The Transfer Student Transition


by Cara

Sometimes, I feel like I’m a freshman again.

I pronounce the names of campus buildings wrong. I panic when random people ask me for directions to the library. I almost walked into the wrong classroom during the second week of class.

Last month, I started my sophomore year of college and my first semester at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

As you may remember, I attended the University of St. Thomas during my freshman year and decided to transfer because it wasn’t the right fit for me. I hoped to have more academic and social opportunities at the U of M, and so far I am pleased with my experience!

I didn’t have transfer orientation until the end of June. Compared to my freshman year orientation, this year’s orientation was shorter and more focused on class selection. I researched and printed out two schedule options before my orientation, so when I finally met with my academic advisor it was easy to explain what classes I wanted to take.

Since I’m done with the majority the U of M’s general education requirements, every class I’m taking this semester was selected because I wanted to take it. I’m taking the first journalism course required for admission to the major, two political science courses, microeconomics, and a 1-credit, online public health course.

I was able to set up my schedule so that I’m done with class everyday by the early afternoon, and I don’t have any classes on Fridays! Back when I was researching colleges, I always checked if the school offered the majors I was interested in, but I didn’t look in depth at their class offerings.

If you are a student looking at colleges, think about more than just your major!

Does the school offer alternative class arrangements such as online classes or classes held only once a week? I love being able to take two of my classes online. It allows me to work at my own pace and re-watch the course lectures, if I don’t understand the content the first time. Are all students required to take the same general education courses such as Biology 101, or do you get to choose which science course you take? I enjoy having many course options to fulfill the U of M’s requirements.

Freshmen at the U of M have a whole week of activities to welcome them to campus, but transfer students have a smaller offering of events. I went to a few of the events such as one at the student union where there were different free foods to eat and activities to do on each floor.

The main way I’ve made new friends is by meeting friends of my friends! I attended business camp at the U of M’s Carlson School of Management the summer before my senior year of high school, so I already knew students on campus. Since they have already been at the U of M for year, they are able to show me around campus and tell me about the different student groups. I love to go to events held by the many cultural student clubs on campus. We learn something new about another culture and get free food! My favorite event I’ve attend so far is Wam-O-Ram! It was held in the U of M’s Weisman Art Museum. There were free screen printed t-shirts, free pizza, a mini concert, and of course viewing of the numerous art pieces.

As a transfer student it can take a little extra work to make new friends and get involved on campus, but I am pleased with my decision to transfer. I can’t wait to see what other experiences I’ll have during my first semester at the U of M, and I am excited to share them with all of you!

Changing Your Mind Isn’t A Crime


by Cara

College is a time of change. Some are minor such as studying a different foreign language than the one you did in high school. Other changes are more major like moving to the other side of the country for college.

I’ve changed a lot this year, and I will be making my biggest change this fall. This week is the end of my first year of college and the end of my time at the University of St. Thomas. In the fall, I will be transferring to the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

I’m the type of person who tries to plan ahead for everything. I even have a spreadsheet with my four year plan for college plus one year post grad.

Transferring was not part of that plan.

For many months, I attempted to keep the thought of transferring out of my mind. I kept telling myself that it was normal to feel a little nervous about starting college, but the level of hesitation I felt was much more than a little. If I mentioned my fear that I’d made the wrong decision, I was so worried I would disappoint everyone and that I’d look like a failure.

I think I focused too much on achieving what I thought people expected of me instead of what I really wanted.

My courses at St. Thomas were a variety of new and familiar subjects. I joined a mentorship program and a dance club. I spent my weekends attending the on-campus concert and movie events with free food. Regardless of what I did, my experience was still not what I envisioned it to be.

I didn’t feel like I fit in.

At the U of M, I feel secure enough to authentically be myself. I am comfortable there, but not comfortable to the point that I won’t be able to grow as a person. I feel welcomed enough try new things there like joining student government or writing for the school’s newspaper. I’ve loved the U of M since I attend a week long business camp at their Carlson School of Management. It has a diverse student body, a club for every interest, and it’s close to where my family lives.

My academic interests have also changed. Instead of one of my majors being marketing, I will be doing a management minor. I will still be pursuing a major in journalism, and I’ve added another major in political science. It’s great to head to college with an idea of what you’ll major in, but keep your mind open to falling in love with new subjects.

