When I began my freshman year of college in 2003, I was so nervous to begin school. However, once I arrived and participated in the many first-year program experiences my school had to offer, I felt more at ease.
American University (american.edu) is home to the University College program, a first-year program for a living and learning community.
“AU’s University College places students in small cohort groups of usually 20 students to take a general education class together,” says Tiffany Sanchez, director of new student programs. “These students are also housed together on a residence hall floor and have an academic peer mentor we call a program associate.”
Sanchez says that students who participate in AU’s University College have higher retention rates than students who don’t participate. GPAs are also slightly higher than all AU first-year program student GPAs.
Angela Petitto, a junior at John Carroll University (jcu.edu) in Ohio, says the school has a summer program where freshmen can take classes to get ahead.
“There’s also a service program where they can move in a week early and then do work in inner-city Cleveland,” she says. “All freshmen are also required to take a first-year seminar class to discuss books we have read.”
Tomasina Crapis, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh (pitt.edu), says that her school had an elaborate orientation at the Petersen Events Center. “Different floors and buildings sat together in sections and got their own T-shirts, which were pretty cool,” Crapis says. “We had freshmen floor dinners to recognize and meet people you see every day, which were helpful.”
All students also had to attend a program called “PittStart” during the spring or summer before classes started.
“I met one of my best friends at Pitt there, so that was great, and it really reduced the scared and nervous feeling of leaving home,” she says. “We were also required to take a freshman seminar/intro to arts and sciences class, which was really just to get you familiar with campus and the surrounding Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
Many colleges and universities offer first-year programs. Here are highlights from three.
• Northwestern’s College of Arts and Sciences requires the completion of two freshmen seminars during freshman year. The first has to be in the fall, and the next in either the winter or spring.
• The seminars are small writing and discussion-oriented courses.
University of San Diego
• The University of San Diego’s first-year experience has two core components—the preceptorial program and residential life living and learning.
• The preceptorial program features a small class taught by a faculty advisor. A preceptorial assistant, a USD student, mentors first-year students.
• BC’s weekend-long orientation, “48 hours,” allows students to take advantage of college resources and learn from student volunteers.
• In “Conversations in the First Year,” students all read a book over the summer, then hear the author speak at opening convocation.