Resources regarding Advising First-Year Students
the Odds for Freshman Success
Authored by: Jessica Bigger
first year of college is trying for many students; new responsibilities
and expectations can be overwhelming. For this reason a large
percentage of students do not make it to their sophomore year.
Gardner and Siegel (2001) cite data gathered by ACT indicating
that 28% of students in public four year institutions fail to
continue beyond their first year in college. Because of this,
and other factors, interventions targeted to first-year students
have become important. Many institutions have adopted programs
designed to provide a 'rite of passage' in which students are
welcomed, supported, celebrated, and eventually assimilated into
the campus (Gardner,
the development of matriculating students is essential to those
seeking to make a difference in these students' lives. Vincent
Tinto (1993) outlined three stages students
move through: separation, transition and incorporation. Students
first go through a separation stage in which
they move away from their home environment. Although this can
be quite traumatic for students, most eventually are able to move
to the second stage, transition. During this
stage students are torn between their old environment and the
new one; they may not feel they belong in their old environments
but have yet to find their places in the new one. Finally students
move into incorporation when they have achieved
full membership into the social and academic communities of the
(1995) noted another common student development theory attributed
to Scholssberg, Lynch and Chickering. This theory concentrates
on students' needs to feel they matter and are appreciated. College
personnel must realize that students need support from peers,
faculty, staff, and family if they are to succeed. Support networks
must be in place so freshman can begin to make the important connections
that will help them cope.
final theory of importance is Astin's Involvement Theory. Astin
(1985) emphasized that students learn and develop when they become
active in the collegiate experience. Upcraft (1995) expanded on
this theory when he stated 'The greater the quantity and quality
of involvement, the more likely the student will succeed in college'
(p.18). College personnel can help students become active in a
number of ways; two successful strategies are an activities carnival
at the beginning of the year that introduces students to different
campus organizations, and scheduling freshman planning conferences
between students and their advisors.
Perspective for Supporting First-Year Students
academy has known for over a century that first-year students
face unique challenges.Boston College pioneered the first Freshman Orientation
class in 1888 (Gardner,
1986). Reed College (Portland, OR) became the first institution
to schedule an orientation course for credit when, in 1911, they
offered a course separated into men-only and women-only sections
that met 2 hours per week for the year (Gardner, 1986).
classes acquired their modern form in 1972 when, after a series
of campus riots then University of South Carolina President, Thomas
Jones asked faculty to develop innovative ways to rethink undergraduate
education. Jones' goal was to help students appreciate the university
and not destroy it (Schroeder, 2003). History professor John Gardner
helped develop what eventually became known as the First-Year
Experience, or FYE (Schroeder, 2003). Gardner, in an interview
with Schroeder (2003), defined FYE as 'a national and international
effort to improve the first-year, the total experience of students
- and to do this intentionally and by rethinking the way the first-year
was organized and executed' (p. 10).
competition for students increased during the last quarter of
the 20th Century, institutions turned their focus on the needs
of entering students in an effort to make their institutions more
appealing. The popularity of programs targeting the first-year
students soared.Gardner(1986) illuminated factors that influence the success or failure
of first-year programs. For instance, altruism is of particular
importance to the effectiveness of a program; faculty and staff
must share a genuine concern for new students.
today's climate of declining revenues and higher enrollment standards,
institutions must exert extra efforts to keep the students they
have worked so hard to recruit (Gardner, 1986). Many colleges
and universities are aware of the changing nature of the term
'freshman' as the number of nontraditional, older, married, and
working students continues to increase. Successful institutions
realize that systems must be in place to address the needs of
students who differ markedly from the traditional residential
freshman. So too must institutions have programs that address
the growing number of recent high school graduates who enter with
poor academic foundations. Finally, institutions must educate
these entering students regarding their rights and obligations
in today's college environment.
