Jenniffer Torres Ortega (COL ’13) moved to the United States from Colombia three years ago without knowing a word of English. This fall, she enrolled at Georgetown, as one of a handful of students who transferred to the university from a community college.
Although the university does not keep records on the number of students who transfer from community colleges, Torres Ortega said that she sometimes feels almost alone in her experiences.
“I found it difficult to adapt to social life as a junior,” she said.
Like some community college transfers, Torres Ortega didn’t follow the usual path to college. Since she lives in Arlington, Va. she has to commute every day and has had difficulty joining the social scene.
“Students don’t seem to really connect in classes, but more in their dorms or activities. Even when I do connect with someone in class, it’s difficult to keep that going outside of the classroom.”
According to Senior Assistant Director of Admissions Leah Thomas and Assistant Director of Admissions Colleen Miltenberg, some community college transfers have taken time away from school to work or serve in the military.
“Many times the community college students have taken a bit more of a non-traditional path to end up where they are,” they wrote in an email.
Torres Ortega, for example, began her university studies in her native Colombia. After moving to the United States to be with her future husband, she enrolled in English as a Second Language classes at Northern Virginia Community College. After a year, she began taking liberal arts classes and looked into transferring to another university to complete the psychology degree she had left unfinished in Colombia.
The transfer process was fairly smooth, she said.
For the past 25 years, Georgetown has partnered with 16 schools, including Northern Virginia, for the Community College Preferred Consideration program. Partner institutions are able to nominate two students for favored consideration by Georgetown, and it often pays off well.
In 2011, the acceptance rate for students nominated in the program was 60 percent, while in 2010 it was 44 percent, according to Thomas and Miltenberg. In contrast, Georgetown’s overall transfer acceptance rate for the 2011 admissions cycle was 10 percent.
Torres Ortega was able to transfer 60 credits, the maximum allowed by Georgetown, and she has almost finished her psychology major. Because transfer students are required to take classes at Georgetown for at least two years, she is continuing with the premed track, and she plans to add a minor to her course load next year.
While Georgetown is challenging, Torres Ortega said, professors and deans have been very understanding, and she has enjoyed the jump to a university. She is not alone in finding academic success at Georgetown.
Mark Svensson (COL ’12) transferred to Georgetown from Rockland Community College in 2010. Svensson did not apply to college during high school. After graduation, however, he decided that he wanted to hit the books after all, so he enrolled in Rockland’s honors program.
“I knew after my freshman year that I wanted to transfer,” he said. “While most students at Rockland don’t transfer to a 4-year college after completing their associate’s degree, 90 percent of those in the honors program do transfer to Ivy League or other Tier I schools.”
Svensson is now a government major at Georgetown.
“I always wanted to come to Georgetown because of the politics and international relations,” he explained.
Emily Schuster (COL ’14), a Japanese major and transfer from Portland Community College, was waitlisted by Georgetown her senior year of high school.
Schuster decided to attend community college as an inexpensive alternative until she had another shot at her dream school. The second time around, she was accepted.
Unlike Svensson and Torres Ortega, Schuster had little support from her former school.
“Most students at Portland transfer to the state university afterwards. Applying to Georgetown was a fairly independent process. Luckily, I had already done it once,” she said, laughing.
While Schuster has enjoyed her transition to the Hilltop, there have been some bumps along the way. Because she could not receive credit for many of her general education classes, Schuster will be taking 20 credits every semester until she graduates and does not have time for many extracurricular activities.
Other elements of the transition have gone more smoothly. She has found a core group of friends among transfer students, and she lives with three other transfers in a Village A apartment.
Svensson, too, said it was easy for him to transition to campus. Shortly after he arrived on campus, he met then-Georgeotwn University Student Association President Calen Angert (MSB ’11). Angert, he said, took him under his wing and introduced him to many of his current friends and encouraged him to join GUSA.
While the transition was rockier for Torres Ortega, she said overall she is enjoying her campus experience and wants to apply to Georgetown Medical School.
“When I first moved to the [United States], I visited Georgetown’s campus with friends and told them that I would be going here. They all laughed,” she reminisced. “Sometimes it’s still hard to believe that I’m here, that I’ve done it. The first day that I bought a Georgetown sweater and put it on, [I] really felt like I belong[ed] here. That’s a good memory.”