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Anne Arundel 100
OpEd From the Dean of Students
Written by Wesley P. Jordan
I spent my first 18 years at St. Mary's College of Maryland in the classroom teaching psychology, and not paying much attention to those prospective students who "got away." Alas, for the past 10 years as dean of admissions and fi nancial aid, I'm all too aware of those who do.
Most prospective students get away because they believe that there is only one college that's right for them. They are interested in St. Mary's but then decide they want a large university, or want to move far away from home (or stay close), or have financial concerns that attract them to the school offering the most aid. These are the easy students to lose-they have developed a clear sense of their priorities and have acted accordingly.
The students who are harder to lose are those who struggle with conflicting goals. When Alex visited St. Mary's from my hometown of Seattle, we strolled the campus talking psychology and the Pacific Northwest. St. Mary's fit many of his criteria-a small school with a good reputation, a "water" location, and a strong biology program. Alas, in the end, the lure of an equally good school closer to home drew him away. Alex would have blossomed here. Even though he will do well elsewhere, I feel the loss of a good fit between a student's interests and my institution.
I lose the most sleep over the accomplished students who have the decision made for them-Markita, who was pressured to attend her parents' alma mater; Randy, whose father wouldn't fi ll out the FAFSA to give Randy access to federal and institutional aid; or Ashley, whose parents wouldn't pay for her to live on campus, thus relegating her to commuter status on a campus where 85% of the students are in residence.
The "lost" students, however, don't always stay lost. Several years ago I received a call from a student who had decided against St. Mary's to attend a highly regarded college on an athletic scholarship. Her fi rst year was OK, but there was a lack of balance between academics and athletics, and her classmates were generally unmotivated. As the fall semester of her sophomore year came to a close, she had "an epiphany" (her words) - she missed the diversity of backgrounds and attitudes that had been present at her multi-cultural high school. "When I visited St. Mary's, it looked like my high school," she said. "I thought it [diversity] wasn't that important, but it is. Can I reapply?" She did, and two and a half years later she walked across the graduation stage with a huge smile on her face. She had found her place.
-Wesley P. Jordan