Gardner(1986) highlighted the importance of
programs that focus on the first few weeks of college when many
students make the decision to drop-out. During this period students
feel increased personal independence and form the habits and relationships
they will carry throughout their college careers.Gardner(2001) also noted that during this
time students make judgments about faculty and their major, although
the latter is apt to change. He (1986) further suggested that
a number of actions can improve the freshman year including curriculum
modifications, enhanced academic advisement, faculty (instead
of graduate student) teaching freshmen level courses, extended/continuing
orientation, living/learning environments, peer counseling, and
special freshmen administrative units.
the years, an organized transition program has become a cornerstone
of the new student experiences at campuses across the country.
When Gardner (1986) found that freshmen who complete orientation
courses were retained at a higher rate than those who did not
take such a course, the demand for first-year services led to
the establishment of a National
Resource Center based at the University of South Carolina.
By 1995, Gardner (2001) noted that 82% of participating institutions
reported a significant focus on the first-year experience. In
2005 the 24th annual FYE conference drew over 1200 administrators,
faculty and students and The National Resource Center for First-Year
Experience & Students in Transition produced many publications
including a monograph series and a bi-annual journal, The
Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.
October, 1999, The Policy
Center on the First Year of College (FYI) was initiated at
Brevard College in North Carolina. The Policy Center, now known as the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, was developed
as an extension of the National Resource Center ; Policy Center
staff work cooperatively with the National Resource Center on
the issues of concern for first-year students especially first-year
of successful transition programs
O. Barefoot (2000) outlined a number of objectives needed for
a successful first-year transition program. Key are student-to-student
interactions and student-to-faculty interactions. Barefoot found
that student time and involvement on campus outside of class must
increase, and a link between the curriculum and co-curriculum
areas should be established. Academic engagement and student expectations
should increase. Programs must be established that assist students
who enter with insufficient academic preparation. Institutions
must set clearly defined objectives as an important first step
in the establishment of a program that will benefit both students
and the institution.
objectives have been established, interventions must be implemented
that define a transition program. The cornerstone of most programs
is the first-year seminar course designed to introduce students
to the college experience and teach them how to master it (Gardner,
2001). The classroom experience is increasingly important since
so many of today's first-year students are nontraditional and
live off campus; thus, they are less likely to have contact with
student affairs offices or residence halls. For these students
the seminar class becomes their main source of connection to campus
(Schroeder, 2003). Skills covered in a typical seminar course
include time management, orientation to campus facilities, drug/alcohol
awareness, responsible sexual behavior, and the importance of
2001). Some other areas that may be covered, such as computer
and library skills, can serve an immediate need as well as lay
the foundation for student survival throughout their college careers
(Franklin, Cranston, Perry, Purtle, 2002).Franklin,
et al (2002) also indicated that students who completed a seminar
class scored consistently higher than a control group in areas
such as student development and integration to campus culture.
These students also were more likely to take advantage of academic
establishment of learning communities is another effective first-year
intervention. Communities often consist of thematically linked
courses with a group of students in common. Students within a
learning community establish a vital support network of people
who share their same classroom experiences. Learning communities
can be extended into residence halls where these students live
on the same floor and have common homework and study time (Gardner,
campuses encourage civic engagement through the inclusion of service
learning opportunities within their transition programs. Not only
does service learning contribute to the community, it provides
students with an inherently active and relevant experience that
promotes interest in the class and the material. In many instances
members of the community serve as teachers and evaluators (Gardner,
2001). Projects such as Habitat for Humanity, food banks, and
adopt-a-highway have dramatic effects on the community and are
great ways to get students involved.
Education is another crucial element included in most first-year
programs. Today's students face a myriad of health issues e.g.,
STDs, sexual assault, eating disorders and binge drinking. These
health issues often have a disproportionate effect on first-year
students as they seek a niche within the campus culture (Gardner,
2001). Students need to be aware of health services offered on
campus and know how to access them.
support services must be established to help first-year students.
These can include such services as writing centers, math labs,
tutoring, non-traditional student programs, technology-support,
counseling, and support services for students with learning disabilities.Gardner(2001)
noted that institutional commitment for these services can result
in higher retention and greater academic achievement. Here upperclassmen
can serve as mentors and positive influences;Gardner(2001) observed that organized programs
where upperclassmen serve such roles as peer mentors/advisors,
tutors, and course assistants bring positive benefits.
for Academic Advising
advising plays a key role in the success of students as they transition
to our institutions. Tinto (1999) suggested that advising is integral
to student development. Advisors must understand the informational,
conceptual, and relational aspects of their roles and how these
aspects affect their interactions with first-year students.
advisors should possess a clear understanding of the students
on their campuses. Today's transitioning student may belong to
a variety of sub-groups or 'special populations'. Special populations
that often include a large number of students are: students with
disabilities, adult learners, at-risk students, students from
differing cultures, and students in the Millennial Generation.
