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College continues Linkage Program with class of 2010

Lisa Gallagher | Saturday, August 19, 2006

For nearly 20 years, Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s have taken advantage of their neighboring locations by collaborating on a little-known academic program for freshmen.

The Saint Mary’s/Holy Cross linkage program has granted between 30 and 50 incoming freshmen acceptance into Saint Mary’s on a conditional basis.

The program is a way for the admissions committee to offer prospective students who may not have strong academic backgrounds a chance to attend Saint Mary’s, said Dan Meyer, Saint Mary’s vice president for enrollment management.

After reviewing applications, the admissions committee identifies students they think show academic promise and offer them acceptance to the College as long as they participate in the linkage program for their first academic year, which they will complete largely at Holly Cross.

These participants live on the Saint Mary’s campus while taking four classes at Holy Cross and one at Saint Mary’s each semester.

If at the end of the academic year the linkage program student maintains a cumulative GPA of 3.0, she is accepted as a full-time sophomore at Saint Mary’s. But if she does not meet this criteria, she may either apply to be admitted as a transfer student at Holy Cross or apply to another institution altogether.

Meyer said he has generally found that students do well academically after “graduating” from the program.

And while the graduation rate of Saint Mary’s students who participate in the program is slightly lower than traditional students, Meyer said the graduation rate of those students is still higher than if the linkage program was not offered at all.

“The program is great if you really want to go to Saint Mary’s,” said sophomore Meghan Corcoran, a former linkage program participant who led an orientation for incoming program participants.

Cara Ford, assistant director of first year studies and head of the linkage program, worked with Corcoran on the orientation. She said that students have generally found the classes at both Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross to be challenging.

“[This] is an opportunity for students to strengthen their academic backgrounds,” Ford said.

Senior Amanda Shropshire, a former participant, said she thinks the linkage program is a good idea as students are able to complete their core electives.

“It’s good I took them at Holy Cross, when I probably would have had trouble with them at Saint Mary’s,” she said.

She said the program “prepared me for the workload that Saint Mary’s has.”

While the program has garnered praise from participating students and involved faculty members, usually only an average of 10 of those accepted into the program actually participate each year.

This year, however, only nine women chose to participate in the program.

The smaller-than-usual number is due to the fact that the students who are offered participation in the program must decide whether to accept the invitation or go to a college or university that may have already accepted the student on a full-time basis, Meyer said.

“When we admit [students] to the program, we see that as a positive,” Meyer said. “[The program] is also positive in that it does allow a student to prove herself.”

But for students who would rather not drive to and from classes, juggle advisors from both Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross and take courses located on two campuses, the linkage program may not be right for everyone.

“I think it was beneficial to me,” Corcoran said. “I always wanted to go to Saint Mary’s, and now that I’m finally here, I love it.”