Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Jan-Start students bring fresh perspective to Whitman

Each year, the Whitman community welcomes scores of students embarking and building upon their collegiate careers. While most newcomers to campus begin in the fall, every year a small group of applicants is given admission specifically for spring semester. Along with assorted transfer students, this cohort of “Jan-starts” joins returning Whitties after an extended break from school –– an opportunity many took to work, travel, and generally gain life experience.

Incoming first-year Jessi Whalen decided to spend her free semester in South America.

“I went backpacking throughout Bolivia. I lived with a family for 5 weeks…I spent a month in the Amazon.”

She was quick to add, though, that her decision did not come without some hesitation.  

“I had never really considered taking time off,” she said. “When I decided to, people were all like ‘Oh, you’re never going to go [back] to school… That’s ridiculous.’ It wasn’t really done in my high school or my family.”

Despite the doubts of her friends and family, Whalen is pleased with her choice. Even though she is now slightly behind many of her classmates academically, Whalen has found ways to make up for the lost time.  

“I’m really glad I did it. It gave me time to travel, to have new experiences,” Whalen said. “Coming in as a Jan-start isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are definitely a few hard things, like breaking into friend groups and catching up with everybody in classes. I haven’t written a real essay since seven, eight months ago. Other than that, I’m taking extra classes, I’m doing a class this summer.”

Per transfer students, the variety of schools from which they have come has given many of them a college experience much unlike the typical Whittie’s. From large public universities in the west like the University of Washington to small private colleges in the east like Bard College, this year’s transfer group hails from practically all parts of the country and beyond.

Junior Chase Richards came to Whitman after spending time at three separate universities and one community college. Although private liberal arts colleges were once the butt of many jokes to him and his high school friends, his opinions have since changed.

“I was kind of intrigued by the reputation Whitman was developing as being an up-and-coming liberal arts school in the west, and particularly because of its location,” Richards said. “It was an opportunity to come to a place that was still developing, which is kind of the way I see myself. I never –– ever –– anticipated going to a liberal arts school. Like any great, epic story, my hubris got the best of me.”

Numerically speaking, there are thirty two Jan-starts this year, with transfer students making up twelve of that figure, according to Katie Deponty, Whitman’s Assistant Director of Admission and Transfer Coordinator. That is a very large class relative to most years.

The orientation process for students in January is not unlike what fall first-years go through. Over a four-day period new students participate in bowling, watching movies and listening to a sexual assault seminar among a plethora of other things. Experience of recent years suggests that assimilation into campus life for Jan-start and transfer students is not much of a problem.

“My experience working with Jan-starts for three years now is that they feel very much part of the Whitman culture very quickly,” Deponty said.  

Not only are many of the new students eager to get involved on campus, many returning Whitties are excited to welcome them.

“I met with some first-year students in Denver about a week before school was starting again, in January, and they were really excited,” Deponty said. “I think they looked at it as: ‘This is great, this is new people that we can meet and be friends with’….Whitman students are so welcoming and excited to have new people around.”

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