by Priyanka Champaneri
Four years ago, Amalia Torres, BA Government and International Politics ’18, had one goal in mind: to come to George Mason University. “I saw it as a dream,” the recent Mason graduate says. “I think I took the tour of Mason twice.”
Born and raised in Bolivia, Torres always saw college in her future. After graduating high school, she chose to start first at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). But George Mason was never far from Torres’s mind. “My goal was to transfer,” she says.
NOVA has long served as a launching pad for students like Torres looking to complete a four-year degree at George Mason University. More than 3,000 students transfer from NOVA to Mason each year. But the numbers could be higher. While 80 percent of students starting at NOVA express the desire for a four-year degree, only 20 percent graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years.
Torres was one of the ones who made it. She spent two years at NOVA before transferring, and then she immediately dove into life at Mason.
“I did everything I could,” Torres says. “I joined a club to see how it was; I joined a sorority; I did study abroad, where I met great people.” During her time at Mason, Torres also participated in three internships, one of which she learned about because of her involvement with the Schar School of Policy and Government, and she made the Dean’s List twice.
While Torres flourished at Mason, she acknowledges that her story might be unusual, citing everything from financial reasons to difficulties figuring out which courses will successfully transfer as reasons students often aren’t able to make it to Mason. She also did much of the legwork in ensuring she was on the right track. “A lot of things were unclear. . . . I had to do my own research by going through the Mason website and checking which classes were required to transfer,” she says. But both Mason and NOVA are looking to change that.
The new ADVANCE partnership bridges the gaps that NOVA students commonly encounter when they transfer. The partnership adds to the existing long-standing relationship between the two institutions by enhancing the student experience in several key ways, including assigning a success coach to each student and designing specific degree pathways that lead from NOVA to Mason. The success coaches serve as a personal liaison and advisor for each student from entry to NOVA all the way up through graduation from Mason, while the pathways ensure that all NOVA credits will transfer to a bachelor’s degree at Mason.
NOVA students participating in ADVANCE will also have access to Mason student services—including the library system—and the ability to join student organizations and clubs, something Torres agrees will help smooth a student’s transition between the two institutions. “I think there should be a pathway of transferring entirely, even socially,” she says. “Those details really help you get through college.”
For Torres, the Mason experience was invaluable. “I feel I made it to Mason because I was so excited.” She is considering graduate school after working for a year – and she says that she’ll know just which school to look to when the time comes.