The First Year Experience Program
The First Year Experience (FYE) (also known as the Freshman Year Experience or the Freshman Seminar Program) is a program at many American colleges and universities designed to help students prepare for the transition from high school to college; FYE programs often foster the participation of students in co-curricular events such as common reads, concerts, art exhibits, and guest lectures.
Depending on the school, the course can last anywhere from two weeks to a full school year. Some larger universities, such as the University at Albany, SUNY, through their the "Project Renaissance Program,"create a "small college" feel by allowing freshmen to do their first-year courses in one section of the university.
While the origins of the program remains unclear, many people attribute the start of the First Year Seminar to the University of South Carolina, which houses the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition and holds a series of workshops for colleges and universities to better their own first-year programs.
In May 1970, University of South Carolina President Thomas Jones faced campus unrest and violence. In the aftermath he vowed to create a new course designed to "bond students to the institution and transform the way that undergraduate students were taught." In 1972, Carolina introduced "University 101," designed to "improve the educational experiences of first-year college students."
Carolina's program became a model for colleges and universities across the country, and in 1982, representatives from 175 schools came to Carolina to meet about the first-year experience. In 1983, Carolina's University 101 faculty director, John N. Gardner, organized the first Annual Conference on The Freshman Year Experience.
In 1986, Carolina partnered with the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic to produce the first First International Conference on the First Year Experience. Also in 1986, Carolina established the National Resource Center; as it broadened its focus it underwent a number of name changes, settling on the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition in 1998. As the Center states on its website:
Today, the Center collaborates with its institutional partner, University 101 Programs, in pursuit of its mission to advance and support efforts to improve student learning and transitions into and through higher education. Through its work with conferences and continuing education, a full complement of publications, the pursuit of a research agenda, and the creation and dissemination of online resources, the Center has grown to become the trusted expert, internationally recognized leader, and clearinghouse for scholarship, policy, and best practice for the first-year experience and all postsecondary student transitions.
Many of the colleges and universities that use the program require that all incoming freshman take freshman seminar; other schools have the program as optional, yet recommended. Most first-year seminars are a semester long and start at student orientation. From orientation, students enroll in the course, which gives them a variety of college experiences, from tours of the campus to a breakdown of how to study for tests. Many schools even offer students help with purchasing books from the school's bookstore.
For instance, as part of Mitchell College's First Year Experience (FYE) program for transitioning into college, first-year students are assigned to Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs) in their first semester according to a common academic interest or major. These groups explore the topics and issues related to their chosen path. Those who arrive at Mitchell undecided about their academic route are also grouped together to allow for a broader survey of options. Students are encouraged to communicate their unique perspective and make connections through co-curricular activities.
Colby College's outdoor orientation COOT2 (Colby Outdoor Orientation Trips) program is designed to ease new students' transition into college and introduce them to Maine's cultural and natural resources. COOT2 features an on-campus orientation and a variety of trips, including hiking trips at Acadia National Park, Mount Katahdin, and other locations around Maine; canoe trips on the Kennebec and Moose Rivers, along with other trips around the state. The various trips are designed to appeal to incoming students with a variety of interests and fitness levels, and more "front country" trips have been added in recent years, including service- and arts-oriented options. COOT leaders are chosen from upperclass students who apply for these positions and are expected to help the students both during and after the trip with the adjustment to campus life.
In 1991, Norman Adler initiated the Penn Reading Project at the University of Pennsylvania, an integrative introduction to liberal learning for college freshmen newly arriving on campus. Subsequently, Freshman Reading Projects have been adopted widely as part of the first-year experience at many college campuses.
As a standard for most first-year seminars, many colleges will give students one to two credits for completing the program, such as UC Irvine. Many schools, such as the State University of New York at Old Westbury in Old Westbury, New York, merge the program into a second course which helps to satisfy New York's general education requirement. In addition, the school recently introduced its Civic Engagement program, which is designed to allow students to participate in community service as a part of its first-year experience program.
Workshops and training
The University of South Carolina hosts a seminar every year where the many colleges and universities which have the first-year program get together to work on improving and offering suggestions to their colleagues on how they can improve their program. The workshop is usually a week long and attendance is voluntary.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro's First-Year Experience program is called University Studies 101 (UNS 101). One stated aim of the program is to assist students in discovering their purpose, identifying their strengths, and aligning these newly discovered assets with a plan for their future. The activities, class discussions, and assignments used in the course guide students through the six Appreciative advising stages. A comprehensive program evaluation which includes the tracking of academic outcomes and assessment of student attitudes and behaviors has evidenced the positive impact of the UNS 101 program. For example, the freshman to sophomore retention rate of freshmen who completed UNS 101 in Fall 2006 and returned for Fall 2007 was 81.9%. This compares to a retention rate of 74.4% for freshmen who did not take the course. Meanwhile, the average first-semester GPA for students who did not take the course was 2.49, while UNS 101 participants had an average first semester GPA of 2.72.
- Appreciative advising
- Purpose-guided education
- Purpose network
- Student affairs
- Supplemental instruction
- Association of College Research Libraries (2007). The First-Year Experience and Academic Libraries: A Select, Annotated Bibliography. Retrieved April 20, 2008.
- "Project Renaissance Program," SUNY Albany website. Archived December 22, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- "Our History," University of South Carolina National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition website. Accessed June 2, 2015.
- "Colby Outdoor Orientation Trips," Colby College website. Accessed June 2, 2015.
- "PRP Archive," University of Pennsylvania website. Accessed June 2, 2015.
- "Freshman Seminar Program," UC Irvine website. Accessed May 28, 2015.
- "University 101 Programs," University of South Carolina website. Accessed May 28, 2015.
- Hutson, B.L; Atwood, J.A. (November 2006). "Outcome evaluation to support freshman orientation program."