ommunity college student thinking about transferring

The transfer application: where to begin

Transferring to a new college program may seem daunting, so take it step by step and make sure you utilize all available resources.

Community colleges are a great way to earn college credits in an affordable, accessible, and no-pressure format, but many students find themselves aspiring to career paths that require four-year degrees. Making the switch from a community college to a traditional four-year university may seem overwhelming—a path piled with obstacles from financial concerns to the stress of applying and enrolling.

But sometimes just taking that first step can be the most important. And the first step is deciding if Pacific Oaks College is right for you.

“Pacific Oaks is so unique, and it attracts a unique class of students,” says Mary Berberian-Nalbandian, a senior academic adviser at Pacific Oaks College. “We have our own pedagogy, and we do things in our unique PO way.”

Pacific Oaks offers a specialized education, based on open dialogue rather than lectures, with a focus on inclusion and social justice. Pacific Oaks lives out that mission with a history of more than 60 years of service in Pasadena and extensive support and service to military students, veterans, and the Hispanic community.

With undergraduate and graduate programs, Pacific Oaks caters to many nontraditional students, offering classes on nights, weekends, and online to accommodate the modern student’s busy schedule. Pacific Oaks also focuses on real-life outcomes: 89% of their alumni are employed in a field related to their degree.

Our Learning Philosophy

Valerie Payan, a current student in Pacific Oaks’ B.S. in Business Administration program who transferred from East Los Angeles College (ELAC), notes that growing up as the daughter of an immigrant single mother, she watched her mother put herself through college as other options ran out. Years later, she ended up in her mother’s position, feeling like she was at the end of her rope.

“I was very intimidated by the financial aspect of taking on a four-year degree,” Payan says. “I was raised by an immigrant—if you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it. But I had a professor at ELAC who had received her master’s from Pacific Oaks who told me she had also grown up very poor in the projects, that she was the first one in her family to get a master’s degree. She and other first-generation immigrants I knew who had graduated from college helped me feel better about the sacrifices I would have to make because the end goal would be worth it.”

Besides the prospect of a more fulfilling career path, Payan also knew she couldn’t keep going in circles at community college. “I spent years and years without a plan, just taking whatever courses I happened to sign up for,” she says. “I ended up on welfare with two babies to support and no real job skills.”

She was drawn to Pacific Oaks because of its reflective class structure, where students engage in discussion based on real-world situations rather than listening to a professor lecture. Berberian-Nalbandian says Payan’s experience is typical of students encountering this learning philosophy for the first time—while some might find it strange and challenging, many find it deeply engaging.

Berberian-Nalbandian also points out that Payan’s experience of spending years at community college and never getting anywhere is something that Pacific Oaks wouldn’t allow. “We academic advisers register students for their courses. The students do not do that for themselves, unlike a traditional university. We do that for a very strategic reason and that is to ensure that students are taking the right courses; they’re not wasting their money or wasting time taking unhelpful courses or courses that don’t fulfill their degree requirements. That’s something that’s very unique to us here.”

Transfer Admissions Guarantee (TAG) agreement at Pacific Oaks

If Pacific Oaks sounds like the right place for you, advisers recommend approaching the transfer process step by step.

First, do you attend East Los Angeles College, Glendale Community College, Pasadena City College, Santa Monica College, West Los Angeles College, De Anza College, Diablo Valley College, Evergreen Valley College, Foothill College, or Mission College? These community colleges all participate in the transfer admissions guarantee (TAG) agreement, where qualified students are guaranteed acceptance at Pacific Oaks and may even receive a preferred tuition rate.

If you attend one of these schools, you have a head start on the admissions process.

To apply as a transfer student, you must submit a completed application, a personal statement, and a $55 application fee, interview with a member of the admissions committee, and demonstrate your commitment to the mission and values of Pacific Oaks College. You must also submit proof of at least educational or professional qualifications—this might be a transcript from your community college, a resume showing significant professional experience, or qualifying test scores. Pacific Oaks is flexible; this is just a way for you and the admissions team to determine if you will be able to succeed here.

Importantly, reach out for help when you need it—you can work with your own dedicated enrollment counselor to navigate the process. “We feel really responsible for each student and each student’s success story is also our success story,” says Berberian-Nalbandian.

Regardless of your background, Pacific Oaks could be the perfect spot to learn more about yourself and your community, master new skills, and begin a fulfilling career with a solid foundation and a whole campus of people rooting for you.

“Here it’s about community building. It’s about developing to be your own advocate. It’s about being a community member because that’s the overall goal, for us to have students exit our institution and become agents of change when they go out into the workforce or back into their communities,” Berberian-Nalbandian says.


Learn more about applying to Pacific Oaks College as a transfer student here or fill out the form below for more information.

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