Checking In With Chancellor May: Our Transfer Student Success

Student poses with Gunrock while holding gold sign reading "I'm in" as confetti falls

Checking In With Chancellor May: Our Transfer Student Success

To the UC Davis Community:

Today, thousands of future Aggies will open their email to the exciting news they have been accepted as transfers at UC Davis. They join our vibrant community of almost 8,000 transfer students and will continue their path toward an undergraduate degree in a community eager to welcome them.

Our transfer students come from every walk of life and experience. Some are first-generation students, some are returning to college after serving in the military or raising families, and some are transitioning from one career to the next.

While every transfer has a unique story, they are joined in their desire to get a world-class education at UC Davis.

Brenda Chavarin Lizama is a thriving first-generation student who transferred to UC Davis. A political science major, she’s a peer advisor for other transfer students, excited about a summer internship in Thailand and a year from graduation. Unsure about finances and academic focus, she said she didn’t see herself here right after high school. Encouragement from her community college professors and a UC Davis transfer counselor helped her realize that she is as right for UC Davis as it is for her.

UC Davis has an incredible track record of supporting transfer students, with some of the highest graduation rates in the state. In fact, 88% of transfer students graduate within four years, and in winter 2024, our two-year graduation rate jumped to an all-time high of 65%.

ASUCD Transfer Student Representative Kaito Clarke welcomed the “clean slate” Ohlone College offered to jumpstart his pursuit of a political science degree. The first-generation college student chose UC Davis because it is an inclusive environment that recognizes and celebrates every student's journey to campus.

Pathways for success

For many students, the story begins at a California community college. The University of California’s Transfer Admission Guarantee promises that students who fulfill the academic requirements in almost every major will be admitted to UC Davis or five other institutions.

At UC Davis, we’re committed to welcoming transfers. UC Davis has one of the highest transfer admit rate in the UC system, reaching 70% for California community college students in fall 2023.

Transfer admissions are essential to expanding opportunities for California students. The vast majority of our transfers come from one of the state’s community colleges, and 89% of our transfer admissions are from California.

Many students are from historically underrepresented groups, and 44% of transfer admissions are the first generation in their families to attend college.

We’ve expanded our partnership relationship to 42 community colleges in California through the Transfer Opportunity Program. It connects students with a cohort group across the state, explains the admission process and matches students with Student Outreach Ambassadors at UC Davis.

Members of our Aggie community

Transitioning from community colleges can often feel intimidating. However, our programs help transfers immediately establish connections. Events like Discover UC Davis, Aggie Day and Picnic Day draw students to campus to learn more about our community and its unique spirit. Aggie Orientation sets the stage for transfer students to connect to the community and jump into campus and academic life.

Once students enroll, the Transfer and Reentry Center, or TRC, provides vital social and emotional support. Transfer Coordinator Dasha Sidenko said relationships are at the heart of the TRC, connecting students with networks of peer advisors, staff advisors and fellow students.

Director of Transfer and Veterans Services Hope Medina said the TRC helps students navigate the challenges of larger campus life. When students have questions about anything from housing to financial aid, the center’s open-door policy means staff can often walk them right to the office they need to visit to find support.

Students can also get assistance from the Academic Assistance and Tutoring Centers, or AATC, which support thousands of undergraduates each year with subject-specific tutoring, classes, workshops and writing support services. Appointment and drop-in tutoring support is available in biology, chemistry, economics, math, physics and statistics.

Get engaged

Speaking of ways to be part of our community, I hope all undergraduate students — including transfers — will vote in next week’s ASUCD elections. It’s a vital way to have a say in the way the university’s student government is run, including who will fill leadership roles like president, six senate seats, transfer student representative and more. The ballot also contains a proposal to reinstate a student fee to fund a program that supports campus sustainability projects. Voting will take place online Monday (April 22) through April 26.

Academic support

UC Davis supports the academic transition as well.

The College of Biological Sciences is one example of our colleges offering programs that connect transfer students to their academic cohort and research opportunities. Helen Schurke Frasier, assistant dean for student success initiatives, described their approach as one focused on creating multiple mentorship opportunities to build a strong foundation for student success.

Their goal is to have every transfer student participate in significant experiential learning in and beyond the classroom during their time at UC Davis. As Professor J. David Furlow said, transfer students choose UC Davis because of our research mission to “not only teach but discover.”

All freshman and transfer students attend a BioLaunch Seminar to connect them with academic life and immediately engage in research projects. The Mentor Collective, one of the largest in the country, connects students with peers to help them find study spaces, learn how to engage with professors and handle exams.  And Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience, or CURE, puts students in labs as scientific investigators conducting practical research to uncover the unknown. The college has launched an initiative to dramatically expand CURE offerings with the goal that every transfer student will have a seat in this transformative, research-intensive course.

For students in biology, engineering, or medicine, Avenues B, E and M offer pathways all the way from community college to careers.

Across our colleges, transfer students are linked to opportunities that will help them meet their career aspirations.

Patty Garcia, a transfer student who will graduate this spring with an English degree, credits UC Davis support for parents, from diapers to daycare, as an indispensable part of her success. She said her experience in the Washington Program as a Congressional intern for Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa) helped her develop networking skills she’ll need to make a difference in her community. Garcia, a first-generation student with two children, hopes to return to UC Davis to study law.

Graduation and beyond 

Garcia’s story is the story of so many of our transfer students. Once students are admitted to UC Davis, they succeed here.

Dustin Lower, a reentry student, came to UC Davis after first entering college 20 years ago. After a career and time caring for his family, Lower hit the ground running at UC Davis, where he will continue his studies toward his Ph.D. after graduating with a degree in plant biology this spring. Lower, who recently won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for his mycology work, says that UC Davis’ support for research and invested faculty made all the difference.

He said there was a direct throughline from the Avenue B program to winning the fellowship, a path that led to his first hands-on lab experience running his own study to the Dean’s Circle Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

Our transfer students embody my goal that every student leaves UC Davis with a job offer or graduate school placement in hand, inspiring others to realize they can do the same. Clarke, who will graduate this June, said he could only graduate from UC Davis because of his community college transfer experience, and he’s been touched to see that his brother — who wasn’t thinking about college before — is now talking about attending UC Davis.

Congratulations to our successful transfer applicants on this special day in your academic career. We couldn’t be happier welcoming you as scholars, leaders and Aggies!


Gary S. May

Primary Category