JOYCE: Endow a lawn room to third-year transfers

The lawn application presents an undue burden for many third-year transfer students

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The Lawn application has the adverse, unintended effect of pitting students who have spent one semester at The University against those who have been enrolled for and completed five. 

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

This semester, new students were accepted to live on the Lawn for their final year at the University. In addition to submitting an unofficial transcript, in order for their application to be accepted, they had to answer a series of questions about their commitments and experiences at the University. These questions include: “Please list and describe, in order of importance to you, your most significant commitments to The University Community,” and, “How has your membership in The University and Charlottesville/Albemarle County communities enriched this institution, student body or broader community?” Questions and requirements such as these make it an impossibility for transfer students who have attended the University for as little as four months to match up to those who have attended it for two and a half years.

The GPA requirement on the Lawn application in particular is exclusionary. Third-year transfer students lack the adjustment period necessary to attain a GPA that is representative of their academic achievements. During my time at U.Va., I have yet to meet a single person — regardless of year of enrollment — whose first semester was not their most difficult. Third-year transfer students are not exempt from this rule. Before coming to the University, I achieved academic success, like all other students who gain admission. I graduated from the Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville, Md., with a high GPA. But, after transferring in, my GPA was reset to zero. With the my first two years erased, I came to the University believing that this high level of academic success would be just as attainable here.

However, like many other students at the University, I was struck down with an immediate reality check. I did not do as well as I had hoped — I was unable to adjust to the academic rigors of the University immediately. As a result, with no other semesters to dull the impact of their first and only semester at the University, third-year transfer students are put in a bad light academically on the Lawn application.

The Lawn application has the adverse, unintended effect of pitting students who have spent one semester at the University against those who have been enrolled for and completed five. This sets back third-year transfer students behind even their second-year transfer student peers. This system results in the Lawn committee considering all applicants’ GPAs are created equal — as if the U.Va. GPA of every applicant reflects their academic achievements since beginning their college education. For third-year transfer students, this is not the case. When the Lawn committee asks for these students’ grades, they likely only receive the GPA of their worst semester. 

Additionally, asking questions which exclusively revolve around contributions to the communities and organizations of the University, Charlottesville City and Albemarle County bars third-year transfers — who have just arrived — from having the opportunity to live on the Lawn, an opportunity which they deserve to have access to. From first-year, most students enter the University and hit the ground running. They immediately become active in the community and work hard to rise through the ranks of their organizations of choice.

So, this begs the question — how can the University put people who have just one semester to build a Lawnie-caliber resume and GPA on a level playing field with individuals who have had the opportunity to work toward that goal for over two and a half years? The answer is surprisingly simple. There must be an endowed Lawn room for transfer students.

According to the Joan Lee, Senior Resident of the Lawn, out of the pool of approximately 4,000 potential applicants going into their last year at the University, only 250-300 students submit applications to live in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. In a stroke of mathematical luck, the University accepts around 300 third-year transfer students.

Given this relatively small number, the University is given an opportunity to remedy the problem. In order to give third-year transfers the fair shot they deserve, one of the Academical Village's 54 Lawn rooms should be endowed to third-year transfer students. This allows the University to evaluate third-year transfers in the only fair manner possible: comparing them to one another rather than comparing them to people who have had the five times the opportunity to build their resumes.

If the University wants to be as open and accepting of transfer students as it claims to be, it should let them have a real chance to live in Mr. Jefferson’s Academical Village. Transfers contribute to the University, Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the world in the same truly remarkable ways that students who arrive immediately after high school do. When transfers arrive, they have been tried and tested by all kinds of adversity, all in the pursuit of a superior education that the University can provide to them. They are forced to assimilate immediately. They hit the ground running. They find jobs at the University, they volunteer, they join clubs and they contribute to projects that can help make the city a better place. Third-year transfer students, like all other students at the University, are remarkable students — it is time they are treated that way.

TJ Joyce is a third-year transfer student in the College. 

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