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“Second-Time Freshmen”

Posted: December 29, 2015

One in Four Members of the Class of 2019 Studied
Elsewhere Before Coming to the College

 

There are more than 83,000 students on Arizona State University’s 640-acre urban campus, making the odds of a chance encounter with an old friend slim, at best. Yet one day this past summer, when Moises Gomez was visiting the university with his sister, he ran into one of his classmates from Thomas Aquinas College’s 2012 High School Summer Program, Joseph Zwemke. The two friends greeted, then discussed some exciting news.

Just an hour before, Joe had received word that the College had accepted his application to transfer from ASU in the fall. This development followed Moises’ own decision to transfer to the College from a prominent Catholic university. Despite having initially enrolled in other schools, the two friends would be reunited in the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2019.

Moises and Joe are not alone among members of this year’s Freshman Class, nearly a quarter of whom have already completed some undergraduate work at other schools. Whether foregoing lucrative scholarships or the opportunity to play intercollegiate sports, these “second-time freshmen” have made significant sacrifices to pursue what they now regard as a far greater good — the gift of a Catholic liberal education.

“I Missed the Passion”

What most of these students have in common is an initial, strong desire to come to the College, which they disregarded for seemingly good or prudential reasons. Moises, for example, cherished his time in the Summer Program, but the offer of a large scholarship — “almost a full ride,” he notes — coupled with the opportunity to play intercollegiate soccer, drew him away. “My brother graduated from the College in 2010, and I never doubted that I would like it here or that I would enjoy the academic life,” says Anna Goodwin. “But I got great tuition benefits to go to one of Southern California’s most highly rated private schools, so I thought I would try to take advantage of that.”

Yet in most cases their studies elsewhere, even under the best of circumstances, left something to be desired. “In the Summer Program, I felt that I had discovered, for the first time, a type of learning that could elevate me to a fuller understanding of my faith,” says Bella Ayala. She hoped to replicate that experience by studying biology at one of California’s top public universities, but could not. “I missed the passion that I had felt studying the great books.” After two years, Bella and her twin sister, Angelica, decided to leave for Thomas Aquinas College.

Patrick Nazeck was likewise studying biology at a public university, but found it “hard to stay on the path that I wanted to be on,” spiritually, socially, and academically. “Throughout the year, I kept getting the sense that I was supposed to come here,” he says. As Moises describes it, “I enjoyed my time at my first school, but I knew I wasn’t studying what would be necessary to perfect myself.”

Starting Over

In deciding to come to the College, these students are effectively restarting their academic careers. “Because our curriculum is sequential and integrated, all of our students must begin as freshmen, even those who have already attended other colleges,” explains Director of Admissions Jon Daly. “Students who come here from other schools willingly postpone their graduations — and extend their tuition payments — by a year or two. It is a real testament to how seriously they take their education.”

As far as the students are concerned, however, these sacrifices are a small price to pay. “I am enjoying every moment here, soaking it all in,” says Joe. “I just wish it could go on longer than four years.”

Well into their first semester at the College, these second- time freshmen seem to have found what they were missing. “I have loved every moment of every day,” says Anna. “I love the community. I love the desire to learn. And I really love reading original sources.” Citing “the spiritual life, the friends I am making, the wholesome relationships, reading the great books, and learning about the things that matter most,” Moises concludes, “The more time I spend here, the more I learn why I am supposed to be here.”