April 28, 2006

Transfers find there is no place like home at U of C

Some students who transfer out of the U of C learn to respect the adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

About 10 to 20 percent of transfer students end up transferring back to the U of C, usually within the same year, said Susan Art, dean of students in the College. They initially leave for a variety of reasons, ranging from the desire to pursue a major that the University does not offer to the fear that the U of C is actually the place where fun comes to die.

Fourth-year Elizabeth Weidman transferred to Georgetown University for her second year to study public health.

“Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service had an international health program,” she said. “So I transferred there to do that, and then I decided that I didn’t want to do that, so I transferred back.”

The University has a 98 percent retention rate of freshman, according to the admissions website. The high retention rate suggests that students are happy here, Art said.

Nonetheless, many first year adviser meetings still consist of disgruntled students toying with the idea of leaving the school, said John Laseman, a senior adviser and transfer adviser in the College.

“We have a special culture here, a culture of complaint,” he said.

Fourth-year Anna Miller transferred out of the University after she struggled to establish herself socially.

“My first year I found the transition very difficult,” she said. “I was very social in high school, and I expected immediately to make friends the same way that I had in high school, but part of what had attracted me to this school was finding different people who had different experiences, and it’s that same thing that made it hard for me to connect. Everyone didn’t have that common ground to immediately click with me. All I saw were the negative parts of the school.”

Miller transferred to George Washington University and knew she wanted to be back at the U of C after a week of taking classes, she said.

“For me it was the student body that I had the most difficulty with,” she said. “I think that the students there weren’t there to learn, they were there to party. I also felt that they wanted to do the minimal amount of work to get the best grade and it made it hard. It was that whole mentality and it really gave me such an appreciation for the uniqueness of our experience here.”

Upon returning to the U of C in the winter of her second year, Miller made some significant changes, including moving to the Shoreland and joining a sorority. But the most important change she made, Miller said, was coming back with the right outlook.

“What I learned most from [my experience] is how important attitude is and the fact that I went into college thinking I don’t want to be here, everything about [this place] is awful, and then coming back into it and thinking, this is where I need to be, I like this place and looking for the good rather than the bad. That has transferred into every other part of my life.”

Ted O’Neill, dean of admissions, echoed Miller’s conclusions.

“There are a lot of people who are disappointed with their college experiences because they are not getting challenged or not finding friends who are serious the way they are,” he said. “I think that the University of Chicago is a place that can provide that.”