Getting First Year Students to Year Two: Intentional Education for First Year Students in their Second Semester
Keith Lopez, Colorado State University
Marlon Blake, Colorado State University
First year experience programs were created at colleges and universities across the country with the intention of assisting first year students in negotiating their first year of college. This movement improved retention rates for students and encouraged colleges to create a transition process that does not end with just the typical summer or pre-semester orientation program. Recently, colleges and universities across the country have shifted the focus from only first year transition programming to also include the unique needs of second year students (Schaller, 2005). Many colleges are asking the following questions:
· What are the needs of second year students on our campuses?
· How do we as professionals create intentional education and programming, and environments that meet the unique needs of these students?
· Why is this important to fraternity and sorority professionals?
Second Year Student Struggles
In 1969, Feldman and Newcomb identified the “Sophomore Slump” as a time when second year students become dissatisfied with their college experience and with themselves (Schaller, 2007). Later, in 1981, Morgan and Davis defined it as a period during which students feel rejection because colleges and universities are focusing on the needs of first year students (Schaller, 2007). Additionally, this “slump” can be identified by loss of motivation and a declining performance.
For second year students, the newness of the institution has worn off, students are dealing with an intensified curriculum, and many struggle with choosing a major/career. These experiences impact their academic and personal lives. Many students also move off-campus; increasing the probability that peer relationships will change, thus they feel less connected. All of these issues contribute to significant identity challenges for students (Gansemer-Topf, Stern, & Benjamin, 2007).
The first theory of sophomore student issues identified four stages through which students travel through during their collegiate experience: random exploration, focused exploration, tentative choices, and commitment (Schaller, 2005). This theory focused on the distinctive needs of second year students, while ultimately concluding that there are still many questions about the second year student experience.
Overview of Getting to Year 2 @ CSU Conference at Colorado State University
The mission of Orientation & Transition Programs (OTP) in the Center for Advising & Student Achievement at Colorado State University (CSU) is to assist in the orientation and transition experience of transfer, first year, and second year students by providing comprehensive and intentional programming, services, and outreach to promote students’ academic and personal achievement through active engagement within a diverse campus community. The four foundational values that guide this programming are academic excellence, active engagement, diversity, and community. Every program and service provided by OTP uses these values to achieve this stated mission. The programs include a continuum of services that begins with summer orientation, continues with welcome week, and ultimately ends with getting students to a third year at CSU.
In the middle of the continuum of services is the Getting to Year 2 @ CSU Conference. This is a one day conference for first year students in their second semester. The stated outcomes for the conference are that students will:
- Feel better prepared to begin a second year at CSU
- Return to a second year at CSU
- Feel acknowledged throughout their first year and into a second year as a part of the greater CSU campus community
- Have greater knowledge of the resources available to students to help support a second year at CSU
- Utilize the campus resources students are exposed to at the conference during their second year at CSU
Sessions, presented by both faculty and staff at the University, promote academic and personal development of first year students in their second semester. Topics include academic skills, transitioning to off-campus life, finding research opportunities, succeeding in science courses, study abroad opportunities, how to be successful in the classroom, and outdoor adventure programs. To encourage continued interaction between students and professionals beyond the session environment, a breakfast is held at the beginning of the conference with a high level administrator to discuss student’s experience at the University thus far.
The conference also includes a keynote speaker at the midpoint of the day. In an effort to motivate students to achieve at the highest level possible, a CSU alumnus/a typically discusses the ways in which success in school can translate to success in the career world.
Materials from the conference each year are available for student attendees so they may continue to access conference resources during their second year at the University.
At a fundamental level, what makes this conference unique is that it offers a proactive method of encouraging a successful transition during a student’s second year. It is our hope that this conference not only revisits messages that are sent at new student orientation, but that it helps students explore their unique needs before they become second year students.
Methods of Partnership
In order to make this program successful, it is essential to create partnerships with other areas on campus. For the conference, Orientation & Transition Programs partners with academic colleges, specific academic departments, faculty of first year student courses, student affairs departments, and the community.
This year, in order to reach out to student organizations, specifically the CSU fraternity and sorority community, Orientation & Transition Programs partnered with the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils. Not only were these organizations given specific information to communicate with their first year members why this conference was significant to the success and retention of their members, but the Panhellenic Council took the extra step to encourage their women to attend the conference by creating a competition. Within the council, there was a prize given to the sorority which had the most first year students attend the conference. This partnership increased the number of students in attendance, and fostered the success of women in the sorority community as they begin to transition to a second year of college.
Fraternity and sorority professionals should become familiar with today’s research regarding the unique transition needs of second year students, while seeking resources for enhancing the experience for these students. Furthermore, fraternity and sorority professionals, in partnership with relevant departments, should encourage transition programming for second year students within the organizations on their campuses. At many institutions, second year students are being elected into positions within fraternity and sorority organizations. Many of these positions include executive level positions, even president and vice-president.
Retention of students at our colleges and universities, as well as within our fraternities and sororities, is incredibly important. Creating intentional and educational programming for these students is significant to our everyday work.
For more information on the Getting to Year 2 @ CSU Conference, e-mail Keith Lopez @ firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.otp.colostate.edu.
Gansemer-Topf, A., Stern, J., and Benjamin, M. (2007). Examining the experiences of second-year students at a private liberal arts college. In B. F. Tobolowsky, and B. E. Cox (eds.), Shedding light on sophomores: An exploration of the second college year. Columbia: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.
Schaller, M. (2007). The development of college sophomores. In B. F. Tobolowsky, and B. E. Cox (eds.), Shedding light on sophomores: An exploration of the second college year. Columbia: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition
Schaller, M. (2005, July/August). Wandering and wondering: Traversing the uneven terrain of the second college year. About campus, 10 (3), p. 17-24.
Keith Lopez currently serves as the Coordinator for First & Second Year Programs in Orientation & Transition Programs in the Center for Advising and Student Achievement (CASA) at Colorado State University. Keith is a member of Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity.
Marlon Blake is an undergraduate student studying sociology. For the 2008-2009 academic year Marlon served as the Student Coordinator for First & Second Year Programs in Orientation & Transition Programs.