For hundreds of wide-eyed first years, the fall is a time filled with awkward introductions, endless First Days activities and the anxious exhilaration of meeting new classmates. For returning students, it’s a time for reuniting with friends, reminiscing about years past and trying as hard as possible to act like mature upperclassmen.
There are, however, some students who don’t fall into either category. They are the students who begin their collegiate years at community colleges before coming to Williams, and who make up a small but important percentage of the student body.
Jim Dunshee ’09 originally enrolled at the University of Vermont for one year, but transferred out to the Community College of Vermont for his sophomore year. “The question is why go from a four-year institution to a community college?” Dunshee said. “I lacked focus at UVM. I was paying thousands of dollars and was not quite sure what I was getting out of it. It was more difficult for me to figure out what I wanted in a larger, less intimate setting. CCV was great in that it allowed me to learn more about who I am, my priorities and what I needed to get out of school.”
Unlike Dunshee, Lindsay Moore ’09 had known she wanted to enroll in a community college since she was a fifteen-year-old living in San Carlos, Calif. “I enrolled in community college as a sophomore in high school because I was miserable at my high school,” she said, adding that her school was featured in the 1995 true-story film, Dangerous Minds, which depicted an inner-city school about kids dealing with issues of drugs, violence, gangs and academic apathy.
“I became a completely different kid, going from excelling in primary school to rarely attending classes,” she said. “I realized that if I was serious about going to college – or passing high school at that – I had better think of an alternative route to get here.”
Darran Moore ’09 chose to enroll in the Foot Hill College, a junior college in California, after graduating from a performing arts high school near his hometown of San Jose, Calif. “They would talk to me about Julliard or other art conservatories rather than colleges or universities,” he said.
The three students all agreed that they sought small liberal arts college with strong academic reputations after their time at community college.
“Williams has all the things I was looking for at the time. I enjoyed the intimate setting at [the Community College of Vermont], so I knew I wanted a small liberal arts college,” Dunshee said. “Having professors that actually know who you are and want to help you is huge. Williams is also great for all the opportunities it provides for its students that a community college is not able to.”
So did Williams live up to expectations? On some accounts, the College has proven to be exactly what all three students were looking for. Dunshee, Lindsay Moore and Darran Moore have all benefited from great academic experiences and the support of Dean Charles Toomajian, the academic advisor to transfer students. Dunshee and Darran Moore both participated in the mid-orientation programs “Where am I!?!” and WOOLF, respectively.
Being a transfer student has presented unique challenges as well. None of the students were in an entry, and they also had to deal with their disappearing classmates as new friends left to study abroad, only to be replaced by more unfamiliar faces.
“The Williams social structure is founded in the entry system, and the majority of students know their entry – whether you love or hate them – and that’s the basis of your social structure,” said Darran Moore, who like the others, came into Williams as a junior. “Your one [foundational] thing is your entry. To not have that entry life experience puts you at a social disadvantage.”
Still, all three came to the College with a better sense of who they were, what they wanted out of their Williams experience and knowledge of the world outside the Berkshires.
“Community college is representative of the real world – no offense, Purple Bubble,” Lindsay Moore said. “I miss having classes with people three times my age and the unique perspectives and discussions that arise out of the diversity of the life experiences of my fellow classmates.”
Dunshee agreed. “I gained self-knowledge and focus [having attended a community college],” he said. “I have been to other institutions and value all that Williams has provided me with.”