-friendly” university…. So much so that it’s one of the most popular universities for potential transfers. Here’s a statement from Timothy Brunold, USC’s dean of admissions.

“USC received a record-number of transfer applications this year (nearly 9,800, which is more than any major private research university). Although it’s still early in this year’s process, we have every expectation that this fall’s entering class of transfers will be as strong as ever.”

But for political science major Nam Nguyen, that wasn’t what he saw at USC. He quickly learned things weren’t always as they seemed.

“A lot of the expectations I had kind of shattered the first week I got accepted.”

Nguyen had trouble with his articulation… which is the transfer of your credits from your previous college to your current one.

“Basically, coming into USC they didn’t take all my credits. So I should be a sophomore but I’m a second semester freshman at USC. That puts me behind a year or so- I’m graduating in 2024.”

Even Delarosa, who took introductory psychology and statistics in her previous college just so she could get a head start, has to take them all over again, relearning the same material and equations.

“‘Oh my goodness, you’re so behind, by what you lost, the two years you lost.’ But, I mean, I had the best two years of my life at my community college. What do you all mean I lost two years?”

And for Delarosa, she didn’t have anyone to turn to. She was talking to her faculty advisor, but it was difficult to talk about her problems with credits when the advisor was also the person who facilitates her articulation.

“Having to ‘catch up’ because they’re so behind, right? That’s what we’re told, day in and day out. So it’s like a marathon on steroids.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all transfer students had to adjust to USC entirely virtually. And, according to Arganese, that makes community-building difficult. And online connections often cannot replace tangible ways of seeking support. For Arganese, the majority of his interactions with new fellow trojans were with graduate students. He is an undergrad.

“When I first got here, they put me up in Troy Hall. That’s where they put a lot of the transfer students. The rest were all graduate students.”

Arganese is also a senator for USC’s undergraduate student government. He says USG and transfer students are working together to give freshly transferred Trojans more of a community going forward.

“They are working diligently to be able to come up with really cool events for the future, for welcome week, to able to help and assist transfer students when they come in.”

These include incorporating the transfer student community, a student organization, officially into the student government at March 13. And, according to Tamara Black of the organization, she and Amanda Blum are among several faculty are working directly with the transfer community to provide more resources.

But, that’s for Trojans in the future. For Nam, it’s too late. He plans on moving on to another college for the fall. He says his experience at USC has made him more cautious about transferring.

“For my next school that I apply to I’m a little bit more skeptical, a little bit more reserved and less inclined to believe them when they say certain things about the transfer process.”

The college experience is more than just taking classes. It’s about living on a shared space with other people with similar goals and diverse perspectives.

But for remaining transfer students like Arganese and Delarosa, the full Trojan experience is yet to come...or never even offered.