From Community Colleges to Seven Sisters: Women’s Colleges Prove a Good Fit for Many Community College Students

October 10, 2002

More than ever, community college students – particularly older students – appeal to recruiters at some of the country’s most prestigious four-year colleges, because of their maturity, diversity of experience, and motivation.

The overwhelming majority of applicants to programs designed for adult students at women’s colleges such as Mount Holyoke and Smith, are from community colleges. Both Mount Holyoke and Smith have programs specifically designed to target adult woman over the age of 24, or who have dependents. In fact, Carolyn Dietel, a recruiter from Mount Holyoke, said that more than 80 percent of the students who apply to that college’s Frances Perkins program have attended community colleges.

Recruiters are so enthusiastic about the potential of community college students to succeed in their programs, that they have stepped up efforts to attract them to their campuses.

On October 22, representatives from Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley, will conduct a joint recruiting program at Borough of Manhattan Community College, which has a strong track record of sending students to these and other prestigious colleges each year. In fact, seven former BMCC students are currently enrolled in the Ada Comstock Scholars Program at Smith, and three are in the Frances Perkins Program at Mount Holyoke. One student, who won a prestigious award at Wellesley’s graduation in May, also started out at BMCC.

“We have been visiting BMCC for the past few years because we want to let non-traditionally aged students who seek a liberal arts degree know that there are special opportunities at our institutions and that we welcome the diversity of experience and interest that is represented in the student body at BMCC,” Dietel, the Mount Holyoke recruiter, said.

Dietel added that students who matriculate with at least a year or more of college-level work tend to do very well and the retention rate is high. While some students transfer to the colleges after receiving their associate’s degrees, others transfer before receiving the degrees.

Patricia Mullings-Thomas, who transferred from BMCC to Mount Holyoke last fall said, “BMCC gave me the opportunity and confidence I needed to build a solid academic foundation. This foundation has fortified my continued success at Mount Holyoke College.” She finished her first year at Mount Holyoke with a 3.8 grade point average, and is now working on an independent study project in preparation for her senior thesis.

For many students at BMCC, a college education at a selective private college, such as Mount Holyoke, Smith, or Wellesley, is something they never considered.

“If you had told me ten years ago that today I would be accepted into one of the most prestigious colleges in the county, I would have thought you were crazy,” said Rosa Luciano, 25, a BMCC student now at Smith.

Many of the BMCC students got their first taste of life at a top-notch residential college through the Exploring Transfer Program at Vassar College, a summer program that allows the students to take college courses and live in the college dormitories.

Nathalie Vaughn, a 37-year-old mother of two, participated in the Vassar program in the summer of 2001, and is now a student at Smith College through the Ada Comstock Scholars Program.

Sidonia Dalby, a recruiter from the Ada Comstock Scholars Program at Smith, said she became interested in recruiting students from BMCC after meeting some of them at the Vassar program.

“I was impressed with the BMCC students’ level of sophistication and eagerness,” Dalby said. “I have also been very impressed with the faculty and staff I’ve met at BMCC. Although the college is large, there is no shortage of personal attention.”

Tania Bruno, 25, who graduated from BMCC in June and is now attending Smith College, attests to the support she got at BMCC as the reason she was able to make the successful transfer to Smith. “At BMCC I felt free to ask questions and the professors encouraged that,” Bruno said.

Angela Lewis, 35, who graduated from BMCC in June and is now enrolled in the Frances Perkins Program at Mount Holyoke, also said it was the BMCC professors’ ability to notice and nurture her potential, that inspired her to reach for a goal she had not dreamed possible.

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