Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Embracing redirection: Former Emerson students explain why they transferred out

Madla Walsh
Students pass by the Emerson College Visitor Center.

As of 2023, Emerson College’s student retention rate lies at 87 percent. Despite this high ranking, once calculated, Emerson sees more than 500 undergraduate students transfer out or leave each year. 

In the fall of 2022, Emerson welcomed 1,002 first-year students, with a total undergraduate enrollment of 4,149. Assuming that the year’s retention rate was 87 percent, this suggests that approximately 540 undergraduates transferred or left. 

Some former Emerson students have transferred to Boston University (BU), which is conveniently located just a 20-minute ride away on the green line, making the relocation less than three miles. 

Charlie Bickham, a former journalism student at Emerson, transferred to BU after his freshman year. He particularly felt disappointed with the variety of clubs at Emerson and noted a lack of organizations that focused on recreational activities. 

“At other schools, there are hiking clubs, a rowing club, a mountain biking club,” Bickham said. “There should be opportunities to experience more out of Boston than just journalism or film or whatever you’re majoring in.” 

Cherilyn Kim, another former journalism student who now studies computer science at BU, felt a similar disconnect with Emerson’s extracurriculars. Despite being an active churchgoer, Kim also wanted to find a Christian community on campus. When she attended an Emerson Christian Fellowship meeting, it was not what Kim had expected.

“I went there once and only three people showed up. It’s not very organized,” Kim said. “BU has a really strong culture there, and it’s easier to meet people.” 

Kim also specifically referenced Emerson’s absence of a Korean Students Association club at Emerson, which BU does have.

“I don’t think there is a strong cultural [Korean community] at Emerson. The Korean Students Association (KSA) at BU was really big and you can meet other Korean students,” Kim said. “At Emerson, it was really hard to find Korean people or someone I could relate to.”

Sara Shin, a current public relations major at BU, faced difficulty connecting with other Korean students during her first year at Emerson. After attending a BU KSA meeting with Kim, Shin noticed how much easier it was to find a Korean community at their new school.

“People were lining up at the door for 30 minutes trying to sign their way in. It was probably close to 100 kids,” Shin said. “At BU, I’ve found students to be enthusiastic and open to building connections.”

In the first-year admission profiles for fall 2022, more than half of Emerson’s racial demographic (55 percent) was white. Compared to BU’s racial makeup, 32.7 percent of students were white while the other 67.3 percent were students of color. Emerson’s student-of-color population also falls behind many colleges in the Boston area, such as Tufts University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University.

A lack of diversity in academics and programs was another reason for students to transfer.

Roya Fariab, a current junior sociology major at The University of Oregon (UO), transferred out of Emerson after one semester. Despite it having been her dream school, Fariab ultimately felt unfulfilled by the lack of variety in Emerson’s curriculum.

“At Emerson, the courses provided are limited to very few subjects in the grand scheme of things,” Fariab said. “I am a writer and I love taking writing courses, however, I have learned so much [at UO] that I can apply my writing [to] other subjects such as anthropology and sociology.”

Kaia Wirth, a former journalism student who is now majoring in English at Syracuse University, also wanted to explore courses that Emerson does not provide. In addition, she felt as though her classes were not adequately helping her grow as a student.

“My classes were not challenging for me and I didn’t feel like I was learning anything from the classes I had initially been excited for,” Wirth said. “I wanted a rigorous course schedule, I wanted to minor in a language, neither of which Emerson provided for me.”

Wirth also felt Emerson faculty failed to inform and connect her to more academic resources.

“The support from staff and academic guidance counselors was incredibly limited,” Wirth said. “I felt like it was incredibly difficult to get in touch with the resources that I feel should have been more available to me.”

Cade Evered, a current screenwriting major at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), felt a similar dissatisfaction with how well Emerson students were informed about their resources, especially as a former visual and media arts major. 

“I wish classes gave you a rundown on everything the [Equipment Distribution Center] offers and made it clear what tools you had at your disposal,” Evered said. “Freshmen had to learn from themselves what the school actually offered them.”

Evered also had complaints about his living situation during his freshman year.

