Reverse transfer to CCC in hopes of getting into a top UC or stay at T-20 LAC?

Hello! I’m making a thread because I need some advice for the complicated situation I’m in at my current college. For context:

  • First-year student at east coast T-20 LAC (remote for the second semester)
  • High school GPA: 3.4 UW
  • College GPA: 3.9
  • Prospective major: Math & Religion double major or Religion major with Math minor
  • OOS female from CA
  • Recently diagnosed with ASD 1

I’m debating whether I should transfer or stay at my current college. I do want to acknowledge that COVID-19 probably impacted my experience at the college, but I think there are red flags I experienced that would have existed notwithstanding the pandemic. If anyone could provide some input, it would be greatly appreciated.

T-20 LAC:

  • Supportive community; I went to a really cutthroat public high school in California so this new environment was a really welcome change. Students are collaborative and there have been very fews times where I felt my peers did not want to help me with a problem set/assignment.
  • Professors; the professors in the math department are really good at teaching and provide summer research opportunities. Super accessible with office hours and whatnot. Many professors emphasize that student-professor relationships should be less binary and “power” more evenly distributed. In general, I’ve found the professors to be really talented and generally invested in what they do. The only exception is the religion department (more on that later).
  • Small student:professor ratio; most of my courses, even the math ones, had a max. of 10-15 students in the course. And this was just for higher-level introductory courses. Another nice thing is that, because the class size is so small, no one really skips class so every session is consistent and we’re productive.
  • Strong alumni network; there are many alumni in politics, investment banking, law, but, most importantly, academia.
  • Preparation for a career in academia; the college graduates one of the highest numbers of students who go on to earn PhDs from LACs, especially in STEM fields like math. The humanities department PhD production is high as well. The college makes the list annually, I believe. I would like to become a university professor and I know that the job-market for this profession is extremely small every year. There’s a lot of “it’s who you know, not what you know.” I think any advantage, no matter how small, in regards to moving up in academia is significant. Graduating from this college will better prepare and proposition me for a master’s degree and PhD both of which I would really like to do.
  • College culture*; there’s an honor code and, in general, without a strike (this will also show up in the Cons list), I think it’s pretty nice. I don’t want to get too much into it, but one nice thing is that the college instills the value of mutual respect for one another. Students are also intellectually stimulated, at least in class, so I feel like in-class discussions are good.


  • Insanely expensive; I did not receive a merit scholarship and I’m not on financial aid. Tuition alone is around $60k annually. I was remote this semester so no fee for room&board, but tuition was only reduced a minuscule amount. My parents believe in education and if I stayed for the entire four years, they could afford it, but there comes a point where reality cannot justify the tuition. Cost-benefit analysis here is key.
  • Religion department; the religion department at the college is incredibly small and the course offerings are not as diverse/plentiful as I would’ve hoped. Yes, given the size of the student body/majors within the department these things may be generous, but from my own experiences and having talked to declared majors/upperclassmen, there are really only a couple of professors who seem to be competent and dedicated. Most importantly, the religion department has a slant towards a certain religion. The college was originally founded by a Christian denomination so the influence of this denomination are still felt in the academics to this day, especially in the religion department. I would like study in a department where religion is studying objectively with no bias.
  • Strike; last semester (fall 2020) there was a campus-wide strike that lasted two weeks in the name of racial justice. I don’t really want to get into it as it’s not a time I particularly like to remember, but here’s the link to an article if you want to check it out: college strike. Anyway, the strike ruined my perception of the college. Its claims about mutual respect and integrity went completely out the window to me. The campus was pretty much in chaos and the environment the strike created was really hostile. Students were getting bullied for going to class (yes, for going to class and with tuition being $60k) & eating in the dining halls (yes, which costs $16k), first-amendment rights were being revoked (student newspaper would not publish dissenting opinions on the strike), the college president was receiving death threats and students who disagreed with the strike would be “canceled.” There was an incident where a student was actually being targeted by a professor for something he said about the strike. The college president/administration failed to keep the student body safe and the college free from harm. While the intentions of the strike organizers may have started off fine, it resulted in destruction at the college in more ways than one. Really, the most frustrating thing is that the college let the strike go unpunished and was sympathetic to the aggressors, not the students who just wanted to attend class and eat in the dining hall.
  • Location/campus; the college is located in the suburbs of a medium-large city on the east coast. The location of the college is stifling. On the weekends, most students party and, because I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs (religious background), my weekends are just filled with studying/9 pm bedtimes. (Seriously, on Sunday mornings I would wake up at 5am and do yoga on the lawn). They say the city nearby is “close by” but it’s still a 20-ish minute train ride away and the train tickets are not cheap so just another expense. The campus is absolutely tiny. I hate the layout of the campus. All the buildings are squashed in one area which does make getting to and from the buildings convenient, but it makes the campus feel suffocatingly small. It really feels like you’re in the middle of no-where and trapped in a tiny bubble of privilege. Another silly thing, but the area is terrible for running. Running was actually what helped me combat my depression during my first semester, but I found it really hard to run anywhere since the area is terrible for run in (tiny streets/no sidewalks and no trails/hills nearby). I basically just ran in circles around campus.
  • Culture; drinking/alcohol/party culture is rampant which, I know, are not abnormal for most American colleges. Given the small size though, it feels like these things are what anyone on campus ever wants to do on the weekend, even during the pandemic. If you’re not doing these things on the weekends, you’ll find that there’s nothing else to do. While I was there, I felt more alone and sad than I ever felt. I think at a larger college, there would be more people to meet and the opportunity to find different niches of people. That brings me to my next point, the college is very, very cliquey. It seriously feels like a stereotypical American high school movie at times. A reason why I even chose the college was because I did not want to attend a college that had the culture of a high school. I thought people would be more mature, but the people here really do form their own friend groups and don’t venture outside of them. Moreover, a large percentage of the student body is on a varsity sports team. I like sports and I’m on a club team myself, but I think the percentage of students playing a varsity sport kind of creates an us vs. them culture among the student body. I definitely wouldn’t say student athletes are all jocks, the ratio just, once again, makes the college experience feel more like a high school experience.

