First Year Experience Programs
Though first-year-experience programs have been in existence for almost as long as colleges have enrolled students, most of the early ones were individually designed to meet the needs of specific campuses. Most of these programs included some or all of the following objectives:
- To acquaint students with the campus
- To identify academic services
- To develop study skills
- To promote social cohesion
Colleges identified these four areas as ones crucial to a new student’s retention and academic success. Current first-year-experience programs include offerings that closely resemble those in the pioneering programs.
In 1982, John Gardner along with 175 colleagues from across the country met to consider a national agenda that would address the common needs of freshman. A year later the first annual conference of the Freshman Year Experience met at the University of South Carolina.
In 1986, Gardner, building on information and ideas gathered from the FYE conferences as well as his own experiences at the University of South Carolina, opened the National Center for the Study of Freshman Year Experience. Two years later its name was changed to the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.
This organization provides information, guidance, and expertise in all phases of first-year-experience programs. Additionally, it offers ongoing conference opportunities for educators, advisors, administrators, and staff to present their findings, express their concerns, and consider new ideas that would more effectively meet students’ needs.
The Center’s Mission Statement summarizes its focus:
The National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition has as its mission to build and sustain a vibrant campus-based and international educational community committed to the success of first-year college students and all students in transition. We achieve this mission by providing opportunities for the exchange of practical, theory-based information and ideas through the convening of conferences, teleconferences, institutes, and workshops; publishing monographs, a peer-reviewed journal, a newsletter, guides, and books; generating and supporting research and scholarship; hosting visiting scholars; and administering a web site and electronic listservs.
Sonoma State University
Sonoma State University in northern California offers a first-year-experience program adapted for its own student body. While almost 70% of all colleges and universities nationwide offer some sort of FYE program, each one is personalized for its unique location. However, the outcomes identified by Sonoma State reflect those seen at other campuses all across the country:
- Higher rates of freshman-to-sophomore retention, especially for minority students
- Higher graduation rates
- Higher grade point averages
- More frequent out-of-class interaction with faculty
- More involvement in campus organizations
- More frequent use of helping services on campus
- Greater faculty use of innovative teaching strategies-in the seminar and in other discipline-based classes
about the FYE Protram at Sonoma State University.
A Baker's Dozen of Freshman Year Experience Models
Jane Oitzinger and Katherine Holman from the University of Wisconsin at Marinette prepared a1999 listing of thirteen First-Year-Experience programs from across the nation. Beginning with the most recognized program at the University of South Carolina, this list includes programs from Texas A&M to Daytona Community College to UW-Green Bay to State University of New York.
Each of the thirteen programs listed offers a unique model of presentation although the objectives of each program closely resemble each other.