Not every student who arrives on the Hilltop freshman year will take part in Senior Week. Though Georgetown has one of the highest retention rates in the country, some students do choose to leave before the end of their senior year.

The university has a 97 percent freshman retention rate, meaning that three out of every 100 students who begin their freshman year here don’t graduate from Georgetown, according to Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh.

According to Pugh, students may leave Georgetown for a variety of reasons, taking into account personal, academic and financial factors.

“Most of the students who leave before graduating do transfer to other institutions,” Pugh said.

Morgan McGrath, now a senior at New York University, transferred after his freshman year for primarily academic reasons.

“I decided during my freshman year that I wanted to study music in college. Georgetown’s music program was very new at the time and did not have what I thought to be sufficient resources, faculty and student interest for what I wanted to study,” McGrath wrote in an email.

He said that he kept his mind open when he came to Georgetown.

“I really did not know what I wanted to major in. I figured I would figure it out during my first year and would then transfer out or stay at the Hilltop depending on where my academic interests ended up going,” McGrath wrote.

Xena Colby, now a senior at Swarthmore College, left Georgetown after her sophomore year. She cited multiple reasons for transferring, including social concerns.

“I really just didn’t belong at Georgetown. As soon as I stepped on campus I didn’t feel like I fit in with the rest of the student body,” Colby wrote in an email. “Everyone during orientation was wearing flowery summer dresses and khaki shorts. I think I definitely stood out in my ripped jean shorts. That feeling never really went away.”

She also said that academic reasons were a factor.

“I felt like the academics at Georgetown were focused on learning skills and information, rather than an emphasis on critical thinking. Georgetown is also very career-oriented, which did not appeal to me at all,” she said. “Basically, I realized that I should have gone to a small, quirky liberal arts school, so I transferred to one.”

The culture at Georgetown was also part of what pushed sophomore Ella Mitchell to transfer from Georgetown to Yale University after her freshman year.

“One thing about Georgetown that I thought I would like was being in D.C., but I found that it seemed like people weren’t as excited about Georgetown-sponsored events because there were so many cool things to do in the city,” she said.

Mitchell also cited an academic focus on politics at the expense of other disciplines as a reason for her decision to transfer.

But this is rare, according to university officials.

“It is rare to encounter a student who discovers that Georgetown was not what they thought it was, and rarer still to find a student who feels they can’t handle the academic workload,” Associate Dean of the College Sue Lorenson said.

Some students end up leaving for financial reasons. McGrath said that he knew some students who transferred to schools closer to home, where tuition is cheaper, though most of his acquaintances had other reasons for their decisions.

“I knew several other people who transferred out of Georgetown, though the ones I knew that left did so for primarily social or personal reasons. They didn’t like the atmosphere at the school and felt like they didn’t fit in,” McGrath said.

In spite of this, Georgetown’s retention rate compares favorably with other schools. Johns Hopkins University and Brown University both share Georgetown’s 97 percent retention rate and the rates at Princeton and Harvard Universities are only 1 percent higher, according to U.S. News and World Report. In contrast, higheredinfo.org reported that the national college retention rate is only 74.7 percent.

Lorenson said that Georgetown’s commitment to providing guidance for students throughout their academic careers was a key reason for Georgetown’s high retention.

“We work hard at letting students know what they can do, and then how they can do it,” Lorenson said.

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