“Freshman year’s living situation was not good,” he said. “The Little Building was dirty, and the kids didn’t treat it well. That’s just a recipe for disaster, putting all these kids who are brand new to college in one building together and letting them have free roam.”

Some students who were dissatisfied with their experiences living in Little Building had fewer complaints about cleanliness and functionality and more about the social culture. Some struggled with socializing and making new friends during their freshman year.

Kelsey Casas, currently a theater arts major at LMU, thought Emerson was her dream school for four years, but she transferred after attending for only one semester.

“Emerson did provide the experience of being social, but after about a month or two, it felt super cliquey,” Casas said. “If you hadn’t made friends with someone already, you wouldn’t be able to make friends.”

Unable to thrive socially, Casas struggled with her mental health. 

“I was always in my dorm and I was trying my best to get out there, but it just wasn’t working,” Casas said. “I did end up going home for three weeks because I was so depressed.”

Joe Tourk, currently a journalism major at Cabrillo College, also experienced similar struggles with his mental health while at Emerson.

“Maybe it was my timidness of leaving home and becoming surrounded by new people in a new environment, but something about it just made me anxious and depressed,” Tourk said. “And when I felt like that, everything else went out the window.”

Ultimately, many students’ dissatisfaction with Emerson was not worth the cost of the tuition.

“[My parents] could tell I wasn’t loving it and they were like, ‘Why are we paying this much if you’re not in love with the school?’” Evered said. 

The Princeton Review ranked Emerson as the number one college for worst student satisfaction with financial aid last month. For multiple transfers, the price of attending has been a relief now that they are at a different college. 

“[Transferring] probably relieved my grandmother and parents, who were paying a lot more than they’d like to admit,” Tourk said. “The total cost of my class load at Cabrillo this semester was just under $800 dollars. Truly insane numbers compared to Emerson.”

Some other students transferred after realizing earning a four-year degree at Emerson wasn’t financially realistic.

“In retrospect, I think it was a blessing that Emerson wasn’t the right fit for me because my parents told me I would probably have to leave Emerson after two years anyway, due to their financial situation,” Fariab said.

For some other students, the cost of attendance increased after transferring. However, there is still more satisfaction with what they are paying for.

“I’m actually paying almost double the tuition I paid at Emerson as a transfer student, but it’s been worth it,” Wirth said.

Many of the students who transferred are confident that they made the right decision.

“I’m really happy [at LMU]. I’ve found my place in the world. I’m satisfied with where I’m at,” Casas said. “Emerson just wasn’t the right fit for me, but I can see how it was the right fit for some people.”

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About the Contributor
Sabrina Lam
Sabrina Lam, Staff Writer
Sabrina Lam (she/her) is a sophomore journalism major from Manchester, Connecticut. She is currently a Staff Writer for The Berkeley Beacon. Outside of the Beacon, Sabrina can be found strolling on Newbury St. or reading a book in The Boston Public Garden.

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    Bayo Elizabeth Cary / May 9, 2024 at 10:40 am

    The security on campus at Emerson College in Boston, MA is not sufficient. I was attacked in the middle of the night by a fellow security guard. While I was working as security at Emerson College, students went missing and because of Windwalker Group Security-who still operate as security guards at the Boston, MA campus, security check points were never reinforced. I had to quit because of the physical assault by my immediate supervisor in the middle of the night. I am in soo much pain I still have a hard time eating and sleeping at night. Instead of fixing the security problems, Emerson legal is hiding the evidence while Windwalker Group Security continues to lie, in order to defend the unjustified violence and aggression on campus. Tufts Medical-an emergency room less than 4 blocks away from the violence at Emerson College in Chinatown Boston, MA, could respond as the medical community is legally obligated to defend patients and patient’s rights and they have deferred. Tufts Medical and their ER, are also working overtime by hiring too many unethical legal teams to illegally justify taking the “low-road’ instead of defending a student’s legal rights to a safe education-as recently declared in new Intl laws supported by the United Nations. Report: Ms. Bayo Elizabeth Cary, AA, BA, MLIS carybayo(at)gmail.com Freelance News Reporter Seeking a n Editor and Publisher Thank You for Reading!