Looking Back: Academic Advice from a Transfer Student

By Isabel Callahan (Dec. ’21)

“Let me know if anyone needs help with their schedule!”

As I peered up at our sponsor from my spot on the hallway floor of Harwood’s basement, I had no idea just how generous his offer was. “How complicated could a schedule be?” I wondered. As my sponsor and I soon realized: for a transfer student, sometimes more complicated than expected!

From figuring out which area requirements I still had to fulfill to learning how to PERM into a class, here are a few things I wish I had known prior to beginning my academic journey as a transfer student at Pomona College.

  1. Meet with your academic advisor, the Registrar’s office, and/or, if you’ve chosen a major, the chair of your department, to figure out what the transcript from your previous institution translates to at Pomona College. This is a big one! As a transfer student, not all of my courses from my last school translated to full credits at Pomona. In my own case, this might have been because my last school encouraged taking five or six courses and so the workload for each class was structured a bit differently than at Pomona (i.e. each course had fewer than the four credits typical for Pomona courses). Though your credit evaluation will indicate which classes transferred and how many credits transferred, academic advisors at Pomona can better help you make sense of your credits. Meeting with my advisor and emailing with the Registrar’s office helped me understand which courses satisfied certain area requirements at Pomona, in addition to whether they satisfied major requirements and general graduation requirements (e.g. language, physical education, writing-intensive classes, among others). Once you’ve figured this out, you might have an easier time choosing which classes to take! (Or which classes you need to take in order to graduate and fulfill the requirements of your major).
Transfer group 2018
My transfer group, August 2018

2. If you are comfortable, share that you are a transfer student in your PERMs during your first round of registration. Ah, PERMs! I had never heard of PERMs before arriving to Pomona. In essence, they are requests to enroll (or requests for PERMission to enroll) in a course; they include a small comment box for you to explain your request. You might send in a PERM when a class is full, but you would love (or need) to take it, or when you are trying to enroll in a course at another one of the 5C schools. Coming in as a transfer student, the other sophomores in my year had already registered for classes by the time I was signing up for my own, since transfer students register after current students but before entering first-year students. This meant that classes I wanted or needed to take were sometimes full, and I was signing up alongside other first-year students who also wanted to take those classes. Upon learning from my PERM comment that I was a transfer student and had less time left to take her course, one professor of a popular politics class at Pomona accepted my PERM. While not every class or professor will be the same and being a transfer student is not reason enough to get into every class you would like, I have found professors often understand that transfers have a slightly unique registration situation their first year and may be more willing to accommodate your PERM.

group of students playing on grass
Playground Games class on Marston Quad, Jan. 2020

3. The course load at Pomona College might be different than that at your last school. When I arrived at Pomona, I was accustomed to taking at least five courses a semester. I soon found that the courses at Pomona required more time than the courses at my previous school. That’s okay! I eventually became accustomed to taking three to four primary courses, in addition to an occasional PE class and/or independent study. Figure out what works best for you and, so long as you are still on track to fulfill your graduation requirements (including collecting 32 credits), you should be good to go!

4. Even if you know what you want to major in or are majoring in: try new things! Pomona College has such unique and interesting courses spanning all disciplines. During my time at Pomona, I have discussed Ideas of Love, spent afternoons playing Ultimate Frisbee and Playground Games, and have learned more about emotions in a Sociology of Emotions class. Though I am a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) major, the aforementioned courses have also been some of my favorites and have really rounded out my liberal arts education. I also took some of these courses (especially the PE’s) with some of my closest friends, which proved a great way to bond and spend time together.

Though being a transfer student comes with its own set of unknowns, Pomona is full of people who are willing and able to help you find your footing! I am deeply grateful to the professors, faculty, and friends who have helped me stay on track academically and who have likewise helped me veer off track when opportunities (like Playground Games) arose.