The Real Story Behind Community College Transfers

The Real Story Behind Community College Transfers

Back in February, a parent at a workshop asked the question many wonder, “Are the community college courses rigorous enough to prepare my child for a UC?” 

Before I had the chance to speak, a father spoke up, sharing that he graduated at UC Berkeley and, hands down, the community college where he started offered an excellent foundation.  In fact, he felt the caliber of instruction at the community college was superior.  The classes were smaller and the professors were passionate about their subject matter.

Over my years as a counselor, I’ve heard many students speak highly of their community college experience. They appreciated the opportunities provided as they continued their education at a variety of institutions, including UCLA. 

Beyond the anecdotes supporting the community college path, I wanted to see the numbers and invested some time to delve into the data behind the success of transfers. I was surprised to learn that in the last five years, over 75,000 students who started at a community college earned a bachelor’s degree from a UC.  Amazed at both the numbers and trends I found, I am highlighting some here for you so you can easily educate yourself about this option. 

NOTE: Even if this pathway doesn’t pertain directly to your child, I recommend you read so you can appreciate why other students choose this path.

Transfers: The UC System is devoted to honoring the transfer system and the numbers support that commitment.  I was surprised to learn that 33% of UC’s new enrollments are junior level transfers.  Of those junior transfers, 90% come from California Community Colleges.  In the words of UC President Janet Napolitano, “Our efforts to boost the number of applicants transferring from California’s community colleges are paying off.”  For example, in 2015, UC Berkeley offered admission to 2,665 transfer students.  In 2016, that number rose by nearly 20% as they offered admission to 3,192 transfer students.

Guaranteed Transfer Agreements: Guaranteed transfers are available for six different campuses – Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.   The specifics of the agreement vary by campus and sometimes by program.  For example, a student with a 3.3 is guaranteed a seat at UC Davis College of Engineering.

Success Rate: An underlying question is whether transfer students can successfully graduate in the same timeline as a freshman enrollee.  Thanks to the UC’s extensive data system, it’s clear that transfer students graduate at a rate comparable to first-year freshmen.

Cost of Community College: Community college has historically been a more economical path.  However, right now, for high school graduates it can be FREE.  Yes, FREE!  Thanks to many initiatives and grants, students can attend a community college for free the first year out of high school.  For example, students graduating from Los Gatos High School, Saratoga High School or Pioneer High School can attend West Valley Community College for free, including textbook vouchers and transportation support.  Details available at

Transfers to Other Institutions: Transfer opportunities extend beyond just the California public system.  For example, last year, 170 West Valley students transferred to a wide variety of private and out of state universities, such as Santa Clara University, University of Southern California, University of San Francisco, University of Oregon and University of Colorado – Boulder.  


The Summer Sigh!

Summer is almost here!  Oh, so close…

And, odds are your sophomore or junior is ready.  They’ve been ready for a while.  Months of a busy schedule filled with rigorous classes, tests and all of the extra curricular commitments are ending. 

At the end of this week, you may hear a loud audible sigh.

This is normal.

It’s also normal for your student to want to pause for a while.  To not discuss school or tests or potential colleges or writing essays.  It’s okay to honor this for a few weeks.  In fact, it’s healthy.  They need the time to recharge for the coming year.

However, part-way through summer, it’s important that your rising senior starts to engage again with the college process.  Keeping a journal. Investigating majors.  Refining the college list.  Writing supplemental essays.  This is especially true if a student is applying to private colleges or out-of-state public universities as fall promises to be busy with the details of applications on top of senior courses and activities.

For now, celebrate the end of the year and the start of summer!  More to follow in July…

College Highlights: Wooster

This spring I took several college visitation trips, focusing on schools that aren’t on everyone’s list but deserve serious attention.  I was reminded as I walked around these beautiful campuses and talked to happy students that all families should include lesser-known campuses in their college visit itineraries.  There are gems just waiting to be discovered by adventurous kids.