The experiences you have during the summer and throughout college will help you discover what you enjoy the most.

Transferring isn’t something to take lightly. Deciding to transfer solely because you want to be with a friend, you have a bad roommate experience, or you want to attend a higher ranked school are all potential reasons to reconsider whether a transfer makes sense. Your college experience will be what you make of it, but if you feel it’s not working out for numerous reasons it can’t hurt to explore your options. I’m glad I went ahead and applied early to transfer. Months later when I knew for sure I wanted to transfer, it wasn’t too late.

I thought I would be done with the whole college application process until it was time for graduate school. At times, applying for transfer admission felt more stressful than senior year.

Once you’re accepted to a new college, there’s still more to be done. You have to figure out which courses will toward your degree at the new college. Placement tests and orientation must be completed again. Financial aid can also be just as confusing as the first time. Typically, there are less grants or scholarships available directly from your college when you’re a transfer student. Federal aid and outside scholarships tend to stay at the same amount if you are not leaving the state.

I’ve learned that each person has their opinion of the ideal college experience and one is not more valid than the others.

If something doesn’t feel right after your first college semester, talk to your advisor. Sometimes getting more involved in campus activities, finding a new roommate, or changing your major is all it takes to improve your situation. If you still feel it’s not working, know that there’s nothing wrong with transferring.

Ultimately, what matters is that you pick the best option for you and that you are happy.

Summer Break: More Than Just A Time For Fun


by Cara

There’s more to summer break than binge watching Netflix, going to the mall with friends, and staying up late just because you can. While the summer is a good time to relax, it’s also a great time to start planning ahead for the path you’ll take after high school. Making use of your summer break by taking part in programs will look great on college and scholarship applications.

Whether you want to get an early start on the college application process or explore your academic interests, there is a program for you. The programs I attended during the summer helped me decided what to study in college, and I also think they helped me stand out in my applications.

Below are three summer programs that I think are worth checking out. The best part is all of these programs are free, and one of them even pays its participants!

Questbridge College Prep Scholarship

The Questbrige College Prep Scholarship is not a traditional scholarship because you do not receive money to pay college expenses. Instead, it is a pathway to summer opportunities and getting a head start on the college application process for current juniors.

I didn’t apply to this when I was in high school but I know a lot about the application process because it’s similar to their senior year program for which I was a finalist. Seniors can apply for their National College Match program that helps high-achieving, low-income high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to selective colleges such as Columbia, Stanford, and Yale.

Students selected as College Prep Scholars will receive free test prep, priority consideration to receive all-expense-paid college visits, early access to the National College Match application, and assistance from Questbridge to strengthen their National College Match application.

Scholars may also receive one or more of the following: full scholarships to college summer programs, an invitation to a college admissions conference, personalized college essay support, telementoring with college students, and/or Quest for Excellence Awards.

The application opens in February and will be due on March 25, 2015.

To be eligible, students must be juniors who are planning to apply to college during the fall of their senior year. They must also meet the citizenship requirement by being a U.S. citizen, Permanent Resident, or international student attending high school in the United States.

Questbrige is looking for students who have shown outstanding academic ability despite any economic challenges their family has faced. Many College Prep Scholars come from households earning less than $60,000 annually for a family of four and have also experienced long-term economic hardship.

When looking at your application they look at academic achievement, financial need, and personal circumstances. To apply you need to submit a transcript, one recommendation from a core subject teacher, an essay and short answer questions, financial information, and any test score information if you have taken any of these tests: PSAT, SAT, PLAN, ACT, Subject Tests, IB, and AP.

Most students selected have an average GPA of 3.88, an ACT score of 27 or higher, and are in the top 10% of their class. One of the great aspects of this program is that they are willing to consider your personal circumstances, so don’t let a lower GPA, ACT score, and/or class rank stop you from applying.

Carleton Liberal Arts Experience: July 5-11, 2015

I did not attend this program, but I think it is a great opportunity for current sophomores, especially those interested in attending Carleton College or another small liberal arts college. Students spend the week living at Carleton and learning about liberal art education by taking courses in science, art, social sciences, and technology.

