Guest Writer, Pat Joseph
We know the first year represents a critical and important time in the life of a college student. There seems to be a trend that every five years or so, as varied colleges and universities put forth “new and improved” efforts aimed at helping first year students succeed and persist in college. Lincoln University has offered a vibrant Freshmen Transition week of activities where new students practically have the campus to themselves to comfortably move in, get to know others, take placement exams, get their class schedules, and of course learn the LU pride chant. In the fall of 2006, First Year Experience (FYE101) became a course requirement, where freshmen students study and are exposed to a common set of assignments designed to help them adjust to the college experience.
Our latest endeavor, the recently implemented Split Model of Advising Program, immediately assigns new students to Academic Advisors in the college major/department of their choice. Within this plan there are potential advantages and challenges. For example, it’s a good idea to provide new students with a department “home” but many students are not realistic in their choice and/or are not aware of the difficult requirements of a number of majors. Some may realize later that they do not have the aptitude and/or interest to continue with their initial selection of a major. Thus, I think we must now figure innovative ways to ensure these new students make good career decisions in a timely manner.
This cursory review does not include other freshmen-related issues including the large number that test into developmental courses, the need for an adequate number of courses for them to choose from, and student experience with enhancement programs like the reading & writing labs, and tutoring.
Initiatives for new students may come and go, but what should remain constant is our ability to positively (or negatively) answer the question, “Are we doing right by our first year students?” It would be interesting to learn your thoughts and ideas.