First-year reflections: being a freshman at a closing school

By Jason Fridge
May 6, 2024

First-year students playing lawn games at their Beginnings Orientation in August. Photo via Cabrini University Flickr.
First-year students playing lawn games at their Beginnings Orientation in August. Photo via Cabrini University Flickr.

Freshman year of college is an exciting time. From living in dorms away from parents to spur of the moment decisions, it’s supposed to be full of memories and relationships that last a lifetime. But what is it like being a freshman at a school that’s closing?

“I had no idea what I was coming into,” said freshman criminology major Katherine Gaffney. “I knew it was going to be different. However, I was expecting to still have a somewhat normal college experience.”

Unfortunately for first year students who chose to attend Cabrini during its final year, it was far from a normal college experience.

Falling short of expectations

Fellow freshman and communications major Erin Ewing knew what she was walking into. Knowing that the relationships she made may be temporary, she was hopeful about what this school year would bring.

“I still expected the school to put a lot of effort into making it the best possible experience,” Ewing said. “But I don’t feel like the school held their end of the deal for that. It felt like they were letting the school die out this year.”

Gaffney (far left) with friends at Cabrini’s Winter Formal hosted by SGA in December. Photo via Cabrini University Flickr.

Gaffney agreed this year was underwhelming. “At times it felt like I was still in high school,” she said. “I did not think our class was going to be as small as it was. I know that next year is going to be just like entering as a freshman again because of how different things were here.”

Although the size of the freshman class was small, Gaffney holds that it allowed them to become really close as a group. Interactions within the dorms were lively throughout the week, but when the weekend came it was a different story. “A lot of students would go home close to every weekend because there was nothing keeping them here,” Gaffney said.

Gaffney is from Illinois, so she remained on campus every weekend. “I saw how dead campus and the residence halls would be on the weekends,” she said. “I would sometimes go a whole weekend without running into anybody.”

Ewing was also disappointed with the lack of student life. “I did a lot of just sitting in my dorm room this year, and that’s not something that I wanted for my freshman year of college,” she said.

On top of this, Ewing needed to take classes that weren’t offered this year. She earned college credits during her time in high school, allowing her to jump straight into requirements for her communications major in the spring.

While this jump put her ahead of the curve, it placed her in a tough position. “A lot of the classes I had to take this semester, because they weren’t offering as many as they would in the past, I didn’t have the prerequisites for,” Ewing said. “So going into them was pretty difficult because I was so inexperienced.”

The transfer process

For the freshmen who decided to stick it out for Cabrini’s final year, it was inevitable they would have to restart the college search process.

Cabrini partnered with Eastern University, Holy Family University, Gwynedd Mercy University, and Ursinus College, who offered teach-out plans as well as matching out-of-pocket costs for Cabrini students. The Center for Student Success also held one-on-one advisory meetings in the fall with all students to help them through transferring to another institution.

Ewing was immediately drawn to Ursinus College as a possible destination next fall, and also applied to Villanova University after learning that they offered Cabrini students an expedited admissions process.

But for Gaffney, finding a new home wasn’t easy. “I struggled with the transfer process because none of the partner schools offered my exact major,” she said. “After my advising meeting at the beginning of the year where I learned this, I was left out to dry without any other options.”

Gaffney credits her academic advisor, who took over and assisted in highlighting institutions that offered her major and would accept as many credits as possible. Gaffney has committed to play golf at Arcadia University, where she will continue studying criminology, while Ewing is still deciding between Ursinus and Villanova.

Reflecting on the year

It’s hard to choose just one word to describe Cabrini’s final year. For Ewing, however, the word that comes to mind when reflecting on her freshmen year is “upsetting”.

“I knew obviously coming into this year that there would be teachers and friends I made that I won’t see next year, and most I’ll never see again,” she said. “Getting to experience a small part of Cabrini, I think it was something that I really would have loved in normal circumstances. It’s kind of just mourning the experience that I didn’t get to have.”

Gaffney also summed up this year by choosing to call it “unfortunate”

“Even though Cabrini will always have a piece of my heart, we were just unlucky,” she said. “I would have loved to be here all four years, but the timing was unfortunate. I think every situation I endured here, good and bad, ends in unfortunate. Any bad experiences can be blamed on the school closing and any good experience can be ruined by the idea that it’s all ending. Simply, unfortunate.”

Whether they see it as good news or not, all Cabrini students who did not graduate get to start a new adventure next fall. Their time at Cabrini may have been far from ideal, but it will certainly be an unforgettable chapter in their adult lives.

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Jason Fridge

I am a junior Digital Communication/Social Media major with a Sports Communication minor. I grew up in Lynnwood, WA north of Seattle. Involved on campus at Cabrini as a Student Ambassador, SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee) executive board member, play-by-play broadcaster for Cabrini athletics, and a player on the Cabrini lacrosse team. Aspire to go into sports broadcasting and dream job would be working for a sports franchise/media company either as on-air talent or behind the scenes media member. In my free time I enjoy exercising and can usually be found walking around Wayne listening to a good podcast about sports or history!

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