Advisors should keep abreast of the latest information regarding
advising these population groups; information regarding these
populations can be found within the NACADA Clearinghouse of
Academic Advising Resources.
advising of one special population group deserves focused attention;
today's traditional-age student represents a new generation of
college students known as the Millennial Generation. As defined
by Keeling (2003), millennial students are those born between
1982 and 2003. Although many of these students have been protected
by parents and society, as a rule they are driven to improve the
world, have a positive attitude, and are team players. Advisors
should understand and be prepared to handle issues common to this
(2003) notes that millennial students often have lofty goals and
high expectations but often lack realistic plans for achieving
their goals. Advisors must be prepared to help these students
achieve a full understanding of how their educational and career
goals align. Advisors should ask guiding questions to determine
students' strengths and interests as well as what will make them
happy. While institutionally based career development services
may be available on many campuses, to be effective, advisors need
a thorough understanding of different career development theories
Super, Myers-Briggs, etc., and how to use and interpret different
inventories and tools. Advisors who use these tools effectively
can steer students toward appropriate career paths.
students often matriculate from highly structured elementary and
secondary school systems that may place a higher value on conformity
than on critical thinking and decision making skills. Students
who lack of experiences in these areas can pose a particular challenge
for advisors since they need more guidance in choosing a major
or career path (Keeling, 2003). Advisors need many tools at their
disposal to help these students with decisions e.g., decision-making
templates (see Clearinghouse critical thinking/academic support resources), handouts explaining campus majors, degree requirement sheets,
and department contact information.
millennial students find the pressures of their first - year daunting.
This can lead to extreme stress, depression, and, in some cases,
student engagement in risky behaviors. Advisors should
be aware of warning signs and know how to refer students to appropriate
resources (Keeling, 2003).
involvement in the daily campus life of millennial students exceeds
that of any previous generation. It is important that advisors
understand the implications of this involvement. Advisors should
expect that parents will be present at orientation, may ask to
participate in student advising appointments, and make phone calls
to advisors. Keeling (2003) notes that advisors must be familiar
with confidentiality matters such as FERPA).
each campus meets parental needs in different ways, most seek
to fulfill parental requirements for information while guarding
student privacy. Some campuses have parent newsletters that detail
expected student experiences during the first year. Others provide
parents with questions they should ask their student and/or dates
when students should receive mid-term grades. Still others have
established Web sites designed for parents (Keeling, 2003). Links
to sample parent resources can be found in the Clearinghouse.
the past thirty years significant efforts have been made to improve
the experiences of students transitioning to our campuses. A variety
of campus programs have been developed to meet the unique needs
of these students and most importantly, help them become successful
students. Advisors, in particular, must understand the issues
facing today's students if we are to help them make a smooth transition
to our institutions and become successful.
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Conversations with metropolitan university first-year students. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition,
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J. N., & Siegel, M. J. (2001). Focusing on the first-year
student. Priorities, 17, 1-17.
S. (2003). Advising the millennial generation. NACADA Journal, 23 (1&2), 30-36.
C. (2003). The first year and beyond. About Campus, 8 (4),
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for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.
- Additional articles about issues surrounding advising First-Year Students
- Advising within a first-year course
- Academic Advising Today articles (search within the AAT site)
- Preparing to advise first-year students
- Vantage Point: An Important Tool for Advising at Research Universities
- What Millennial First Year Students Want and Need from Academic Advisors
- Read more about it! Academic advising: New insights for teaching and learning in the first year NACADA Monograph - M14 within the NACADA Store
the above resource using APA style as:
J.J. (2005). Improving the odds for freshman success.
Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic
Advising Resources Web site http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/135/article.aspx