Students tackle the fine art of college transfers

April 28, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

College: Love it or leave it.

Among college students, if unhappiness hits, the solution often is to transfer.

Diana Szalai and John Chapman did. So did 300 students now at the University of Pennsylvania, 2,500 at Rutgers and 500 at Drexel.

All made the switch this academic year from one college to another.

Ms. Szalai is a junior at Bryn Mawr College -- her fourth school in five years. Mr. Chapman, a Widener University sophomore, was at Stetson University in Florida last year.

About half of the students now in line to graduate from college started at a different school, according to Michael Mahoney, director of admissions at Widener University in Chester, Pa., where 40 percent of the students are transfers.

"Part of the reason is economics," he said. "Part is that it's a much more mobile population. And part is that students . . . change their mind, both academically and in terms of where they want to be."

And, these days, if you want to leave one place, plenty of other schools are ready to roll out the red carpet.

Jim Van Blunk, an associate admissions director at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, said the steady decrease of high school seniors in the last decade has left many schools looking elsewhere to fill slots.

"We are much more actively recruiting transfers than ever before," Mr. Van Blunk said. "The main reason is it helps enrollment numbers. The other reason is that they pretty much already have proven they can do college work. They're much less of a risk academically than high school seniors."

In addition, said Lee Stetson, Penn's dean of admissions, transfer students provide a "cross-fertilization that comes from students continuing their education after attending another school. They offer a different perspective."

For the students, transferring sometimes puts them in a position of being wooed in a way that didn't occur when they were in high school. Some schools have set aside scholarship money targeted for transfers.

Some transfers find they can trade up. If they didn't get into their first choice out of high school, they can do well someplace else for a year, and try again. Admissions counselors tend to get more bug-eyed over a flashy collegiate grade-point average than one on a high school transcript. That allows some students to be upwardly mobile.

At Penn, for instance, students who are rejected often ask about transferring in later, said Mr. Stetson. In fact, he said, they may have a better chance at gaining admission after going to another school: "Not because our standards are different but because they have additional academic work that enhances their chance. It gives them an opportunity to mature in the classroom."

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