California Community College:

  • Affordable; the cost of community college is incomparable. I think it would make much more sense to save for a year and figure stuff out while I’m at it.
  • Mental health/disability; my mental health has been terrible for as long as I can remember. I was recently diagnosed with ASD Level 1. I do not want to get into it too much, but this next year is going to be really important for me to establish what I want to do with my life/how I can move forward. Being at home, I can continue to go to therapy and the doctor’s office to receive medication. I’ll be in a familiar environment to receive treatment.
  • UC pipeline; I live near one of the top-rated community colleges in the country and it’s the top feeder into UCs. I would like to attend UC Berkeley or a different out of state university with a strong religion department (more on that later).
  • Finding my footing affordably; I mentioned my mental health/disability already, but really, I think being at home will help me find my footing. People say college is about “finding yourself,” but does doing so have to cost $70k+? I could also change my mind and decide I don’t want to study religion.
  • Proximity to home; I was really homesick my first semester due to all the cons I listed previously. I know these are just growing pains, but I really think a year close to home would benefit me.


  • UCs (for the most part) do not have religion departments; UCs do not have religion departments, and if they do, they are not particularly strong. UCLA has a religion department but it is not well known for it. UC Berkeley doesn’t even have a religion department. I could always decide I don’t want to study religion, but I would like to attend a school that does have a department.
  • Slimmer chances of getting into an out of state university; I know the chances of getting into a school like UChicago (especially as a transfer student) are slim at best, but would attending a community college make it even slimmer? Is getting into a T-20 university harder as a community college student or as a T-20 LAC student? I think I know the answer, but I know that the transfer process is different from applying “normally."
  • Logistics; are my credits from my first year at T-20 LAC transferrable to the community college and, therefore, a UC? If not, will I have to do two years at a community college and “repeat” my first year? I know this is a question that would be better suited for the community college, but if anyone knows anything it would be much appreciated.
  • Stigma; will community college ruin my chances of becoming a college professor? Will master’s programs and PhD programs look down on me for transferring/going to a community college?
  • Home situation; relationship with parents is okay, not the best. They are trying to understand my diagnosis and how to support me. It’s difficult for them. I feel safe, but I know they wish I was “normal” again.
  • Lack of extracurriculars; for what it’s worth, there were few e.c.’s at my T-20 LAC last year due to COVID, but I still think there would be more there than at my local community college. I’m not worried about this too much, but should I be?

You can’t be comfortable unless you feel motivated, safe and supported.
My vote would be returning to a CC and transferring to an affordable college in California. You need to be in a healthy environment.
The main issue would be funding if your parents have a tight budget. If you can get transfer dollars, you should attempt schools both public and private that will support your two disciplines.

Edited to add: Did you consider USC???


Could you take a gap year or semester (if you apply for a spring admit) and apply to another college during that time?

Some schools seems more amenable to CC transfers than others but I think you’d do better transferring from your current school.

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For grad programs, you will not be looked down on because you had a non-traditional path through undergrad. You will be judged on how you present yourself in your application, your overall college GPA, and standardized tests. It’s much more important to be healthy so you can do the best you can academically. Many grad students (and professors) attended community college, tranferred, or took a gap year somewhere along the way.