Workshops are also held to inform participants on topics such as ACT prep and the financial aid process. The program covers all costs including living in the residence halls and travel to the Carleton College campus.

To be eligible, students must plan to attend college after high school. They must also be of African American descent or have an interest in African American culture. The application requires students to answer seven short essay questions, submit a transcript with their freshman and sophomore year grades, and submit at least one letter of recommendation from an academic teacher.

The application is available now and is due on April 1, 2015.

GopherBusiness Program: July 17-25, 2015

This program is run by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Participants compete in a business case competition, take business classes, live in the dorms on campus for a week, and visit local businesses.

The business case competition involves a different local non-profit each year. The program is free and you even earn a stipend! If you attend the Carlson School after graduating from the program, you will also receive a scholarship.

From the program website, “each year, we select approximately 45 students to be a part of the GopherBusiness program. It’s a highly selective program. GopherBusiness applicants should be:

  • Current high school sophomores or juniors.
  • Interested in business, non-profit or organizational leadership.
  • From a diverse background; a future first-generation college student; from an economically disadvantaged background; students with disabilities; females; or students of LGBT and related identities.”

The ideal applicants for the program will have a minimum 3.4 cumulative grade point average, strong math and science coursework, and demonstrated leadership and involvement.

When I applied to the program, the application required a couple of essays, a list of activities I was involved in, and a form that my counselor needed to fill out.

The application for this summer’s program will open on February 6, 2015 and is due April 3, 2015.

Getting to live on a college campus for a week during the GopherBusiness camp really helped me feel prepared to leave for college this past fall. I met so many great people and I’m still in regular contact with my roommate and people from my competition group.

If you have any interest in studying business after high school, I highly recommend this program.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about applying to these programs!

Finding A College That Fits

 It Doesn’t Need To Feel Like Searching For A Needle In A Haystack

college search

by Cara

When it was time to decide which colleges to add to my list, the first big decision I made was between attending a 2-year community college or a 4-year college. I knew from the start that I wanted to attend a 4-year college, but I also applied to one community college. Thankfully, because of scholarships, I was able to attend the type of school I desired, but community colleges can be a great way to save money before transferring to a four-year school.

I didn’t add any colleges to my list solely because they were public or private. I think it’s a good idea to include some of each when making your list. Public universities offer lower rates to in-state students, but many private colleges have more scholarship funding to offer.

Big schools can mean more major and minor offerings, a larger amount of resources and opportunities, and an abundance of school spirit at sporting events. Small schools can offer smaller class sizes and a more close-knit community of students.

I chose a medium sized school, University of St. Thomas, because I felt like it offered me the best of both worlds. The class sizes are small enough where the professors can get to know you, there’s a sense of community, and I’m still able to enjoy the type of school spirit I desired.

Having a general idea of what I wanted to major in helped me narrow down my list. My interests are in journalism and marketing, so I researched both programs at each college to which I applied. Keep in mind that the college you attend doesn’t have to be ranked number one in the subject you want to study in order for you to receive a quality education. Personalized attention that a small program may offer, compared to a larger well-known program, and the amount of hands on experience available are more important.

I choose a school with an urban location because I love living in a major metropolitan area. I’ve lived in Minneapolis my whole life, so moving to St. Paul for college has allowed to stay close to my family while still enjoying my independence and a new city.

The communications industry is something I’m interested in so I knew it would be easier to find internship opportunities in a big city rather than a rural location. There’s always something to do on the weekend whether it’s going to the mall, an art museum, or the movies. Getting there is never a problem because of the public transportation system in the Twin Cities. There can be plenty to do on campus, but I considered where I’d be able to spend my free time in the city before I made my decision.

After I decided which factors would determine the colleges I’d put on my list, I needed a way to find a list of colleges. The College Search feature on the College Board website is a great way to generate a list of schools that meet your criteria. You can even indicate how important each factor is in case the colleges you’ll consider must have an urban location, but even though you’d like a small school body you don’t want to eliminate all larger colleges.

I’d recommend having 5-7 schools on your list, so when May of senior year arrives you have enough options. With so many options available the college search can be overwhelming at times, but because I decided which factors were important to me in the beginning I was able to end up at the college that fits me best.

Feel free to leave me a comment if you have questions. Best of luck in your search!

