By Andrea West, University of Waterloo – Stratford Campus
This time of year is a busy one for many advisors. Assisting new students with course selection and answering their many questions is a very important task. But how do we help to make sure that their transition to University life is a smooth one? How do we help them to become active, engaged students so that they can have the best possible first year experience?
I have found in my short advising career (almost 4 years now) that first year transition (or new student transition) is a very important process for our students. Helping them to get started on the right foot so that they can become engaged, active students and have the best possible first year experience, is a valuable service that we as advisors provide.
As part of this process, I am working on a couple of different projects. Firstly, I am part of our Associate Dean’s Working Group on New Student Transition (wow, that is a mouthful!). We are working to creating a one day event (Arts 101 Day) where new students (and their parents) can come and learn more about University life by experiencing a mini lecture, learn valuable tips for success and have an opportunity to network with other new first year students. The hope is that we can alleviate some of the stressors that new students face and allow them to start their fall term feeling a little more confident.
Another new student transition piece that I am working on is an Academic Information session. The idea behind this session is to give the new students important information at an appropriate time. This session will include information on degree requirements, academic policies, and the many supports and services available to them on campus. We have found that this piece has been missing from our new student transition. In the past, we had tried giving some information during their time with us at Orientation but felt it was not well received as the timing was not well planned (students are excited for the “fun” of Orientation, not so much for Administrative info!). Instead when we created our fall schedule, we booked an extra tutorial for one of their core courses so that it appears in their schedule and hopefully most students will show up!
Another idea that I have just recently come across is to create an Advising Syllabus. This will allow the students to know what to expect of us and what we expect of them. This information can then be share with them via an email where we can introduce ourselves to them (actively trying to engage them!) and which will hopefully begin to establish a relationship with them in the hopes that they will continue to reach out to us with any questions or concerns that they may have.
What kinds of programs and outreach do you use for your new students and their transition to University life? We would love to have you share your ideas!