Of course its hard on parents, adjusting to life with one fewer mouth to feed, schedule to keep track of, and quick morning hug good-bye.
But its also a major transition for students, as happy as they may seem about being on their own. First-year students at The University of Iowa must learn to live with a stranger, navigate a 1,900-acre campus, and balance academic achievement and a social life without mom or dad reminding them to do their homework and be in by curfew.
Enter The College Transition, a course in its second year on the Iowa campus.
Our goal is to give students a template that will help them learn how to be successful in college, says Andy Cinoman, one of the co-developers of the UI course and the director of Orientation Services.
That template outlines a wide variety of skills, from those of overarching importance like goal setting, time management, and appreciating diversity, to more specific, practical tips like learning to calculate ones grade-point average and how to use the resources of the Career Center.
We want to help students make good choicesthe kind that will allow them to handle freedom and make mature decisions, says Cinoman, who is also one of the courses 24 instructors.
This is the second year for The College Transition course. Cinoman, who has been at Iowa for two-and-a-half years, taught a similar course at The Ohio State University and Ohio University. With support from Lola Lopes in the UI Office of the Provost, Cinoman worked with Pat Folsom and Brian Corkery of the Academic Advising Center to pull together information on similar courses from around the country and then to personalize it to topics of special importance to Iowas students, faculty, and staff.
In fall 2001, instructors taught seven sections of The College Transition. The one-credit course met weekly for an hour.
The evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, Cinoman says. So he and Corkery went back to work, expanding the course based on the evaluations and input from offices around campus.
The provosts office asked us, for example, to include information on money management and on plagiarism issues, Cinoman says. This year the class is worth two hours of credit and most of the sections meet twice a week for 12 weeks. About 480 first-year students enrolled in The College Transition this past fall.
One of those students is Eric Infante from Mt. Prospect, Ill. Infante heard people in his summer orientation group recommending the class and so he signed up. Hes glad he did.
I learn a little bit from each class meeting, Infante says, but hes found Cinomans tips on studying for tests especially helpful.
Andy says, Studying is continual, its not just for the night before an exam, Infante says. He talks about how you should be always looking over your notes, and I actually do that now. I look at my notes after each class, and make sure I understood the information. It makes it much easier when I have a test.
Class interaction is another thing Infante likes about The College Transition.
When the class started, I knew one other personeveryone else was a stranger, he says. By the second class, people felt comfortable talking in front of the group. Its a class where people want to talk and people want to listen.
Comments like that help Cinoman know that one of the courses goalsteaching students about interdependenceis being met.
We let students know that by developing relationships with people around them, theyll create a win-win situation, he says. We want students to know that they can get information from those around them, but also that they have a lot to give, too. We want them to understand the value of participating in class discussions and group work.
One class assignment that brought that lesson home was the assignment to meet with a professor during his or her office hours and then write about the experience.
Without having it assigned in class, I would have been a little hesitant, Infante says about making and keeping the appointment. And I know there are people in the class who would have waited to go to their professors offices until they were really struggling. Now we all realize its just another way of getting help.
And another way to develop a relationship on campus. Infante says that after he and his professor discussed chemistry, he was pleasantly surprised when the instructor asked him where he had gone to high school, and then struck up a conversation based on the Chicago Bears t-shirt Infante was wearing.
He was a nice guy, Infante says.
Helping students learn to connect with their professors are 24 instructors, from a range of backgrounds and offices, including academic advising, financial aid, Opportunity at Iowa, the Career Center, the honors program, the Colleges of Engineering and Business, and the Provosts Office. The instructors all work in fields where they interact with students, but, according to Cinoman, not all are able to have the kind of ongoing relationships with students that 24 class meetings affords.
This is a big time commitment, from the training sessions to class preparation to grading papers, but we had people coming out of the woodwork, wanting to teach this class, he says.
One of those people is Julie Claus, a UI academic adviser for the past 13 years.
Ive loved teaching this course, Claus says. Its so interactive and because we meet twice a week, it gives me the opportunity to really get to know my students and to have the opportunity to intervene if theyre having difficulties.
Cinoman says that one of the reasons for choosing instructors who work with students is the hope that their classroom teaching will influence their work-related student contacts. For Claus, this has certainly been the case.
When I meet with my advisees one-on-one, they seem so mature, Claus says. But when I see them as a group in class, Im reminded how new this experience is for them, and also that as they adjust to college, academics isnt necessarily always the main focus of their lives.
Now, when I meet with students and I ask they how classes are going and they just say, Fine, I go through their course list, checking on each class. I ask so many more questions of my advisees now. And Im much more aware, after hearing about it in class, of how their particular concerns and emotions affect them, at different points in the semester.
For instructors and students alike, The College Transition seems to have positive effects. Instructors are reminded how stressful the transition can be and are able to observe, up close, the growth that occurs over a semester.
And Infante now recommends the class to friends he knows who are coming to the University in fall 2003.
Its the best way to make the change from high school to college without freaking out, Infante says.
By Linzee Kull McCray