Students in the Valley who have never travelled away from Los Angeles could easily be forgiven for being nervous about transferring to a new school in Northern California and getting used to a new culture.
One possible remedy is a new relationship with a major school.
University of California Berkeley’s Starting Point Mentorship Program (SPMP) helps community college students transfer to the university by pairing them with current UC Berkeley student mentors.
According to the Starting Point Mentorship Program website, the program is designed to offer incoming UC Berkeley transfer students guidance, information about the admission process and campus or community information.
Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) transfer representative and former SPMP mentor Gabriel Alfaro explained that the program offers community college students resources and assistance that aids them in successfully transferring to UC Berkeley.
“Generally it’s just really a program that is dedicated to helping students connect with current advisers for the programs they want to go into, all of the ins and outs in our admissions process,” Alfaro said. “It can provide one-on-one support with somebody who has been accepted to Berkeley, and does know exactly what it takes to get in, in terms of what you need to write about and that type of thing.”
The SPMP is student-facilitated, according to Alfaro. Mentors are former California community college students and can have up to 8 mentees at a time. The number of mentees assigned to a mentor depends on the number of units the UC Berkeley student is enrolled in.
Mentors have to spend a certain number of hours talking and mentoring each of their mentees. Mentoring is conducted through email, phone calls, Zoom, campus visits and workshops and additional forms of online technology.
According to Alfaro, mentors can help current community college students write their UC personal insight questions or help them with any current issues at their community college. As a student mentor, Alfaro was able to introduce his mentees to current Berkeley students and help them with projects at their community college.
“I know that when I was a mentor I ended up getting a couple of people who were in local student government, so I tried to help them with some of their projects there and [gave them] some of the connections I had there.”
Availability in the program is dependent upon how many UC Berkeley students sign up for the program to be mentors. To be eligible for the program, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.20, according to the program’s website.
Students can apply in the fall semester. A link to the program’s application can be found on the Berkeley Transfer Student Center website under the “Starting Point” tab. The program has reached maximum capacity for fall 2021, but students can still submit an application to be put on a waitlist.
Pierce alumni and current UC Berkeley student Vanessa Arredondo believes UC Berkeley provides transfer students with lots of resources, such as the SPMP, to ease their transition to the university.
“Once you get to Berkeley, they will provide you with resources, you know, people, offices, administration, etc,” Arredondo said. “Starting off that transition while you’re still at Pierce is incredibly useful,with having a mentor who actually has already been through that process themselves.”
Arredondo believes having transfer programs can help students with the application process and encourage more students to apply to UC Berkeley.
“UC Berkeley is often high in the rankings and I think a lot of people are just like ‘I’m never going to get in, why even bother applying,'” Arredondo said. “There are people willing to help Pierce students.”
Pierce College Transfer Center Director and Counselor Sunday Salter said this program is beneficial for Pierce transfer students, especially those who are first generation ones.
“Most of our students at Pierce are the first ones to go to college,” Salter said. “Applying to college can be very overwhelming and stressful. Having someone who is close in age with them might make it feel a bit realistic to move away from home. This is the first [transfer program] with Berkeley and we’re pretty excited about it.”
Arredondo believes this program is advantageous for first generation students or those who may lack academic guidance from friends or family.
“A lot of community college students might be first generation, so they have no idea what it is like going to a university,” Arredondo said. “My parents never went to university in the U.S., so I had no idea what I was getting into. I had to do this all on my own. You can have someone who has your back when you don’t have family, or you know, friends who have already gone through the process.”