Marvelina Barcelo is the co-director of the Transfer Center and a member of the iFALCON grant team.
Transfer alums always describe their first semester university experience as “hitting the ground running.” But what does this really mean? How well do they perform academically? You may want to ask these questions because this is one thing we never know about students during their first semester. Once at the university, they realize that it is harder to keep up with the amount of reading and writing expectations. I admit, I suffered the consequences of my decision my first semester at the university. So when I hear students say they got away with a lot at Cerritos, I wonder what consequences they will pay once they transfer.
A transfer alum once shared how he had to make quick changes to his study skills during the first semester because what he practiced at Cerritos was not cutting it at the university. After he shared his improvements, even I was impressed. Reading his textbooks in advance before the reading was assigned was the major change. He felt this would put him in a better position, but most importantly he said he was interested in doing this. It no longer felt like an obligation. As a result, it became easier for him to understand the subject and was able to participate in class discussions. One thing I failed to ask was, how early in the semester did he start applying this? Unfortunately, his improvements were too late into the semester and he earned below a 2.0 GPA after only his first semester. Needless to say, this was not repeated the following semester.
My decision to skip honors English over cheerleading was a huge liability for me entering the university. I found myself scrambling for ways to up my game, just like my student. All my classes involved heavy writing and I found out quickly that my writing skills were not where they should’ve been and I needed to act quickly. I never felt discouraged; on the contrary, I felt compelled to get my act together because I was the first one to attend the university. I knew UC Santa Barbara had a lot of resources and I all I had to do was go after them. I connected with the CLAS (Campus Learning Assistance & Services) similar to our ASC (Academic Support Center), with my tutor in my English class, and definitely with my roommate and classmates. And although it sounds like things were in place, in the end it’s all about your grades. At the end of my first quarter, I ended up with a 2.7 GPA. This was definitely not what I was used to. For my second quarter, I was more resource savvy and prepared to surf the academic waves.
No one will hold your hand forever or remind you of the “to do” list. If you have compromised your long-term learning skills in the past, this will eventually catch up with you. Regardless, you always own your academic path. Not a day passes by when I am in my office being stared at by my university pennants, just thinking about ways to address this concern. Don’t let your academic gaps derail your journey to earning a bachelor’s degree.: do something about them now.