Recently transferred students explain their decisions

by Zach Noble, Staff Writer

As Christmas break approaches and the first semester of the school year draws to a close, many SVC students will assess their situations and consider the possibility of transferring to another school. In particular, many freshmen will weigh their options and almost one in five freshmen will transfer, either at the close of this semester or in the spring at the end of the school year.

Around this time last year, then-freshman Graphic Design major Jake Nicolella began considering a transfer. “The main reason I left SVC was a result of the program I am looking for,” said Nicolella. “Graphic design is an extremely competitive field, and I didn’t want to be one-upped by kids graduating from big schools with advanced programs and facilities. One of my best friends is also studying design, and he would tell me all the crazy projects he was working on while I was just drawing still life. It didn’t make sense.”

Nicolella was involved on the SVC campus, appearing in several theatrical productions with The Company, and he said his decision was not easy. “The transfer was a tough move because I made some incredible friends at SVC that I miss a lot,” said Nicolella.

Nicolella sent transfer applications to Penn State, University of Pittsburgh and VCU, and he transferred to Penn State at the end of his freshman year at SVC.

“Penn State has one of the top five best graphic design programs in America,” said Nicolella. “I was shocked to be accepted there and couldn’t turn the opportunity down.”

Now in his first semester at Penn State, Nicolella is enjoying his new school.

“Things at Penn State are going really well so far,” said Nicolella. “I was blown away by the scale of this school and all of the facilities.”

While he remembered his time at SVC fondly, Nicolella felt that Penn State is better preparation for “the real world” of graphic design.

“You have to learn how to be independent here very fast or you’ll sink quickly,” said Nicolella. “I loved my SVC classes, but it was too easy to slack off sometimes.”

Justin Morant, another SVC freshman in the fall of 2009, also made the decision to transfer. “I had always wanted to attend an Ivy League institution,” said Morant, “and so when some mentors of mine approached me with the idea during the course of the semester, I thought I would give it a shot.”

Morant sent applications to upper-tier schools including Yale and Georgetown, and eventually accepted an offer from Cornell University.

“I still believe I made a great decision attending SVC,” said Morant. “It’s a great place. I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend SVC, and equally as grateful for the opportunity to attend Cornell.” Morant is currently pursuing a Government major with a concentration in American Politics at Cornell, and while he said that his new school demands significantly greater “quality and quantity” of coursework than SVC, he felt that SVC had prepared him adequately for the rigors of the Ivy Leagues.

“Having professors such as Richard Wissolik, Father Tom Hart, and Mary Beth McConahey who each challenged me to not only think more critically but the way in which I approached course material was invaluable,” said Morant.

According to Dean Kaylor, the decision to transfer is usually made between a student’s freshman and sophomore years.

“Students have to be in the college that’s right for them,” said Kaylor. “Sometimes students come to SVC and it’s not the right fit.” Dean Kaylor’s office tracks the percentage of SVC freshmen who return for sophomore year at SVC.  About 82% of students who were SVC freshmen in fall 2007 returned for sophomore year, as did close to 86% of fall 2008 freshmen.  Out of last year’s freshman class, approximately 81% returned this fall for sophomore year.  Dean Kaylor said that these numbers are comparable to other schools of SVC’s size and status.

“In the last few years, we’ve had a number of students transfer, probably because of the economy, to schools with a nursing program,” said Kaylor. “We offer traditional liberal arts majors, not professional programs.” Kaylor suspected that a desire to obtain job training, rather than a rounded liberal-arts degree, motivates some students to transfer. Kaylor also noted that sometimes, SVC’s size and quality does not factor into a student’s decision-making. “You’d be surprised how many students withdraw because of homesickness,” said Kaylor.

SVC students have transferred to a variety of institutions, including those as prestigious as Notre Dame, UNC and JMU.  Since the beginning of 2010, SVC has had nine students accepted to Duquesne University’s competitive Physical Therapy and Pharmacy programs. However, Kaylor acknowledged that this high level of achievement is not typical. “For the most part, SVC students transfer to similar institutions,” said Kaylor, citing Seton Hill University as an example.

Still, the accomplishments of students like Nicolella and Morant are impressive. “Saint Vincent is a great school filled with some of the kindest people I have ever met,” said Noclella. “I’ll never forget my time there and the friends I made.”

Nicolella offered a last piece of advice to current SVC students. “If anyone is considering transferring,” said Nicolella, “don’t be too hasty. Make sure it is in your best interest and never regret your decisions.”

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