Zaire McMican

Many students leverage a community college education as a stepping-stone to access a four-year college and earn a bachelor’s degree. If you are considering a 2-year to 4-year college pathway, be sure to consider the following questions to help you backwards plan:

    • Does the two-year college have a special transfer relationship — often called an articulation agreement — with any four-year colleges?
    • Will the credits I earn be accepted at the four-year colleges I’m considering?
    • What grades do I need to earn in my classes to get credit at the four-year colleges?
    • What’s the minimum GPA I need to maintain to get into the four-year colleges?

The key to successfully transferring to a four-year institution begins with early planning. Washington Park High School graduate Zaire McMican (Class of 2020) left high school with a plan to navigate his way to his dream school through a 2-year community college pathway. Below are some insights that he shared.

When did you first recognize that pursuing a 2-year pathway to a 4-year institution was the best option for you personally and your career interests?

Zaire: I first recognized that pursuing my education through a 2-year pathway was the best option for me during my senior year. After getting into my dream school, I was disappointed when I discovered I would not receive enough financial aid to cover my bills without having to take out loans. One of my biggest goals going into college was to graduate without student debt, so I started searching for alternatives to get to my dream school. Luckily, I had family members I could live with and attend community college in the same state as my dream university. This option was more affordable and allowed me to take all my pre-requisite courses.

What methods did you use to remain engaged academically and socially at the community college, especially since you were attending school during the height of the pandemic?

Zaire: Socially I remained engaged by working part-time during the weekends and volunteering in my spare time. As an extrovert, the pandemic was a very difficult time, given that I could not engage with other people as frequently as I desired. These activities allowed me to connect with others while giving back to my community. Academically I was able to stay engaged by attending office hours with professors. While I was not able to build a relationship with all my professors, the ones I did establish a relationship with helped me enjoy their class and stay engaged.

What specific resources (in school/ outside of school) were most helpful in your 2-year college experience?

Zaire: The specific resources that helped me the most were my family and access to school resources such as a therapist and office hours. My family helped me grow tremendously throughout my community college experience and supported me in the face of a plethora of obstacles. My school also provided access to a therapist, which was very helpful for maintaining my mental health. Lastly, as mentioned before, office hours allowed me to build helpful relationships with my professors.

After transferring to the 4-year campus, in retrospect, which aspects of attending a 2- year school were most beneficial to your adjustment?

Zaire: I believe attending community college allowed me to become more familiar with the workload of college and helped me grow in maturity. This was very beneficial to me because upon transferring to UNC Greensboro, I saw firsthand how busy the campus was and how easy it is to become distracted from your studies. Going to community college helped make my transition easier and better allowed me to build discipline before going to a university.

What were some of the most challenging factors about adjusting to a 4-year campus after attending a 2-year college?

Zaire: The most challenging factor was learning how to balance responsibilities while enjoying the college experience. Especially when coming in as a junior, it is easy to feel as though you are behind your peers, who have had more time to facilitate connections and apply to internships or other programs through the school.

What factors should students who do not have a close family support system and plan to take a similar pathway keep in consideration?

Zaire: Students who do not have strong familial support systems should immediately seek to network with other people willing to help. This could include seeking support groups within the school, counselors, therapists, mentors, etc. Building a positive network can be very beneficial and has been in my experience an essential aspect of my success at community college.

Any final advice about maximizing your overall college experience?

Zaire: Lastly, my number one piece of advice is to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. College is the only place in your life where you will be surrounded by many people within your age group who come from different backgrounds, yet are passionate about similar things. It is the perfect place to network and reach out for help. There are so many help systems on college campuses, and to let them go unutilized would be a true waste. So be willing to introduce yourself to others and ask for assistance when needed, since it can set you up for success later on.