The transition from high school to college can be daunting for freshmen. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that many freshmen attend colleges in different towns or even countries, or maybe, the fact that one is suddenly surrounded by a sea of unfamiliar faces. Regardless, the transition forms a trying period for most first-time undergraduate students and colleges are sensitive to this fact. This is evidenced by the growing number of programmes developed by colleges to meet special needs of freshmen, including; campus orientation, on-campus accommodation, freshmen meal plans, special counseling services, career services, student mentorship, freshmen work opportunities, special community events, summer bridge programs and freshmen seminars.
Naturally, many freshmen get the opportunity to truly explore their campus once they have registered at the college. The fact that some students may have had an opportunity to visit prospective colleges before selecting their choice college does not really help in preparing them for their first day of school. Over their first couple of weeks, freshmen are likely to get lost in the halls while looking for their classrooms or even on campus while looking for various buildings. Colleges realize the need to orient freshmen to their new surroundings. This can be achieved by providing an orientation grace period, say a week, during which the students are given an in-depth tour of relevant facilities such as the library, dining hall, and student medical center among others. Further, updated maps of the campus may be issued to new students upon registration. This makes it easier for them to find their way around without having to ask for help all the time.
New students who get into colleges that are far away from home are forced to seek accommodation facilities close to their schools. Off-campus accommodation is generally expensive for first-time students who are yet to figure their campus, not to mention their new town. Further, these students often have a limited allowance and are not privy to information on where they can get affordable accommodation off-campus. Colleges recognize this and often accord preferential treatment to freshmen with regard to on-campus accommodation. This may also be supplemented by subsidized meal plans that are likely to be used by freshmen until they gain their own footing. Senior students are likely to have grown accustomed to their surroundings and prefer to live off-campus and less likely to require such services.
Leaving one’s family and childhood friends to attend school can be traumatizing for freshmen students who have never spent extended periods of time away from home or had to live independently. Freshmen are likely to feel ‘lost’ and unable to fit in with other students who already have established social groups. The lack of friends and subsequent loneliness can send a new student into depression if this is not checked. Special counseling services are offered to freshmen to reassure them of the significant role they play at the college and to encourage them to embrace the independence that comes along with post-high school education. Counseling also helps new student discover the social skills that they require to fit and within no time, the freshmen are able to form their own social groups.
Whilst in high school, few students are completely certain about the undergraduate courses they would like to pursue. This uncertainty usually plagues them during their first semester and sometimes all through their freshman year. Colleges offer career advice centers that usually work overtime during the first month following freshmen registration. These offices seek to give realistic advice to new students regarding their career choices, particularly, the nature of the studies they will need to undertake, including any post-graduate requirements, in order to attain their dream careers. Sufficient to say, may high-school dreams appear unrealistic once one sets foot in college. The student career offices offer assistance to freshmen on the nature of courses they would like to pursue and how to conduct inter-faculty transfers for students who choose to change their courses.
Colleges often try to make the transition from high school to college as smooth as possible for their freshmen; however, administrative measures cannot be taken to cover all aspects of a new student’s life on campus. There are issues regarding a student’s informal life that the school’s administration may be unable to control. In order, to help a freshman’s transition into the college’s social setting, student mentorship programmes are often employed by many institutions. These programmes involve pairing a freshman student with a junior or sophomore who acts as their source of direction and information with regard to all aspects of their college life. Student mentors provide a great help from showing freshmen where to get the best corn dogs to how to format their assignments to meet university standards. In order to ensure that the pairing system works, volunteers are used and potential student mentors are carefully screened to ensure that they are likely to provide the best services to young freshmen. Professional mentors may also be allocated to freshmen in order to provide advice as they progress into their choice careers.
Persons with special education needs arising from mental or physical disability usually have special requirements when enrolling into a college. These needs are generally as diverse as their disabilities thus the need to notify the college of whatever special requirements that they may need. Generally, colleges provide for freshmen with special needs in three key ways. First, colleges can provide the necessary infrastructure to support their learning or movement across campus. This includes providing ramps for freshmen in wheelchairs and visual aids for the deaf. Second, colleges can sensitize existing students on the needs of freshmen with disabilities in order to decrease the likelihood of these students being shunned by the rest of the student community. Third, freshmen students with disabilities are given special counseling on the challenges they are likely to face on campus with prepares them psychologically to deal with an obstacles they come across.
Freshmen are usually at a point in their life cycle where their wants greatly outstrip their economic resources. This makes them vulnerable to unscrupulous persons who may seek to recruit them into illegal activities such as drug peddling or prostitution with the lure of money. Once a freshman is engaged in such activities they are likely to continue throughout their college lives, assuming they are not arrested and charged before they complete their college studies. Apart from negatively impacting the student’s studies this could destroy their live forever. Colleges seek to meet the freshmen’s need for money to sustain their college lives by providing on-campus work opportunities to needy students. Although these work opportunities are often open to all students, some colleges dedicate a specific quota to freshmen. This helps create an enabling environment for the student to focus on their studies as the number of hours worked by a student on campus are regulated. Class attendance is critical to a student’s success on campus.
Apart from attempting to integrate into a new school community, freshmen are also faced with the challenge of integrating into a different town especially in instances where they join small-town community colleges. Colleges facilitate the integration of freshmen into the external community by engaging freshmen in mandatory community services such as park or street cleanups or tutoring programmes. This facilitates interaction between the student and members of the general public thus giving the new student a sense of belonging and purpose in their new environment. It is not surprising that many freshmen students continue with non-mandatory community work throughout their college life as well as in their professional lives.
Colleges that recognize the special needs of freshmen students and seek to provide services that address these needs are likely to have greater student success than those who do not. Increasingly, more colleges are taking advantage of the aforementioned strategies including the summer bridge program which requires potential students to attend classes on campus for a number of weeks in order to acquaint themselves with the learning environment before the freshman year begins. A freshman’s transition to college from high school forms the weakest point of their lives. Given the fact that the importance of post high-school education cannot be overemphasized, the dynamic needs of freshmen have to closely monitored in order to enable their success in college as well as in the rest of their lives. It is expected that the services offered to freshmen while continually evolve in order to meet the needs of different generations of freshmen.
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