Scholarships: They Can Make Your Dreams Come True

One benefit of receiving scholarships is that some organizations hold ceremonies for the winners! These are a few programs I have collected from the celebrations

by Cara

If scholarships didn’t exist, I don’t think I’d be sitting in a library at the University of St. Thomas right now. I knew that if I wanted to attend college, scholarships would certainly be involved. Don’t let financial barriers stop you from going after your dream of attending college. It’s never too early to start seeking out scholarships. There is a scholarship for every major and career interest. Local scholarships are especially worth applying to because fewer people are eligible for them which increases your chances.

A great resource that led me to many of the scholarships I applied for was the weekly AchieveMpls College & Career Center announcements. Check out Southwest’s here or South’s here. Most people don’t take the time to read the emails their school sends them about scholarships and other opportunities, but take the five minutes and you could end up getting a head start on paying for college!

This isn’t my first time writing about scholarships; click here for an article I wrote for, a college admissions advice website, on ways to improve your chances of winning scholarships. Since I’ve previously written about general ways to help students in their scholarship search, I thought it would be helpful to focus on specific scholarship programs that MPS students can benefit from.

Here are two scholarships you should take the time to apply for because they will benefit you in many ways more than just financial support:

Page Education Foundation

I am proud to be a Page Scholar! The PEF awards scholarships in the range of $1,000-$2,500 depending of the type of college the student will attend. Page Scholars agree to spend at least 50 hours during the year tutoring and mentoring children in grades K-8. The scholarships can be renewed each year, all the way through graduate school. For my Service-To-Children project, I am tutoring fourth graders in math and reading at a local elementary school. It is my first time volunteering with children, and I’ll admit I was nervous at first. Don’t let the volunteer component deter you from applying. It feels great to know you are inspiring and helping a child succeed.

The main eligibility requirements:

  • A student of color
  • A graduate of a Minnesota high school
  • Planning to attend or already enrolled in a community or technical college, vocational school, or 4-year college in Minnesota
  • Willing to complete a minimum of 50 hours for a Service-to-Children project

Two recommendations, an essay, and information about the activities you are involved in are required. Financial need is also taken into account when selecting scholars. The application will be available in January 2015 and due in May 2015.

Wallin Education Partners

I am also proud to be a Ronald Scholar through the Wallin Education Partners! Each scholar has a specific donor, whether it is a business such as General Mills or an individual. The scholarship is worth $16,000 over four years, or $4,000 per year. In addition to the financial support, each scholar is assigned a Wallin advisor to help them navigate the transition to college. At the start of the school year, all of the scholars at my school attended a gathering held by the foundation and there will be more held throughout the year. We also have access to other events such as career fairs and volunteering opportunities.

Here are the requirements to be eligible for the scholarship:

  • Senior at one of the seven traditional Minneapolis Public Schools (Students at St. Paul, Anoka-Hennepin, and North Metro schools are also eligible)
  • G.P.A of 3.0 or higher
  • ACT score of 19 or higher
  • Applying to at least one 4-year college in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, or one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)
  • Family taxable income of $75,000 or less

Aside from your academic performance, two essays, letters of recommendation, and your service and leadership involvement play a role in their selection process. The application will open up this December and is usually due in mid-January.

A few other opportunities worth checking out are the Gates Millenium Scholars Program, Minnesota Association of Counselors of Color scholarship, Pohlad Scholars Program, QuestBridge Programs and the Horatio Alger Association scholarships.

Scholarships can help your dreams come true, so start planning to apply now. If you’re a senior make a list of those you want to apply to, which teachers you’ll ask for recommendations, and brainstorm essay topics. If you’re a junior or younger, bookmark the scholarship links or save them in a Google Doc. You’ll be thankful when the stress of senior year arrives.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive the first scholarships you apply for. Or the first five. You’ll have your moment. Don’t give up and view each application as a chance to improve. I questioned if I’d ever have my moment, then I was pulled out of my Spanish class during February of my senior year. It was my admissions counselor from the University of St. Thomas letting me know they were offering me a full-tuition scholarship for all four years. Never give up, work hard, and it’ll all pay off in the end. Check out the new process recently put in place for this scholarship here.

