Helping College Freshmen Have a Successful First Year

September 21, 2018

BY: Kendall Hunt

The first year of college, especially when far away from home, can be one of the biggest transitions a young adult will make. As their educators, we not only take on advisory roles but other active roles as well. According to USNews, nearly one-third of first-year college students don’t return for their sophomore year, and we can all agree that this number can be better. So how do we improve?

First, college professors need to get to know their students as a collective class and as individuals. Make an effort to take this beyond first day icebreakers. The biggest reasons for college dropouts include family or financial issues, loneliness and academic struggles. The first two are out of the control of professors, but the latter are within an educator’s domain.

When engaging with your class as a whole, consider your teaching style. Are you an avid lecturer? Do you rely on facilitating class discussion? How much communication is taking place among your students? It is the age-old idea when you teach, you learn and that starts with communication among students; foster it. Consider revising your methods to include more discussion-based assignments or activities. Students will feel more invested in the material and therefore, your course will impact more students when you tap into different learning styles.  What most students don’t realize is how much of a culture change college is, and while you might not be introducing them to their next lifelong friend (though you might!), as long as they’re not dreading sitting next to the other students in your class, that’s a success.

When working with students individually, it’s also important to build a dynamic relationship with each and every one them. If you choose to implement some different teaching styles, check in with your students and see which are most successful. It’s also never a bad idea to survey your students regarding your course objectives. Are you accomplishing the goals you’ve set for the course? Are your students comprehending the material? Many educators gravitate toward midterm or quarterly surveys, which have been proven to be effective tools for the remaining semester and moving forward. The Kendall Hunt study app, KHQ is also a fantastic assessment tool to use throughout the year. The time and energy you spend invested in your students’ success can affect more than their college educational career.

Finally, to ensure your students will be successful in their first year, get involved with your institution. How many committees have you been asked to join or events to volunteer at? How often have you said yes? The more exposure your students have to you, the more connected they feel, and they’re more likely to thrive in a connected community than in one that lacks communication. A simple wave from a tabling event in the quad can go a long way. Be present and available for your students regarding the course, but never fully shut your door.