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How I Transferred From Community College – A Student’s Story

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Leyla Barkhordar in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



In this article, we are going to share the experience that one of our experts, Leyla, faced when navigating community college and transferring to a larger four-year school. 


After graduating from high school in 2017, Leyla went to Santa Monica College for two years. After those first two years, she transferred to UCLA, where she graduated a quarter early. Leyla cites going to community college first as the best decision she ever made. Here is her story.


Choosing Community College


Immediately after graduating from high school, I had no idea of what I wanted to do. I had applied to several schools, including UCLA, Stanford, Harvard, UCSD, and UC Irvine – to name a few.  And I ended up getting into a good number of schools on my college list. But at the time, I couldn’t afford to go straight to a four year school. Coming from a family of five, each college education becomes a large family expense. 


After talking to my parents and my older brother about how much they loved Santa Monica College, I decided to start my college career there. After all, I really didn’t have a sense of what I wanted to do just yet. SMC was an incredibly priced option located only a short 35 minute commute from my home in the valley of Los Angeles.  


The campus was beautiful and had a wide range of clubs and social activities. The academic departments were strong and offered me the opportunity to build a strong network. In fact, Santa Monica College is the number one hub for students ultimately hoping to transfer to UCLA. Students attending SMC who maintain a strong GPA are well positioned to get into UCLA. 


But attending SMC was an amazing experience on its own. During those two years, I tutored for the extended opportunities and program center, working with low income, homeless, formerly incarcerated and differently abled students as an added resource to them at SMC. Additionally, I took on opportunities to get involved outside of the SMC community and have rewarding experiences while I worked towards my associates degree


When I graduated in 2019, I earned associates degrees in both the liberal arts and general science, achieving the second highest honors with a 3.92 GPA. While I hadn’t planned to finish a degree, I was very proud of what I accomplished in those two years. 


Transferring to a Four Year Program


After graduating from Santa Monica, I actually applied to the same schools I had originally applied to in high school. After receiving my college decisions, I narrowed my decision down to UCLA, Stanford or UC Irvine.


I ended up choosing UCLA for two reasons: the Bruins high and the financial aid. Choosing the school that was most affordable but also close to home just made the most sense to me. UCLA is located in the incredible area of Westwood.


This was another great decision. While most of my experience at UCLA happened during the pandemic, I was still able to get involved in multiple student-run organizations and support my peers within the UCLA community. I also worked at the UCLA transfer student center as a mentorship program coordinator. I also had amazing experiences in the education department, including petitioning for a class to be revised and having my petition approved. 


In the end, I earned my Bachelor’s degree with a major in Sociology and my minor in Education Studies upon graduating in 2021. 


Final Words of Advice


As you plan for college, regardless of what you’re looking to study or where you’re planning to attend, apply for financial aid early and from a variety of sources. Many programs have multiple financial aid deadlines including earlier deadlines for scholarship applicants. Applying early sets you up with more opportunities to get aid, even if you’re not sure how much you’ll get. 


Considering community college as your next step? Check out this post for more information on community college programs and whether or not they’re a good fit for you. Additionally, if you would like to ask Leyla questions about your own college process and work with her, check out her profile on CollegeVine!