         On my Ohio college trip I drove 60 miles south of Cleveland to visit College of Wooster in Wooster, OH.  To be honest, as I drove and drove past farms and pastures and more farms I started to think I had taken a wrong turn.  But then, suddenly, the town of Wooster appeared in the distance.  I was surprised by gorgeous residential streets lined with historical mansions.  Then I got to the campus and my jaw dropped. 

College of Wooster, a liberal arts school with 2,058 students, is one of the most beautiful, groomed, well-maintained colleges I’ve seen.  Pristine stone buildings surround a central quad dotted with original sculptures.  There is green grass everywhere (in April, anyway).  Students walk together, talking and laughing.  And, as banners around the 240-acre campus reminded me, Wooster is known for having some of the nation’s best research mentorship for students.  Every Wooster student works with a faculty member to conceive and execute a serious research project prior to graduating.

Because Wooster flies under the radar (for now), especially for west coast students, it is still accessible relative to other colleges of similar quality.  Just under 60% of applicants are admitted, with a fairly even split between women and men.  Six-five percent of students are not from Ohio, and there is broad geographic diversity both domestically and internationally.  Nearly 20% of the student body is students of color, and 99% of students live on campus.

Is Wooster for everyone?  No.  A Bay Area student would have to be okay with severe weather and remoteness.  But here is a very high quality liberal arts college, with an 11-1 student to teacher ratio, an hour south of Cleveland (loaded with theater and professional sports), which is still open to students with Bs on their transcript.  It can serve as a proxy for colleges all around the country that deserve a look.

In the next newsletter I will tell you about a college I visited in Kentucky.  This school has 1,600 students and an endowment over $1 billion, which means many students don’t pay tuition at all.

Written by Mark Clevenger

Mark owns Clear Path College Counseling, LLC, in Almaden.  He was Director of College Counseling at Menlo School in Atherton for 15 years and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Santa Clara University for 13 years.  He is a graduate of Santa Clara University, Stanford University, and Bennington College. 

Etiquette and College Admission News

It's the season. 

Colleges are announcing their admissions decisions. 

Odds are, your child likely has older friends who are processing their decisions now and wrestling with the emotions that come with them. 

This is a good “practice year” for you to establish your own etiquette around the admission decision issue.  Here are some reminders:

-       Don’t ask any seniors you know (or their parents) about their decisions.  Let them offer the information if they’re ready.

-       With your own child, don’t say, “Oh my God.  If she didn’t get in to X college, who did? 

-       If you perceive the admission decision process to be in some ways unfair, don’t dwell on this out loud.

-       If you have a friend with a senior who didn’t get into any of his top choice colleges, help her focus on those positive aspects of the colleges where he did get admitted.

-       If you believe, as we do, that it matters far more how you perform in college than where you went, reinforce this message whenever possible.

-       Realize that you and your child will go through this process in one or two years, and that any positive Karma you send to seniors and their parents now will come back to visit you when it matters most.

(Written by Mark Clevenger, March 21, 2017)

Preparing for College Visits...

Here are some of the key points to keep in mind as you prepare for Spring Break, one of the most popular college visitation periods of the year.

Pacing - Don’t visit more than two colleges per day, and plan for at least two hours on each campus.

No College is Perfect - Don’t let the tour guide tell that everything is perfect about her or his college.  It’s not.

Talk to Students - It isn’t critical to attend every admission office information session.  They all sound the same after a while.  Instead, spend an hour talking to students about their experiences.  The student union or coffee house is often the best place to approach students to find out what they like and don’t like about their campus.

Keep Notes - Encourage your child to keep notes and take photographs for later reference.  After visiting multiple colleges, it’s hard to tell them apart without written and visual documentation.

Surrounding Area - Pay attention to the area immediately surrounding the campus.  Are there restaurants, movie theaters, etc. within walking distance?  Or does a student need a car to have an off-campus social life?

School Pride - Notice whether students are wearing sweatshirts, hats, etc. with logos from their college.  This says something about school spirit and pride.

Pacing and Fun - Rather than trying to cram in as many colleges as possible, build in a little time for family fun if possible.  Otherwise, you’ll be exhausted and resentful and more likely to argue with each other.

Written by Mark Clevenger (March 20, 2017)