College didn’t seem like an option for me — let alone completing a two-year program and transferring into a four-year program. The idea didn’t seem realistic to me, as I struggled with (and still continue to struggle with) imposter syndrome. There was no way I could manage to get to graduation, let alone having to pick a school to transfer to in order to complete my bachelor’s degree. No one in my family had graduated from college. Things in my life were unstable, and I didn’t expect my transfer experience to be any different.
As a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), I was enrolled in CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, also known as ASAP. My ASAP advisor at BMCC would email me every couple of weeks to remind me that I had to start considering senior colleges. During every meeting, he always asked me, “Lyric, have you been looking at potential senior colleges?” My answer was always no. I had put it off so much so that I wound up just picking the two universities closest to my apartment on the day of the transfer application deadline — I didn’t want to spend too much time commuting.
I vividly recall being accepted into City College. I was in the Fulton Street subway station with a friend going to grab lunch when I saw the notification on my phone. We immediately stopped and my friend was looking over my shoulder as I read the email. The first thing we both read was “Congratulations” before I immediately locked my phone and took in the reality that I actually got into a school. I thought that would be the end of the process. I would submit the documents, register for classes, and do my best to finish my higher education. But that wasn’t the case by any means.
Since I moved to New York about five years ago, I had been handling things on my own. My dad isn’t from the United States, and does not understand the education system here. This wasn’t something that bothered me. I completed my GED program, and got through a two-year associate’s degree program just fine by myself. It was stressful and there were a few hiccups along the way, but I had made it. So I could only imagine that this would be a similar experience.
However, City College really didn’t make it an easy transition process. After I had finally graduated from my two-year program, I was entirely alone. Trying to submit the necessary registration forms was a nightmare. From registration to financial aid, to their orientation, nothing would ever go smoothly. Initially, I tried my best to just go with what was being thrown at me. It was stressful but I didn’t let it get the better of me.
Once the housekeeping was done and the semester started, I expected things to be easier. Yet I still felt very alone and very confused. My best friend had gone to the same school with me and we had all our classes together, but I felt completely isolated. Even after I thought things like my financial aid were complete, they weren’t. Financial aid was constantly an issue. Every semester I had been picked for verification and when I asked why, I was told, “it was a random selection.” At one point a financial aid advisor told me that “I should just take out a loan, 50 percent of City College students take out loans.” I knew that wasn’t true, and it wasn’t until my time working with Young Invincibles that I learned only 17 percent of City College students take out loans.
My transfer process wasn’t easy by any means, but this year, I am graduating which is truly all that I can ask for. My transfer process had reminded me to fight and advocate for myself. If I wanted or needed things for myself, I had to go to the offices and get it for myself without taking no for an answer. It pushed me to begin to overcome my fears of confrontation and pushed me to validate myself. There is no reason I should take no for an answer when the resource I want or need is one that should be easily accessible for a college student. My transfer process has done a lot of bad things and a lot of good things. I can only hope that transferring from a two-year program to a four-year program begins to become easier for students all throughout the city.
Lyric Young is a graduating senior at City College of New York and a member of Young Invincibles’ Spring 2020 New York Young Advocates Program.