From Cypress to Stanford

Danial Shakeri with fellow Cypress College alum, Jennifer Franco - now a USC graduate, Class of 2016.

Danial Shakeri with fellow Cypress College alum, Jennifer Franco – now a USC graduate, Class of 2016.

While we often hear of students who transfer from Cypress to the UC’s and CSU’s, we don’t tell as much as we should the many stories of those who move on to top private institutions like Stanford, the Ivies, select liberal arts colleges, and top art institutes.

Danial Shakeri’s story is one worth telling. Since he was a kid, he had his sights set on Stanford University. He pursued admission the traditional route: graduating at the top of his class at Los Alamitos High, he applied….

But – as is the case for many high-achievers – didn’t get in.

Though he had offers at other great schools, Danial was all about Stanford. A smart guy, he knew that Cypress provided another way to get that admissions offer he so desired. With a brother that went from Cypress to UC Irvine and who spoke highly of the quality of education and transfer opportunities available, Danial decided to follow an alternative educational path by foregoing on the immediate four-year options and enrolling at Cypress instead.

From the get-go, he laid out a two year plan: get heavily involved in campus life – serve as an Associated Students Senator and then as A.S. President, get involved in the Honors Program, tutor in the Library Learning Resource Center – and do well academically (of course).

So he did all of those things, sent off his transfer application… and this time around was accepted. He graduated from Stanford in 2014 with a degree in Computer Science (he was accepted as a Psychology major and then switched while at Stanford his first year). He now works at Microsoft’s headquarters in Washington State.

Cypress has many stories of success similar to that of Danial’s – those who didn’t want to “settle” for any one school, and instead enroll at Cypress with the goal of transferring to their dream college or university. There are many others who move on from Cypress first to the UC’s and CSU’s, and to then to institutions like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and MIT for graduate degrees.

If you’re interested in transferring from Cypress to Stanford – or similarly select schools – the key is to do well academically and to score high on the required SAT. Make sure that you also get involved in campus opportunities, and that you are able to clearly articulate in your transfer application how your personal narrative is unique. What obstacles have you overcome? How will you contribute to the university’s active community life and rigorous academic environment? Be specific by linking your interests to research areas or institutes of study at Stanford. Also, seek out professors and mentors who can write you strong letters of recommendation.

Those were a few pieces of advice offered to our Puente and Honors students on a recent visit to Stanford. Each of the speakers on our “Community College to Stanford” panel had a very compelling narrative. They had all overcome significant personal and financial struggles to find their distinct intellectual passions.

From left to right in the below photo, a brief overview of their stories:

Community College to Stanford panel.

Community College to Stanford panel.

Far Left, Electrical Engineering  – Grew-up without a father, much financial hardship; moved around a lot as a kid; has a story similar to that of Daniel’s in that knew he wanted to go to Stanford and knew community college could get him there; checked-off all the right boxes by getting involved; scored high on the SAT; sought out mentors.

His advice: “Have mentors for everything. There are people you’ll admire because they have strong families, others for professional reasons, etc. …. maintain contact with those who inspire you and don’t hesitate to reach out to them for advice throughout your life.

Second to Left, Theoretical Math – Also grew-up with an absent father (who moved back to Brazil when he was a child); very poor background; from the Mid-West; didn’t pursue college after high school, instead worked a variety of service jobs for many years – at Jamba Juice, at a movie theater, in retail, etc. … until finally, he decided that he needed to make change so he enrolled at his local community college. He had always had an interest in math, and really found his passion through self-learning and while at community college.

Advice – “There are plenty of really great schools. While I do love Stanford, I’m sure that I would have been just as happy at Berkeley or UCSD…. or many other places for that matter.”

Third to Left: History + Education – Was a foster child who moved through multiple homes in the San Fernando Valley here in Southern CA. In her twenties, she enrolled at East LA College; did very well and won the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, which awards some of the nation’s brightest and most promising students with up to $40,000 per year for four years of university study.

Right, Political Science  – Had to take care of sick mother and siblings early in high school… dropped out to do so and worked a variety of retail jobs for a number of years. Eventually, she got involved with Greenpeace (she had always had an interest in politics and environmental issues). She advanced professionally through the years and did well… so well in fact that political campaigns began to seek her advisory input. In her late twenties, she was told that she absolutely needed a degree to advance. At 30 years of age she enrolled at Santa Monica College. Though she felt out of place she focused and did well. She took her GED exam to finish high school. After completing her undergraduate Associates for Transfer (AS-T) courses at Santa Monica College she took the SAT in order to apply to the best of the best four-year institutions… and was accepted into Stanford.

Worried about the financial burden of attending a top private institution like Stanford? In addition to a needs-blind admissions policy, Stanford just announced earlier this year that it will waive all fees for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year.

If Stanford is your dream school, know that others from community colleges – including Cypress – have transferred.

#CypressCollege #Stanford #Honors #Puente #Transfers


Cypress College is recognized as one of California’s top community colleges. Recent accolades include:

– #1 in the U.S. | Top Toyota T-TEN Auto-Tech Program in the Nation.

– #2 in C.A. | Top Two ESL & Basic Skills English Programs in California.

– #3 in C.A. | Ranked as a Top Three California Community College (

– #3 in the Region | Ranked Top Three in Greater Los Angeles & Orange County for Student Transfer and Graduation Rates (

– 15 of 113 | California Community Colleges piloting a Bachelor’s Degree (Mortuary Science)

– #17 in the U.S. | National Ranking on MTV-U’s website “Rate-My-Professor”

– Top National Licensure Exam Pass Rates | Perfect state licensure pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Hygiene, Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Abdomen; Diagnostic Medical Sonography (OB/GYN); Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Physics; and Mortuary Science: Sciences. 90+% state licensure exam pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Assisting; Mortuary Science (Arts); Radiology Technology. And85%+ state licensure rates for students in: Health Information Technology; Nursing; and Psychiatric Technology.

– 2/3ds of the Class of 2015 qualified for transfer to a UC or CSU institution.

– 76 Orange Empire Athletics Conference Titles

– 25 California Community College Athletic Association State Championship Titles



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