Book by: Dallin Young and Jessica Hopp
Review by: Jarrod Ennis Patterson
Department of English & Foreign Languages
Alabama A&M University
Student persistence continues to be an issue of major concern in higher education (Tinto, 2006). As a result, colleges and universities across the nation have begun initiatives specifically targeting first-year students. One of the primary initiatives in question is the first-year seminar or FYS. Historically, the FYS has intended to enhance the academic and social integration of first-year students. Retention and persistence studies consistently establish academic and social integration as major factors impacting first-year student persistence. First-year students who are better socially engaged are in better positions to adjust to their new college environments. Consequently, the academic performances of these students and their interactions with their professors also contribute to their academic experiences.
Young and Hopp introduce readers to the National Survey of First-Year Seminars, or NSFYS, a very compelling but technical study that provides an open window into the practices of the FYS. According to their report, the FYS can be classified into several major categories, which include extended orientation, uniform academic topics, pre-professional seminars, and basic study skills seminars. At times, the study can get mired in technical jargon. Further in their study, Young and Hopp transition from a discussion of the distinctive characteristics of the FYS to a more interesting discussion of what Kuh (2008) refers to as “high-impact practices.” Their analysis also points to and highlights the clear prevalence of high impact practices, or HIPs, at colleges and universities participating in the NSFYS.
The National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transitions has administered the NSFYS, every three years over the last 25 years. The purpose of the study was to examine the FYS activities of participating colleges and universities, give overviews of their various FYS initiatives, and provide guidance to those institutions looking to begin or improve existing FYS. The results of the 2012-2013 NYFYS show that the initiation of the FYS has directly led to an increase in the academic rigor at participating colleges and universities. This in return has resulted in higher academic standards (p. 49).
Young and Hopp conclude their report with a very telling argument for the continuation of FYS. The results of their findings provide academic advisors vital and up-to-date statistical information that keenly highlights specific features of a successful FYS from the responses of almost 804 colleges and universities, both private and public, across the nation. All other institutional stakeholders tasked with improving the student success of first-year students would benefit from the results of this research study. The results are intended to help institutions interested in adding the FYS as a student success initiative and those that are looking for assistance in adapting the successful features of the FYS that will lead to greater social and academic achievement of first-year students. This resource is a great tool for research, especially those in the field of student success.
Kuh, G. D. (2008). High impact educational practices What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Tinto, V. (2006). Research and practice of student retention: What next? Journal of College Student Retention, 8(1), 1-19.
2012-2013 National Survey of First-Year Seminars: Exploring High-Impact Practices in the First College Year. (2014). Book by Dallin Young and Jessica Hopp. Review by Jarrod Ennis Patterson. National Resource Center, Columbia: University of South Carolina, 132 pp. $25.00. ISBN #978-1-889721-90-3