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When Looking at Colleges-Ask About their First Year Experience Program


Arriving to college as a new first year student is exciting but it can also be overwhelming and at times a little bit scary. As a new student you are faced with navigating a campus, finding your classes, meeting new friends, learning to live on your own, managing your time, and much more. Luckily, most schools offer some type of first year experience program to help you transition from high school to college.
I recommend that when you are visiting colleges, or talking to an admissions representative, you take the time to ask about what their school does to help first year students adjust to campus life. Here are some types of first year experience programs to ask about:
Orientation Programs: Most colleges offer some type of orientation session prior to classes starting. Each college may run their orientation session a little differently and could include: registering for classes, meeting your advisor, convocation, a pep rally, “get to know you” activities, tours, etc.
Welcome Week: Depending on the college you are looking at “Welcome Week” may have a different name but most colleges offer some type of programming during the first few weeks of the school year to help new students meet each other. These programs might include: free concerts, movies, activities at the recreation center on campus, a club information fair, and much more.
FIGS & FSEM’s: Across the country there has been a movement to offer incoming students the opportunity to build small learning communities. Some large universities like the University of Oregon and University of Wisconsin-Madison use the term “FIGS” (Freshman Interest Groups ) to refer to these small learning communities. Other schools such as the University of Denver and Bowdoin College refer to these programs as “FSEMS” (Freshman (or First Year) Seminars). These programs are great ways to bring students and faculty together in discussion based courses. These are very helpful in getting connected with other incoming students and faculty on campus.
Common Read Experience: A number of colleges, such as Ohio University, have incoming students all read the same book prior to arriving on campus to create a shared experience for new students. Typically there is some sort of discussion, presentation by the author, or guest lecture on the topic of the book when students arrive on campus. The common book may be referenced during classes throughout the year.
Pre-Orientation Programs: Many colleges now offer pre-orientation trips or activities. This is a great chance to meet new students before even getting to campus so when you arrive on campus you already have a network of friends and acquaintances established. These pre-orientation programs may include outdoor trips that take you hiking, camping, or canoeing or they could be community service orientated. If you are planning to play a sport in college you may have your own pre-orientation pre-season program to attend.
Each college and university offers something different to help students adjust to campus life. When you go on tours ask your tour guide, or admissions representative, what makes their school’s first year program unique.
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