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Another possibility - take a look at schools that may still be accepting transfer applications (either for the fall or the spring) and consider contacting any that have the programs you’re interested in. Or, take a gap year and apply as a transfer to schools that you really want to attend.


I’m with @HMom16 here: the choices are not ‘stay here or go to CC’. You have a good GPA at a good school. Transferring is a reasonable possibility, esp as you are not tied to a financial aid package.

Try taking another crack at your pros/cons lists, to separate the wheat from the chaff:

*First test the relative weight of the various points you have made above: how important is each point to you in real life? Because no matter where you end up there will be negatives- figuring out which ones are really deal-breakers and which are preferences is useful.

*Then look for the red herrings. For example, you have UC-B in your head- why? in no way does it align with the things you like about where you are, and it doesn’t offer the subject you want to study- so what is the pull about really?

*Then take all of that and add in what you have learned from this experience so far: what do you want from a religion major? you mention ‘no bias’ and ‘competence’, which are easy labels to throw, but what does that mean to you in practice? you don’t like the historical association of the religion at your current school - would a school with a different historical association suit you better? (btw, if you find a school that doesn’t have a prof in every major that the students see as incompetent you will have found a unicorn). Have you learned more about your academic interests? look at peer schools and check out their religion departments. Do any of them offer classes or joint majors that are intellectually exciting to you?

Finally, own your own pieces (which you do to some extent above): yes, you were homesick at the start- so think that through further: what were you homesick for? your old life, that you knew how to handle, where you fit in, how it all worked? specific people? the comforts of living at home? yes, Covid mucked up the year for a lot of students- but also, even not knowing your specific school I am 100% sure that there are non-jock / non-hard partiers there. There are students who are in their dorms playing games (video or board), running student activities, etc. Think about what you would like to be doing, and how you would find fellow travelers. It will be so, so much easier this autumn when something similar to ‘normality’ returns to vaxxed campuses.

Use the summer to research peer schools- east coast/west coast/ in between- that have most of the pros of your current school- and that seem to do better at the things on your cons list. Many of them will have a spring transfer option- ie, you would go back to your school for this fall, and transfer in the spring. (Talk to your parents about the possibility of transferring away ASAP, so that you & they can make sure the contractual parts of the college agreement work out).


Thinking out of the box:
St Olaf is highly respected for religion. It is obviously linked to a religious faith but includes specialists of many.
It’s also nationally known for math.
And it’s less expensive than an East Coast LAC,while sharing some characteristics with your current college (small classes, collaborative…)
And until recently it was still accepting transfer applications.


Thank you. This is very helpful advice. Funding/tuition is an issue for me and one of the primary reasons I’m thinking of transferring specifically to a community college. No, I did not consider USC, I do not know if they have a religion program. Also, I toured the school when I was in high school and I didn’t think it was the school for me. I will reconsider it, but it’s also extremely expensive.

I was under the impression that to transfer to a school, you have to be concurrently enrolled in an institution? And for UCs, they only accept junior year transfers so I would need to be enrolled somewhere next year to be apply for the 2022 cycle.

My current college is on the east coast. I’m pretty sure UCs would be more amenable to my local CC than my small college on the east cost. UCs are obligated to take a specific number of CCC transfers every year.

Thank you. I’ll take a look, but four things:

  1. Finances are an issue, that’s one of the reasons I’m strongly considering community college.
  2. Mental health support is nearby. I’m still in the early stages of navigating my disability and I wouldn’t have to change who I’m seeing.
  3. UCs only accept junior year transfers
  4. Don’t you have to be concurrently enrolled in a school to apply to transfer? You can’t just be on a gap year/semester and apply?

I don’t know about UC transfer requirements but you don’t have to be currently enrolled to transfer to most colleges and universities, many students take a gap year and apply to transfer during that year. If you’re set on a UC transfer then a CCC maybe a necessary stepping stone.

If you attend the school I think you do, it’s very well known and respected and will be for transfer purposes. That being said you are absolutely correct that UCs are required to take a large portion of their transfer students from the CCC pool of applicants.

Thank you, I will take a look at your recommendation. One of my math profs went to St. Olaf’s and raved about it. Finances are an issue so I will have to crunch some numbers. Do you know if they give good merit aid? Specifically to transfers?

UC’s accept Junior level transfers with a minimum 60 semester/90 quarter units completed along with GE and major prep courses prior to matriculation.