If you have any questions for me about the scholarships listed, or scholarships in general, feel free to leave a comment!

Making Friends In College: It’s Okay to Talk to Strangers

Cara and her friends

by Cara

“A month ago I didn’t know you existed and now I’m sitting in your room!” I recently pointed out to one of my new friends at the University of St. Thomas. Making friends at college happens much more quickly than in high school, especially when you live so close to each other.

In high school there isn’t as much time for socializing, except during the time between classes or at lunch. At college there’s plenty of time to see your friends, whether it’s grabbing lunch together, forming study groups, or exploring the surrounding neighborhood. I had met a few other people who would also be attending St. Thomas, but I didn’t have any close friends when I first moved in. The typical questions of “Who will I sit with at lunch?” and “Who will I hang out with on the weekend?” crossed my mind occasionally. I’ve been on campus for over a month now and my fears have certainly eased.

I moved into my dorm four days earlier than most students because I was training to be a Tommie Ambassador. Tommie Ambassadors are a group of St. Thomas students who help high school students learn more about the school through tours, lunch, overnight visits and more.

After our daylong Tommie Ambassador training sessions we had free time. I would always accept offers to hang out with other ambassadors, to watch a movie or just sit around talking. Taking advantage of programs that introduce you to college early is a great way to meet new people. On an almost daily basis I run into students I met during the training. It’s always nice have someone say hello or wave to you on the walk to class.

The people who live in the same building as you do will also quickly become your friends. It’s much easier to hang out with friends who live footsteps away from you rather than planning out in advance whose house you’ll hang out at and how you will get there. Three of the four friends I spend most of my free time with live in my building; two of them live on the same floor, just down the hall from my room.

The first few days my residence hall was fairly quiet because only my fellow Tommie Ambassadors, athletes and Resident Assistants (RAs) had moved in. When all the others moved in that weekend, everyone wanted to introduce themselves, and campus activities made it easy to make new friends. We all attended a cookout in the neighborhood and brunch in the dining hall together. The RAs also thought of ice breakers for us to play, and while the games may seem silly, they really do help you remember each other’s names!

One night after a meeting with everyone on my floor to go over rules for living in the dorm, I thought I would just head back to my room. A few minutes later there was a knock on my door, and outside stood Josephine and Brittany, two girls I had met earlier at the cookout. They invited me to attend the Step Afrika show that was being held in the St. Thomas student center because they recognized my name on the door.

We met the fourth friend when we decided to be outgoing. The day before classes started, all freshman at St. Thomas march through the Arches on campus in matching purple t-shirts to symbolize us joining the Tommie family. When graduation arrives in four years, we will march out of the Arches.

Cara at the St. Thomas Arch with her friends

While eating dinner in the main dining hall that night, Josephine noticed there was a student in a one of our matching purple shirts sitting alone. I was hesitant to agree that inviting a stranger to eat with us was a good idea. Would he think we were lame or weird?

He accepted our offer and ended up spending the rest of the evening going to events on campus with our group. It’s now weeks later and we’re all still friends. An act of kindness and a moment of being outgoing can lead to friendships, so don’t be afraid to say hi to new people.

Just remember that all freshmen are experiencing the same feelings and we all can use a new friend when we’re in a new place.

Introducing Cara – University of Minnesota – Twin Cities


Hello! I am a returning blogger, and I am transferring to the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities this fall after spending my freshman year at the University of St. Thomas. I intend to major in political science and journalism with a public relations focus.

I’m a former participant of the STEP-UP Achieve and City of Minneapolis Urban Scholars programs. I enjoy writing and helping others, especially with high school and college advice. I am also a College Writer for, a college admissions advice website. If you’re looking for more information about scholarships, don’t hesitate to contact me! I am a recipient of scholarships from the Wallin Education Partners, Page Education Foundation, and Children’s Defense Fund – Minnesota.

  • High School: Southwest High
  • College: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
  • Major: Political Science and Journalism – Professional Strategic Communication
  • One weird thing: I once danced in NYC’s Central Park with my dance class to John Lennon’s song “Imagine”
  • Favorite food: Sambusa
  • Dream Career: Mayor of Minneapolis
  • Favorite thing about Minneapolis: The diversity and kindness of its citizens.