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2023 TSA: Jolynna's Transfer Story

In the weeks leading up to the NISTS 2023 virtual annual conference, we're highlighting the transfer stories of this year's National Transfer Student Ambassadors. All four students will attend the conference in Portland and participate in a student panel conversation. You can read more about Jolynna's story and meet the other 2023 ambassadors on the NISTS Blog.

Blog cover photo with a teal network motif featuring a photo of a smiling Jolynna

Throughout high school, I was always set on pursuing a career in healthcare due to pressure from my parents. In senior year of high school, during registration towards the beginning of the year, I saw an information table from my local community college showcasing an opportunity to take college classes for both high school and college credits through the dual-enrollment program. Seeing that business and marketing courses were offered as a part of this program, I decided to take these classes to explore my underlying interests in the field.

When college decisions rolled around in April and I did not get into my first-choice school, I decided to go to community college to have a second chance at getting in while better preparing myself for a college education. As I had been taking community college classes throughout my senior year of high school, I did not have many concerns regarding the course load or pace since it was fairly similar to what I was used to. However, I was worried about being able to be involved with the campus community or finding something meaningful to be a part of that would contribute to my ability to transfer into a university.

During a senior campus visit event I attended towards the end of my senior year, I met a peer mentor who was leading my tour group around campus and told me about student government at the college level. This sparked my interest. Upon further research, I found that there were multiple positions open to run for, so I applied to be the Vice President of Financial Affairs and was accepted into the position. I was ecstatic to begin my position but also nervous since this was a time around the beginning of the pandemic and a shift to online meetings and classes.

Towards the beginning of my first fall semester at Golden West, I quickly realized how difficult it would be to stay engaged in fully virtual and self-paced classes. I went from going to class every day, having specific due dates for assignments, and being able to ask my teacher a question easily to scheduled Zoom classes, classes where I would have to pace myself with each set of modules, emailing and waiting for responses each time there was something I needed to ask, and overall a very different learning environment to adapt to. Though I faced these challenges, I quickly learned that the professors were extremely accommodating and patient through the transition.

My advisors from student government were also supportive throughout this time and always gave us connections to resources, offered tips on how to manage time, and made community college in the online world engaging. When my advisor learned that I did not have my own device, he helped me connect with the resource center to get a laptop for my studies and work. I was able to meet with counselors who listened to my goals and helped me build a path when I realized I had enough units to possibly complete a one-year transfer. I made sure I planned out my classes for the fall and spring semesters as well as the winter intersession to fit the necessary requirements. I had a counselor whom I appreciated greatly because he kept in touch with me even after our meeting and caught a mistake in my schedule planner that I was able to adjust to keep my transfer schedule on track.

Three photos featuring Jolynna and peers. Top left image pictured Jolynna smiling and holding college acceptance sign. Bottom left image pictures Jolynna and friend sitting in front of a banner and sign. Right image pictures Jolynna in cap and gown standing with two others.

I can confidently say I always had support at Golden West, as I found guidance in each corner I turned. When it was time to start my transfer application, I was prepared to reuse some of the essays I wrote as a first-year applicant, since they mentioned the recent accomplishments that I was proud of. However, after reviewing these essays with a transfer counselor, she explained to me that my high school accomplishments were great, but the admissions officers would want to see what I had done since then. She knew that because I was attempting a one-year transfer, it would be difficult for me to find new things write about since most students have a whole year to think about that.

As the Associated Student Vice President of Financial Affairs, I became an official member of the campus planning and budget committee, a shared governance committee chaired by the college president, and served as the student representative on matters of college-wide budgeting and planning. Within the first few meetings, I learned many things about the careful deliberation required for decisions regarding college infrastructure, curriculum, and finances. Although this was not the first thing that came to mind when I was writing my essays since it was still current in my life, it turned out to be the perfect thing to write about.

The transfer center at Golden West was supportive and helpful during my transfer application process. I was able to attend many open office hours to review my applications, and an advisor reviewed my essays and gave feedback that allowed me to improve them. Later in the spring of 2021, I got my acceptance letter to UCR and UCI but ultimately chose UCI, since I saw it as a community that I wanted to be a part of. The one-year transfer process had allowed me flexibility with the remainder of my college experience because I would be able to add another year if there were additional classes I needed to take to complete a minor or to graduate a year earlier and have more time to get experience towards my career goals.

Beginning UCI as an undergraduate transfer and commuter student, I faced the challenge of exclusion and found it difficult to find my community on campus. When I started my first quarter, I felt like each week was the same routine with me going to class, occasionally making small talk with people, then leaving and going home. Not being able to live in a dorm or have more of an on-campus presence made it more difficult for me to make friends and feel like I had a place at school. After joining Visions Leadership, a class where I worked in a team to plan and execute an advocacy project, I was introduced to the student government at UCI. I knew I wanted to continue serving students to hear their voices and make a difference in their educational careers. I was drawn to apply to be a commissioner because I wanted to build the transfer community and prevent others from feeling the way I did when I started.

Four photos feature Jolynna and peers. Top left image pictures Jolynna and peer dancing and holding hands. Bottom left image pictured Jolynna and peers sitting on couch with pajamas on. Top right image pictured Jolynna with peers holding red and yellow signs, with flowers. Bottom right image pictured Jolynna with snow ski gear and ski on feet.

Currently, I hold the position of the Transfer Student Support Commissioner under UCI’s Associated Students, where I am able to lead a team to plan events and build a community for transfers. Working in this position has been a huge learning experience for me as I have had the opportunity to partner with various campus resources and host a variety of events. For example, I planned a transfer specific welcome week to start building a strong transfer community and a Friendsgiving social and service event where students were able to meet other transfers while making care packages. Something that I continuously strive to do is to be innovative and creative in the ideas that I put out because I have attended events in the past where engagement and attendance was low. Understanding that students often need a push to step out of their comfort zone and interact with others, I strive to bridge the gap between transfers and traditional students. In addition, I have seen how UCI’s Transfer Center is not utilized, so I have made efforts to strengthen the presence of the center to bring more students to use the available support and resources. For example, I planned a welcome week mixer in the Transfer Center, which included setting up a photo booth and partnering with the center to distribute Thanksgiving care packages.

I believe there are already plenty of programs and resources on campus that can adequately support students to succeed, but they often are not properly advertised or introduced into the student body so that they can see the benefits. During the remainder of my time as the Transfer Student Support Commissioner, I will strive to continuously work to find more opportunities to reach the transfer population at UCI to ensure that their experience here is positive and beneficial.

Reflecting on my experience, I can say that my transfer journey has been a big learning and growth opportunity. Pushing myself to complete a one-year transfer, acclimating myself into a new environment at UCI, and then continuing to improve the transfer experience for other transfers at UCI are all experiences that I am grateful for. As a National Transfer Student Ambassador now, I am excited to continue my journey in advocating for transfers with other like-minded individuals to ensure the experience is one that students will be able to appreciate and value.


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