January Entry Program Offers Alternate Timeline into Trinity

Laiba Bahrawar ’21 Reflects on Her First Semester as a J-Start Student

Laiba Bahrawar ’21, shown outside Trinity's
Raether Library and Information Technology Center.


Hartford, Connecticut, May 25, 2018 – When Laiba Bahrawar ’21 arrived at Trinity College on January 6, 2018, she found herself ’neath the elms in the middle of a blizzard. “We hardly have snow where I’m from in Pakistan. I had two huge suitcases and was pulling them through the snow. It was my first time ever on campus, so it was a bit of a shock.”

Bahrawar was one of the first participants in Trinity’s January entry program, or J-Start, designed for students who choose to begin their college journey in January rather than September. Having recently completed her first semester as a J-Start student, Bahrawar reflected on her first four and a half months at Trinity and in Hartford.

“Originally, I thought I would start college in the fall like everyone else,” she said. However, the opportunity to take a few months off to determine exactly what she wanted to study—and where—appealed to her.

J-Start students arrived on campus two weeks before the start of the spring semester for an immersive orientation. This year’s orientation included a trip to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Mark Twain House, tours of Hartford, and a .05 credit class called “Doing College.”

“The busy orientation schedule really did help the J-Starts get to know each other better because we spent all day, every day, together. By the end, we had made genuine friendships,” said Bahrawar.

She immersed herself in campus life, participating in events such as the International House’s annual cultural show, the International Show; a celebration of International Women’s Day; and a production of The Vagina Monologues. She worked two on-campus jobs and also had an internship with the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. In the fall, Bahrawar will return to campus as a P.R.I.D.E. [Promoting Respect for Inclusive Diversity in Education] leader and anticipates declaring a major in economics.

Bahrawar said that the highlight of her first semester was being awarded a research grant from the Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS). “At first, the odds of actually getting the grant didn’t seem very high to me. After all, I was just a first-year student and only in my first semester at Trinity.” But she prevailed and, with support from the CUGS grant, will spend part of her time back home in Pakistan this summer researching the economic sustainability of a marginalized population within Pakistan.

Bahrawar encourages students who are planning to enter Trinity through the J-Start program to be go-getters: “I think because we took the first step [as the first group of J-Starts], other students can see we made it through. Be confident coming in; don’t be intimidated. Get involved in both the campus community and the community in Hartford.”

Angel Pérez, Trinity’s vice president for enrollment and student success, said that he sees more and more students interested in taking a semester off after high school graduation to recharge. There are also students across the globe who are ready to start college immediately but typically don’t have the opportunity to do so. “Certain parts of the world have an academic calendar that does not align with our calendar. For example, if you’re in South Africa or Australia, you actually have to wait a semester to join us,” said Pérez. “This is a perfect opportunity for international students who do want to start college right away.”

Though the admissions process is similar, Pérez noted there is one quality that indicates a student who will succeed in J-Start. “Typically, we look for a student who has a spirit of adventure. This is not your typical entry into college, so we need you to be a bit more resilient and have a bit more of an open mind. We want self-starters,” he said.

For more information about the J-Start program, click here.

Written by Kelly Vaughan ’17