Students change colleges for a number of reasons.
Finances. Social circumstances. Moving out of town. Proximity to family or loved ones. Some students change majors and move to a school that better suits their new path. Others start at a two-year college before transferring to finish their degree at a four-year college or university.
Whatever the reason, thousands of students change schools every year. Making that transition flawless and stress-free and creating a welcoming environment in which students can prosper are among the things that Benedictine University does best.
"What grabbed my attention was the way they welcomed their new students," said Leena Quraini, a junior Health Science major from Oak Brook who transferred to Benedictine from the College of DuPage (COD). "I got all the attention I needed regarding what classes I had left and what I needed to do to fit in," she said.
Despite a 3.7 GPA, Quraini was turned away by other schools to which she applied. She found a more receptive audience at Benedictine.
"Thanks to my transfer counselor and new student advisor and all the staff at Benedictine, I was able to know what to do and where to go," she said. "They made me want to be positive and never lose hope. They taught me to always look for a second answer and that no matter what, there is always something better.
"Benedictine is one of the best decisions I have made," Quraini said.
After an uncertain beginning, Sam Ortega-Guerrero, a senior Political Science major from Warrenville who transferred from COD, has thrived at Benedictine. He serves as the president of Student Senate, is a Public Service Fellow at the University's Center for Civic Leadership and is a member of the College Republicans.
"The first semester that I spent at Benedictine was difficult because I did not know anyone, but programs like Model Illinois Government and Model United Nations helped me to make lifelong friends during my second semester," he said.
"I found that the college experience is more rewarding when you are involved in the school's activities. The feeling of community is so much stronger when you are a member of a club or an organization on campus, not to mention the professional opportunities that are presented while involved."
Ortega-Guerrero has also been able to develop what he calls "lifelong educational partnerships" with faculty in the Department of Political Science, and establish relationships with professionals in his chosen field at all levels of government.
"I have had the opportunity to meet individuals who have played important roles at the national level, I have had access to local and state politicians, and I have had the opportunity to interact with the University's administration," he said. "The networking opportunities are unreal."
One of the biggest obstacles to transferring to a school of choice is financial aid. Sami Tashwali is a transfer student from COD who lives in Burr Ridge. Financial aid was a major consideration when he decided to attend Benedictine.
"I applied to Benedictine and two other schools," Tashwali said. "One school offered me a good scholarship, but it was still going to be too expensive. The other school would not tell me how much they were going to give me."
Benedictine was able to offer Tashwali, a 4.0 student at COD, a St. Benedict Scholarship, which awards up to $13,000 per year based on a student's GPA, and a Phi Theta Kappa Award, which provides up to an additional $2,500 per year.
"Those two scholarships and the financial aid grants I received made it all worth coming here," Tashwali said.
Financing their education is not transfer students' only concern. Sometimes they find changing schools difficult academically and socially.
Lauren Bartow, a senior Communication Arts major from Batavia who previously attended Waubonsee Community College, said Benedictine's small classes and friendly atmosphere helped her adjust to her new surroundings.
"At first, the transition was difficult for me, only because it was starting over at a new school where I didn't know anyone in my classes or anyone who went to Benedictine," she said. "But the small classes here really help getting to know people, and everyone is really friendly. They make you feel like you belong in the school community."
Benedictine also offers academic support … not only when a student first transfers to the University, but throughout a student's career here.
"My advisor has been helping me plan out the four semesters I have been here, and the academic support is really helpful to understand difficult subjects," Bartow said.
Transfer students also face other obstacles, such as differences in campus size, academic rigor and institutional culture, issues with transferable credits, and confronting a social environment teeming with people from a variety of backgrounds.
Ultimately, however, student success begins with a dedicated and compassionate staff and welcoming and caring community who make Benedictine a unique educational environment.
"The most important thing you find here are the amazing people and the wonderful staff who take you step-by-step toward your future happiness," Quraini said.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls 10,058 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fifth consecutive year in 2015, and the University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area.