By Nick Kaufmann, 2018-2019 SCS Student Advising Leader:
My journey to UIUC did not begin right after my senior year of high school. Before jumping onto a college of more than 40,000 students, I decided it was best for me to attend my local community college in Springfield, Illinois. I believed that a small school near home would allow me to determine what I really wanted to study and what I actually wanted to be. I eventually landed on chemical engineering as my area of study, and before I knew it my time at my community college was over and it was time to decide where I wanted to continue my education. UIUC was the best choice for me since it was close to home and had a reputation as one of the best engineering programs in the country. However, community college and a university are very different, and it is in this blog post that I will share with you a few tips on how to succeed as a transfer student at UIUC.
Going from small classrooms of 15-20 students to classrooms of 100-200 students is a very drastic change. It may feel like you are losing your one on one time with the professor, but the best way to get around this feeling is to utilize the professor's office hours. Office hours are a great opportunity to allow your professor to see you standing out and to show your professor that you really care about succeeding. Office hours are also a great opportunity to ask your professor about research opportunities if research interests you.
Another difference between community college and university are the Teaching Assistants or TA’s. I did not have TA’s at my community college, so when I arrived at UIUC I was confused on how to utilize or interact with the TA’s. The majority of TA’s are graduate students, and since they have just transitioned from undergrad they can generally give you great advice on what material to focus on for the class or how to optimize your time in class. UIUC does a great job of providing TA’s that are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about helping you learn. Whether the TA is holding office hours or actually teaching the class, it is always a great idea to try and make use of their availability. You might find that some of the university courses challenge you more than your community college courses, but making use of the TA’s availability can help you out with that learning curve as your transition.
It also may feel scary leaving all your friends at your community college to go to a university where you don’t really know anybody, but in my experience at UIUC, some of the best people to develop friendships with are actually the people in your classes. Whether it’s a fellow transfer student or an individual who has been there since freshman year, most people are willing to put themselves out there and meet new people. Generally, the people in your major classes have similar interests and hobbies as you, so it is easy to find mutual interests. Also, try to make use of the various clubs that the university has. Whether your interest is in sports, literature, or almost anything you can think of, the university has a club for it. I personally found intermural basketball and my church were the best clubs for me.
I know it may feel scary going from a small community college to a huge university, but it is possible to succeed and really thrive here during your time with UIUC. You just have to remember what your goals are, be willing to work hard for those goals, and put yourself out there. My time at UIUC has been some of the best of my life, and it can be for you too.