As the end of the semester approaches, some underclassmen are considering transferring between the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and the Pratt School of Engineering.
Each year, approximately 50 to 70 students transfer from Pratt to Trinity, and about 10 to 15 students transfer from Trinity to Pratt, wrote Linda Franzoni, associate dean of undergraduate education in Pratt, in an email. Those that do transfer between schools are responsible for learning the differences in graduation requirements between Pratt and Trinity.
“The adjustment is not difficult—typically students have already started exploring the other school (or possibly a specific major) before they make the transfer official,” Franzoni wrote. “A Pratt student who is thinking of transferring to Trinity may have already had one or more semesters without engineering courses, and a Trinity student who transfers to Pratt would most likely have had a full semester that is equivalent to a Pratt student’s schedule.”
Although students have to submit a transfer application and meet with different deans and advisors in order to transfer, Franzoni noted that it is rare for transfer requests to be denied. She added that most students who transfer into Pratt do not have difficulty completing their degrees on pace with students who enrolled directly in the school. However, some students who transfer from Trinity to Pratt may need to take summer classes in order to fulfill prerequisites for future engineering classes, Franzoni wrote.
For many students, transferring between schools is a way of exploring different disciplines. Sophomore Mary Ziemba, who switched from Trinity to Pratt and back to Trinity, noted that her stint in Pratt helped her develop her interest in design in a way that was academically engaging.
“A major factor is realizing what I really want out of my Duke education, which for me could only come with time,” Ziemba wrote in an email. “I’m really interested in design (of consumer products, technology and software), so I thought Pratt would’ve been a good choice for me since you take classes in design. But I realize now that Trinity gives me what I want. I think I’m going to study [computer science] for the technical aspect of design, and pair that with cultural anthropology classes to get a better understanding of how people interact with product design.”
One main motivation for students who are considering switching schools is the opportunity to follow academic interests, said freshman Shivani Purohit, who is considering switching into Pratt.
“I am in Dr. [Robert] Malkin’s biomedical engineering FOCUS class Medical Instrumentation in the Developing World,” she said. “Being in Dr. Malkin’s lab and taking this course really pushed me to want to pursue biomedical engineering in the real world, and so I want to switch into Pratt.”
Franzoni noted that many of the students who switch—especially those who do so after the Fall of their freshman year—have known that they wanted to switch schools since they matriculated, and have planned accordingly.
Students at many other universities do not have to decide whether they want to pursue engineering prior to matriculation. Instead, this decision is delayed until after the first or second semester. However, Franzoni noted that this model would be disastrous for engineering programs at Duke.
“It would be great if students could choose their school after one or two semesters, however if we did not directly enroll students into Pratt and were not able to accurately predict the number of entering students that would go into engineering each year, we could have an enrollment disaster,” Franzoni said. “I could imagine a Duke graduating class with very few engineers as well as a graduating class where everyone wanted to be an engineer—our infrastructure (faculty, labs, etc.) could not handle the latter situation.”
Senior Griselda Pereyra, who transferred from Trinity to Pratt in her sophomore year, said she appreciated her time in Trinity but has no regrets about her decision to switch.
“I always knew I wanted to do something with math and science,” Pereyra said. “I initially did not go into Pratt because I wanted to explore other options before. I wanted to do something concrete, so that is how I knew I wanted to go into engineering. It was the best decision I could have made.”