The journey to finding purpose comes in many forms, whether through great accomplishments or life lessons. I can truly say that I am a scholar of life and education, as I have overcome hurdles in both. Thankfully, those experiences have led to this moment of being named one of the NISTS Transfer Student Ambassadors. My educational journey and the efforts of NISTS have taught me the importance of the process of selecting the best school for your educational journey. Here are some burning questions and answers about my educational career:
Where did you begin your college career? Where did you end up? In 2003, I graduated from Skyline High School with honors at the top 25% of my class. What set me apart was the fact that at my high school graduation, I had two sons waiting for me in the stands. Graduating as a teenage mother left me with many doubts about where my life was headed. A year later, I was a newlywed with little career direction. My husband encouraged me to stop the dead-end jobs and go back to school. I found a passion for interior design and enrolled at the Art Institute in 2008. However, news of a new bundle of joy (also a boy) and a $12,000 school loan led me in a different direction.
In 2012, I transferred to El Centro College, starting from scratch. Apparently, college credits from some for-profit schools don't count towards the requirements at a public institution. For two years, I became involved in campus activities taking on leadership roles in design organizations. I learned that licensing laws for registered interior designers meant that I needed a bachelor’s degree and junior colleges were no longer accredited. That meant.... you guessed it, I had to transfer to a university.
In 2014, I transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design and received the exciting declaration that I had to start all over.... again. Can you hear the sarcasm in my text? This time, transfer credits from a public school to another public school also didn't count towards my degree because the curriculum didn't match the curriculum at the university. Luckily, this May, I’ll be graduating! It has been a long road, but I'm finally here.
Did you complete an associate's degree before transferring? Unfortunately, I didn't earn an associate's degree before transferring and it was certainly not by decision. I attempted to complete all the core classes and then required electives to earn an Associate of Arts degree, seeing as how a degree in design wouldn't be useful from a junior college at that point. After walking across the stage, I found out that the science course I took didn’t count. Be it by poor advising or poor planning, I was literally ONE class away from not having that degree. Bummer.
What drew you to your new campus? In the process of transferring, I wanted to ensure that the next campus I went to was the right fit. It needed to be affordable, accredited, and within driving distance between our home and my husband's job. I also wanted to make sure that the curriculum was challenging and worth my time and effort to pursue. UT Arlington was the best fit.
What were your concerns with your change? What were the most difficult parts of transferring? Aside from courses not transferring and uprooting my family, my main concerns were adjusting to college life, as a wife and mother. The most difficult adjustment I had to make was figuring out how to budget my family time, freelance work schedule, and money. Since I couldn't work as much, we were basically living on one income. Additionally, Interior Design is part of the Architecture program at UTA. Both are extremely rigorous, intense, and expensive. It was the norm for me to have 7 am – 4 am days and spend hundreds of dollars in supplies for school each semester.
Who was the one person at your institution who helped you as you made your transfer? The one person that I can attribute to making my transfer a success is my advisor, Cheryl Donaldson, who doesn't get nearly as much credit as she deserves. She knew the transfer process and the best ways to help me navigate my education to meet the requirements to graduate on time. Cheryl was always available via phone, email, or office drop-in when I had questions about my courses. She even worked it out for me to be her teacher assistant, so that I would have enough credit hours to keep one of my scholarships. Many scholarship and competitions I won were aided by her recommendation letters. Cheryl has been the biggest supporter of mine. She's more than an advisor, she's a friend. I only wish that there is a way I can repay her someday. I will certainly miss her when I graduate.
What support, info, or advice do you wish you'd received before starting the college transfer process? One thing I greatly regret is enrolling in a for-profit college and feeling bullied into getting a large loan. Although there is nothing wrong with attending a for-profit school, it isn't ideal for transfer or limited income students. I would tell students, to go to community college first to take more affordable basic courses. Only take courses that will transfer to make the most of your time and resources, and map out every aspect of your educational career. Lastly, I wish I had a better financial plan starting out. My hope is that my story, and the stories of the other ambassadors are so compelling that we incite change in the transfer process and the educational system.