UC’s offer TAG (Transfer Admission Gurantee) for 6 campuses but you need to be enrolled in a California CC and have 30 semester/45 quarter units completed at the CC prior to matriculation. TAG majors can be limited at some campuses such as UCI and UCSB so each year the TAG matrix with required courses, available majors and GPA requirements are posted.

Here is the 2021 TAG matrix:

UCB and UCLA also have TAP which gives a CA CC transfer student priority but not a guaranteed admission. Not all CA CC’s participate in TAP.

The only reason I mentioned USC is because they can offer some funding as a transfer student. Check their NPC online.

Transfers typically get lousy aid. I know costs are lower than if you’re full pay at an East Coast LAC but I don’t know how much in merit aid might still be available.
You could contact them directly, indicating you are thinking of transferring, want to major in math and religion, want to transfer to a college where civil discourse and honors code are taken seriously, and st Olaf was recommended by several people as meeting these criteria, especially Pr… who graduated from St Olaf in… Add that you were thinking of initiating the transfer process in Spring 2022 but you were told there might still be spots open and perhaps some aid for Fall 2021. Is that the case?
You’ll hear quickly: either they do or don’t have merit aid.

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You have said that your parents are ok with paying for your current school, but that you don’t see the value in spending a lot of $$. Do you need financial aid to transfer, or do you want to reduce your costs b/c that is a value to you?

Significant merit aid is not typical for transfers; financial aid is for ‘meet need’ schools.


Thank you, you gave some really good advice. The ‘red herring’ metaphor is particularly helpful. I also think I was overly harsh with the religion department so thanks for calling that out.

In response to your most recent comment, I agree, I should have clarified better in my post. Yes, my parents are okay with paying for my current school, but I know given every con I listed, I don’t think the cost can be justified for much longer. I have four younger siblings, one of whom is going OOS for college next year, and my family’s at the point where we don’t qualify for financial aid, but money is still something we have to take into consideration. Like I said, they value education, but college is expensive. I really don’t want to get into it because it’s personal, but that’s kind of the role the finances of college takes for my family. Also, my disability requires investments we haven’t had to make before so that’s another expense.

Can you take a LOA from your current school, and attend CC for a semester or a year?

If you can, you’d be preserving the option to return while getting all of the other benefits you mentioned - the time at home to regroup and focus on self-care, and the option of a much more straightforward junior transfer to a UC - without completely burning bridges.

As for the UC’s, it seems to me that you’re still somewhat in the mental trap of your “cutthroat” high school, in terms of thinking that only Berkeley and UCLA are “good enough” as a destination… whereas you might find a program better suited to your interests and needs if you were open to other options. The Religious Studies program at UCSB looks very much worthy of consideration. Their stated philosophy is very well aligned with what you say you want, and it’s a large and well-established program. Students go to top graduate programs from all of the UC’s, not just from UCLA and Berkeley.


I would have to formally transfer out of the college. The community college credits would not go towards anything if I do not formally transfer to the CC.

I disagree strongly that I’m still in the “mental trap” of my high school. I only named UCB and UCLA because they’re the two UCs that are the most well known. I wanted to make this post as accessible/easy to understand as possible which why I cited these two UCs in my original post. Also, if I was still in the “mental trap” as you say, I wouldn’t even be considering community college in the first place since some UCs wouldn’t even be “good enough” for me…

And about UCSB, thank you for the advice. I know they have a strong philosophy program, but the university isn’t the right fit for me.

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I think you should take a LOA from your school (they allow them, for sure) and spend some time figuring out what you really want and where you really want to be. It doesn’t sound like the current school is it, but that doesn’t mean that CC is your only option. That said, there are definitely people at the school who don’t party (though there is a fair bit of drinking on campus), who aren’t varsity athletes (though the divide can be real for some people), and who don’t stick to a small clique. There are artists and poets and dancers and scientists and outdoorsy people there (for whom the arboretum trail also gets old)… doing all kinds of things and no things on the weekends. Your people might be there but you haven’t met them yet- if your first semester was the fall and the spring was remote for you, then overall you haven’t even had the chance to really get to know the majority of the students. I agree the Quaker influence is strong. We are atheists but my daughter found it intriguing- I can definitely see how it could make the religion department off for you if you’re of a specific other religion. Best of luck to you- your college gpa is great and with parents who can afford your current school (they don’t offer merit, btw, so I hope you didn’t take it personally), the sky is the limit for you, I think!

PS. My daughter was able to go into the city a few times last year with the school paying for the train ticket- she’s a fgli student so I guess that may vary… but she loved Friday nights at the movies and on the waterfront. Obviously she didn’t get to go at all this year, unfortunately, since the city remained shut down.