As high school students begin the process of visiting schools, applying to college and navigating the financial aid world, your students should also be thinking about their next steps once they have made their collegiate choice.
Many students believe that they have passed a significant milestone by graduating high school and selecting their college of choice. While certainly true, many more important decisions are right around the corner. Within months or weeks of deciding which school to attend, colleges and universities will send out information for New Student Orientation.
Many colleges and universities are now offering First-Year Experience (FYE) programs within the orientation process. Since their inception on college campuses in the 1970’s, First-Year Experience programs have provided learning and social interactions to students by engaging them early in their college careers.
DIVERSITY AND BENEFITS IN FYE PROGRAMS
First-Year Experience programs vary, but almost all are geared to acquaint students to the culture of a college campus. Many First-Year Experience programs typically integrate an academic and social course taught by faculty and staff across campus. The course often covers topics such as effective study skills, diversity, money management and homesickness. Here are some more popular FYE program styles and their benefits.
Living/Learning communities group students with similar interests into residence halls. They have an opportunity to learn and interact in a comfortable and familiar environment.
Freshmen Interest Groups (FIGS) engage small groups of students with similar interests taking classes together and connected to faculty within a small seminar format.
Common reading programs require students to read over the summer prior to starting class and allows for stimulating group discussions by students in the classroom. This type of learning directly engages and empowers students to participate in the learning process.
Experiential learning is another way that students study and interact within an environment that is fun, relaxed and engaged. Experiential learning can take many forms including: fieldwork, lab experiments, presentations or study abroad. Epistemologically, students can learn and acquire knowledge through a transformational experience.
Minority mentoring programs allow faculty, staff, and current students to work together with minority students to assist them in becoming members of the collegiate culture. Many colleges see this mentoring opportunity as a way to deepen a student’s connection and relationship to the institution. Often, colleges will assign diversity mentors to students on a one-on-one basis as a way to successfully transition or bridge the gap between high school and college.
Academic and social connections through the curriculum and co-curriculum are another way that colleges and universities have achieved student success and persistence. Whether through service learning or civic and community service, these are all experiences that can be documented. As a result of these experiences, colleges and universities are developing co-curricular transcripts to document the individual knowledge and skills their students have accomplished. Much like an official transcript, the co-curricular transcript chronicles in a formal way all of the activities that students have been involved in and complements the academic transcript.
As you seek to provide the best counseling to your students, I encourage you to learn more about First- Year Experience programs and advocate for these types of activities that seek to promote student success and persistence from entry to graduation. Your students will certainly appreciate your diligence and understanding on this topic.
Randall Langston has been working for nearly 17 years in higher education. As the Executive Director of Enrollment Management at the University of Northern Colorado, he provides leadership to the Admissions, Financial Aid and Registrar divisions. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. www.unco.edu