When Nicole DiAntonio got denied acceptance to the University of Virginia, the only thing standing in the way of her and her dream school was Northern Virginia Community College.
“It was a perfect stepping stone,” DiAntonio said. “By the time I was a sophomore, I was more than ready for UVA.”
To woo UVA, this media studies junior did more than just take a few college classes. If you want to use your community college years wisely before transferring, follow in DiAntonio’s footsteps and consider these tips.
Do well in the right classes
DiAntonio applied to UVA the first time with a 3.5 high school GPA. She applied the second time with a 4.0 college GPA. But she didn’t just take easy classes. She followed NOVA’s guaranteed admission program (guaranteeing her admission to UVA) verbatim.
“Many students would treat NOVA like it was a fifth year of high school,” DiAntonio said. “They would just take random classes and at the end of one or two years they would apply to a bunch of places.” DiAntonio knew people who didn’t take it seriously and weren’t accepted into their desired schools.
Make sure first that your classes will transfer and check the school’s transfer policy. Some schools require a certain number of credits and courses before even considering a transfer student. Some community colleges even have a guaranteed admission agreement with the school you want to attend. Look into these things ahead of time.
Kate Lazo, assistant director of admission at Stanford University, says that good grades and a great professor recommendation are crucial. But the biggest mistake she sees prospective transfer students make is not researching the school’s application and course requirements.
“Students should think about what sort of classes they’re taking,” Lazo said. “They should focus in on the area they intend to major in but shouldn’t do so at the expense of a broad liberal arts education.” Lazo lists requirements such as humanities and foreign language courses that community college students should be taking before transferring.
Also, consider this: if you’re entering in as a junior, it’s time to start your major. Colleges want to see that you’re prepared for that. Performing decently in random classes won’t show them that.
Save every last penny
The good news is: you’re already saving money. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, four-year schools are almost three times more than community colleges. But could you be doing more? The answer is probably yes.
Most community college students work part-time or full-time. Put away some of that money you’re making for when you transfer. The less you have to take out in loans, the better.
And don’t think just because you’re a transfer student that you can’t get scholarships or grants. According to a College Board report, only 58 percent of Pell-Grant-eligible students at community colleges applied, verses 77 percent at four-year schools. Think of all the free money you can be missing out on!
There are also numerous scholarships available to transfer students. Your desired school probably gives out scholarships specifically to transfer students. For example, Texas A&M University-Commerce gives members of the community college honor society Phi Theta Kappa over $37 million in scholarships. Check scholarships.com and any other number of websites and get applying.
Lazo wishes that students taking the community college route purely for financial reasons would check first for scholarship and grant opportunities.
“It might not be as far out of reach as initially thought,” Lazo said. “It’s always disappointing when students don’t do research.”
Perhaps what set DiAntonio apart from other applicants was her involvement. She wrote for NOVA’s school paper, was vice president in student government, and started an a capella group on campus.
“If I would have come straight out of high school, I would have never written for the paper,” DiAntonio said.
Her involvement during community college has led to opportunities at a local news station and articles in the Cavalier Daily.
Chances are, you have many connections since you’ve been in town your whole life. Network! Land a great internship. Join student government. Work a relevant job. This will all increase your chances of getting into your desired school and will make your transfer easier.
“We want to see that students are involved and doing something,” Lazo said.
Just think: what sets you apart from hundreds of other applicants with your same GPA and just as compelling letters of reference? Sometimes you need to go above and beyond to stand any chance of getting into your dream school.
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