The college success courses which are common across American campuses help students transition from high school to college life. Often called “First-Year Experience,” the courses introduce freshmen and transfer students to the academic and social expectations of their particular college. FYE instructors address a wide range of issues that new students might encounter in an effort to help them reach their full potential and achieve both academic and personal success.
The most important component to FYE courses may be their focus on the transition from high school to college life. Students who understand how college is different from high school --both academically and socially-- are less likely to be caught off-guard. A typical text used in a college success class is “The Naked Roommate," which presents more than 100 what-if scenarios for students to consider and advice on how to handle them. Using such books as conversation starters, FYE instructors strive to address student concerns, answer questions and offer strategies for success in and out of the classroom.
FYE courses give students a wide range of practical information from the hours the student cafeteria is open to where the best-- and cheapest --area restaurants might be, and whether or not they deliver. They teach students about school clubs and organizations and the full breadth of the resources available to them on campus. The FYE course at Ithaca College “connects students to the people, programs and resources necessary to provide a strong foundation for academic success and personal growth.” (Ref 3)
In a study conducted for the Community College Research Center, authors Matthew Zeidenberg, Davis Jenkins and Juan Carlos Calcagno found that student success courses had a positive effect on students' overall academic success. They suggest that the courses work because they help “students early in the college experience to develop clearer goals for education and careers, better ideas of what it takes to succeed in college, and some practical skills useful for achievement.” (Ref 4) By introducing students to the people and resources of the college community, the courses are giving students the tools they need to succeed. They may do so by showing students how to use the library or offering strategies on how to self-advocate with a professor.
Barometer of Success
Another important benefit of FYE courses is their ability to predict student achievement in other classes. President of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence John Gardner notes that students who cannot muster passing grades in a college success class may be failing in their other courses, as well. Using FYE progress as a possible indication of a student’s success in other classes may inspire instructors to check in with students on a more personal level or sound alarm bells with other faculty and administration before it’s too late for the student’s hoped-for college success to become a reality.