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How to survive transfer student shock

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NOVEMBER 28, 2022

Transitioning to college can be difficult and overwhelming for anyone, but transfer students often face an additional shock of academic and social disorientation. Adjusting to a new campus culture and different academic expectations can feel isolating and result in impostor syndrome. After two years of community college and giving my all into my academics, I came to UC Berkeley still feeling disoriented, both socially and academically. 

As a junior, I can’t help but feel behind my peers who have been here since freshman year. It’s uncomfortable knowing that everyone else understands the rigorous academics and expectations of UC Berkeley while I have to learn to adapt to a new academic environment. In community college, classes are small and professors spend more time with students to ensure they succeed in their classes. I knew my professors personally and was able to build relationships with them and receive personalized feedback, thereby contributing to my success.

Here, professors don’t know my name and I’m in classes with hundreds of students. After a month of attending classes, I realized that academic success or advising is not handed to me on a silver platter. Building relationships with professors is much more difficult and requires more proactivity on my part: I have to go out of my way to get the help I need. 

Realizing that students at UC Berkeley focus their attention on numerous activities other than just school work also came as a shock to me. Campus culture at my community college was not very strong as we did not have many clubs or organizations. The school population was just too small. Impostor syndrome kicked in immediately once I realized everyone around me already obtained internships, led clubs and toted resumes a mile long. I thought I didn’t belong here and felt a need to “catch up” to my peers. How could I even call myself a golden bear if I didn’t know anything about campus life or participate in it? 

Despite the somewhat difficult transition to UC Berkeley’s academic and campus culture, one of the most isolating feelings as a transfer student was not having established social relationships. Whenever I walked around campus, I couldn’t help but notice how people walked in groups of two or more. It felt like everyone had formed their friend groups and that I was left alone to fend for myself. 

As my first semester comes to an end, I’ve concluded that surviving transfer shock is an ongoing process. Each day brings upon new opportunities to learn about who I am here and what’s available to me. I’ve made mistakes along the way, but I’ve also learned to grow from them. With a little bit of transfer shock comes some surprise at how much I’m truly capable of.

Contact Sophie Ward at 


NOVEMBER 28, 2022