Transfers often feel isolated at Harcum

Vanessa Pralle

According to a 1998 National Enrollment survey, approximately a quarter of all college students transfer from one college to another during their scholastic careers. In 2004, as in previous years, the University accepted about 184 transfer students who had high hopes that this campus would give them the best years of their lives.

The transition to a new college after freshman year presents challenges to transfer students, as they face not only new classes and unfamiliar faces, but also living quarters entirely separate from the rest of the student body.

Many University students may not realize that the majority of transfer students are not placed in campus dorms. Instead, the University makes arrangements with Harcum College to rent space in Pennswood hall to accommodate transfer students and seniors who are not guaranteed housing.

Harcum College is located approximately two miles east of the University in Haverford, across from Haverford College. Students can keep their cars so they can commute back and forth from Villanova to Harcum.

According to Marie Schauder of Residence Life, students assigned to Pennswood have the option of requesting a room change to the main campus after the start of the semester, but availability depends on the housing situation in any given year.

Students placed in Harcum typically share their room with a roommate and eat on the Villanova campus. Other Harcum residents are graduate students or seniors.

Matthew Daniels, a junior who transferred from Boston University, opposes the practice of isolating transfers. “It is probably the worst idea to put transfer students in Harcum,” he said. “It isolates someone needing to be acclimated into the university. It’s not a social environment; people don’t look out for one another. There’s no college atmosphere. I transferred sophomore year and hated the commute. I wish I had been in a more supportive community, but in Harcum I felt even more isolated and disconnected as though I were a commuter. We had a quick transfer meeting and we were supposed to go to freshmen orientation.”

Jessica Gildea, a junior who transferred from LaSalle University, said, “Harcum was hell. My roommate immediately got campus housing, so I was stuck alone without the Internet, TV or any kind of contact with students. I felt extremely alienated.”

Similarly, Patricia Dantis, a senior who transferred from Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, also felt alienated in her room. “I lived at Harcum for about three to four weeks and had a horrible experience,” she said. “I felt lonely and disconnected.”

Philip Craig, a junior who transferred from Colgate University, said, “For a while, I more or less went to class and left, with little connection and no feelings of school pride.”

Brad Laudal, who transferred from the University of Delaware in the fall of 2002, found the transition very frustrating.

“I disliked fact that nobody wanted to get to know me unless they felt I had something worthwhile to offer them,” he said.

According to Daniels, missing the intense period of orientation and bonding that takes place freshman year is a liability. “The hardest thing about transferring is trying to make friends and to be accepted into a group of friends because it seems that most people formed close friendships from freshmen year,” he explained.

“At first I didn’t know anyone, so I had a tough time feeling that college sentiment. I didn’t have that at first,” Gildea said.

Transfer students do eventually settle in and make a successful transition.

“Meeting someone helps to expose you to different areas of the social and cultural aspects of the school,” Craig advised.

Others suggested seeking out organizational resources. “After I checked in with Residence Life a few times a week, I was able to get a room on West Campus,” Gildea said. “Always check with Res. Life to see if there are openings.”

Daniels suggested that transfer students try to get involved in some campus activities. “I wish there was a mandatory transfer orientation in the beginning to tell us important information, like how to get on-campus housing,” he added. “It’s so important for kids to live on campus.”

The majority of transfer students report contentment and satisfaction with their University experience once the initial feelings of alienation fade.

“All in all, I think it’s worked out pretty well,” Craig said. “I’m pretty happy here and I finally think of myself as a Villanova student and not just a transfer from Colgate.”

“I am so happy that I transferred to Villanova. My general experience here has been a positive one,” Dantis said. “I’ve had some great teachers and made some wonderful friends.”