For many transfer students, their college experience will always be shaped by their path to the Hilltop.
“[The fact that I transferred] comes up once a day, from someone. It’s not like it’s ever going to go away. It is part of my identity,” said Alissa Orlando (SFS ’13), who transferred from The George Washington University this year.
About 1,700 people apply to Georgetown as transfers every year and about 20 percent were accepted last year, with over 200 arriving at Georgetown this fall. According to academic counselor Jessica Ciani-Dausch, who sits on the transfer admissions committee and is one of the deans in the College that works with transfer students, the students’ reasons for switching schools are diverse.
Ciani-Dausch said that many prospective transfer students applied to Georgetown as freshmen and were not admitted. Some find Georgetown’s Jesuit identity appealing, and still others are attracted to the reputation of the university’s government and international affairs programs, she said.
The decision to change schools requires a lot of “soul searching,” according to Kate Bermingham (COL ’11), who transferred from Providence College in 2008.
“It was very hard for me to make the decision to leave Providence even after I got accepted to Georgetown,” she said. “I second guessed myself a lot. I wondered if I just stayed another year maybe I’d like it better.”
Ultimately, Bermingham chose Georgetown.
“I just felt like if I didn’t take the chance I would always regret it. I’m fairly certain that it was the best decision that I could ever have made,” she said.
Fellow transfer Orlando looks back on switching schools as an overall positive experience, however.
“In making the conscious decision to change schools you’re taking your academic experience into your own hands. It’s really empowering,” she said.
The transfer process begins on March 1, when the application and financial aid forms are due. Applications are read by the admissions committee, similar to the process for selecting incoming first-year students. But Ciani-Dausch said that transfer applications are expected to be more sophisticated than most freshmen applications — the admissions committee is usually looking for something extra from transfer applicants.
“These are people who have gone through at least a year of college, who have tried somewhere else and decided it didn’t fit for them. Usually there’s a story there, and you have to be able to articulate well what that story is.”
According to Dean Emily Zenick, who works with transfers to the School of Foreign Service, applicants must be able to explain why they are a good fit for the SFS.
“Transfers need to do a good job of researching the school,” she said.
It is also crucial that applicants come with enough credits to meet the SFS’s graduation requirements. Students who have not taken economics or a foreign language are generally not considered.
Youna Ahn (SFS ’13) came to Georgetown this year after studying for a year at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, a school in a rural area of Japan.
Ahn was frustrated by the isolation of her university in Japan — “It sometimes took two days for the newspapers to get there,” she said — and thought that Georgetown would be a better place to pursue her interests in international politics and economics.
“I really wanted to study in a capital,” she said. “Since I’m really interested in international organizations, D.C. is a hub for those. And since Georgetown is situated here, I really wanted to study here to stay close to those important people and to these political and economic issues.”
For Bermingham, it was the quality of the students at Georgetown that attracted her.
“I wanted to be in a place where the entire community felt like it was intellectually curious and where my peers really pushed me as much as my classes did. So, Georgetown was really calling,” she said.
While Dalton Shaughnessy (MSB ’12) switched to Georgetown as a junior, he had been planning on making the change since his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
“I think that two years is a long enough time to be anywhere. College is about being able to adapt to new situations. By the second term of my sophomore year I felt like I was beginning to stagnate,” he said, “I wanted something completely different and completely radical from what I was used to.”
According to Shaughnessy, Wisconsin was the best fit for him as a freshman, but he “went with the thought in the back of my mind that I’d probably transfer at the end of two years.”
Whatever their reason for coming to Georgetown, most transfers find the experience to be a net positive.
“I’ve never had anyone come to me and say, ‘this isn’t working for me,’” Ciani-Dausch said. “There’s definitely a challenge to come to a place where so many students have already formed groups, but I’m always impressed that people who have gone through the whole process have that much confidence about their ability,” she added. “They just jump right in.”
Bermingham credited transfer New Student Orientation with helping her to adjust to Georgetown.
“My NSO experience as a transfer was the first time I really knew that I was home. Georgetown does an incredible job of making transfer students feel like a valued part of this community,” she said.
This past fall, Bermingham was a captain for transfer students, a job that put her in charge of leading a group of orientation advisers.
“It really helps transfer students really deal with the specific set of issues they have coming in,” she said.
These issues range from rushing to meet Georgetown’s graduation requirements to struggling to make friends in an environment where most people have already had a year to get to know each other.
“You worry that everybody will already have their set group of friends,” Bermingham said. “You also have a shorter amount of time to get to do the things that every college student wants to do. We have to play catch up in a way.”
According to Orlando, adapting to the academic environment at Georgetown can be a challenge. “It’s a different standard. The standards set by your professors and especially by your peers are so much higher than it was at my other school,” she said.
But ultimately most transfer students, including Orlando, are happy with their decision.
“I’m so appreciative of Georgetown,” Orlando said. “I don’t think that the normal student has the same appreciation that I do. Literally once a day I feel just overwhelming gratitude that I’m here.”