Transfer Patrick Phelps benefits from past military experience

Feb. 1, 2015, 11:49 p.m.
Transfer student Patrick Phelps finds that his past military experience has given him the work ethic to succeed during his time at Stanford. (TRISTAN VANECH/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford’s admission rate for transfer students is even lower than it is for the regular class, coming in at just two percent. Only 33 transfer students were admitted for the fall of 2014.

As part of our “Transfer Profile” series, The Daily interviewed Patrick Phelps, who transferred from the Peralta Community College District.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): Where did you begin college and from where did you transfer?

Patrick Phelps (PP): I went to a community college in the East Bay, Peralta Community College District. I transferred last year, started in the fall. Stanford was the only place I applied, and I got in.

TSD: The transfer pool is extremely selective, more so than freshman admissions. What was the application process like, and what do you think set you apart?

PP: What I think set me apart is probably my military experience, my military service. To be honest, I thought my chances were slim so I wasn’t super positive about it. That being said, obviously I went the extra mile to give the best product. I was personally shocked when I got in. So that was the admissions experience for me.

TSD: Tell me a little about your military experience.

PP: I was in the army for five years, stationed in Fort Benn[ing] in Georgia. I was an army ranger, and I deployed to Afghanistan five times.

TSD: How do you think that has affected your experience here at Stanford? What have you brought from that experience to Stanford?

PP: Definitely the work ethic I think to succeed at a school like this. I definitely brought that with me, something I did not have when I was 18. That’s probably the primary thing, just staying focused. I’m studying mechanical engineering, so that’s a lot of work. But it’s not really a problem balancing that, and I know those are skills I didn’t really have before the military.

TSD: How has Stanford surprised you?

PP: It’s actually been incredibly welcoming to transfers and veterans. At New Student Orientation, I thought they really went out of their way to [welcome us]. It wasn’t just about the freshmen, it was about the transfers, even though there were only 30 of us. That meant a lot to me. Also they just established the Office for Military-Affiliated Communities just this year. So that kind of stuff is cool, and that stuff kind of surprised me because I didn’t know how Stanford stood on relationships with the veteran community.

TSD: Can you describe what it’s like to be a Stanford student? Have you found the Stanford community as a whole to be welcoming?

PP: I have a little different experience from [most] people in that I commute to school. I found it to be very welcoming, and it seems that every week there’s some new experience or new discussion or speaker or some event. It seems like every week there’s a new event to go to and get involved with — so it really is every weekend meeting new, interesting people. In that regard and just the wealth of opportunities, it’s felt very welcoming here.

TSD: What advice would you give to future transfer students?

PP: Don’t be intimidated. There’s a reason you got in. You could definitely do it.

TSD: What makes your Stanford experience unique as a transfer? Did you come in with experiences most people don’t have?

PP: Definitely. I’m 25. I’m older. I was obviously in the military, which is an experience most people in the undergraduate body don’t have. That definitely sets me aside. It’s a very different experience going to college in your mid-twenties and commuting than it is coming in as an 18-year-old kid or something like that. Very different.

TSD: What are your goals for the remainder of your time here at Stanford?

PP: I want to study mechanical engineering, and I’d like to co-term, perhaps in aero/astro engineering. I just really want to maximize what I get out of this time as far as not just class time but also getting involved in research projects and getting my feet wet in these areas that I’ve never had opportunities in before.


This interview has been condensed and edited.

Contact Tristan Vanech at tvanech ‘at’

Tristan Vanech is a sports managing editor and former news desk editor on the campus life beat. A Symbolic Systems major from Venice, CA, Tristan loves playing basketball and football. His most notable accomplishment at The Daily is leading its flag football team as quarterback to break a three-year drought in the annual Ink Bowl against the Daily Cal. Ball is life. Email him at [email protected].

Login or create an account