Tools and Tips: How to Help Transition a First Year Student Successfully to College

Orientation is a student’s first glimpse into college life. Prior to the first semester, it’s vital that faculty, staff, orientation leaders, and directors build a connection with incoming students to create a foundation for success. Cultivating a strong connection before the start of their first semester gives students the tools they need to thrive and become part of the campus community. Continue reading for tips on how to ensure incoming students can successfully transition to college life.

Create a Sense of Belonging

Research shows that a student’s sense of belonging improves academic performance, persistence, increases retention, and is protective for mental health. Another study has shown a positive link between a sense of belonging and greater happiness and overall mental health and well-being. This includes reduction in mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, hopelessness, loneliness, social anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Everyone in the college community plays a part in creating a safe and welcoming environment for students. Messaging a sense of belonging to incoming freshman allows them to feel connected to the new community they are entering. Examples of promoting a sense of belonging include encouraging student engagement on campus, cultivating positive social interactions, and seeking out activities and groups of people with common interests.

Introduce Healthy Student–Faculty Relationships

Introducing healthy student–faculty relationships before a student enters their first semester is an effective way to set them up for future academic and emotional success. Some ways to make a student–faculty relationship work well include displaying empathy, communicating, and building a safe environment for students that facilitates trust and belonging. Faculty and staff should invite students to their office hours as many incoming students don’t fully understand that this is the time to connect and engage with faculty.

Facilitate Social Interactions Among Students

Encouraging students to join campus groups, clubs, athletics, and more helps to foster a sense of belonging and allows students to find their place on campus. Many students struggle with the social aspects of college, so it’s important to give them the resources and encouragement to put themselves out there when it comes to social interactions and student involvement.

Provide Information to Prepare for College Academics

In a 2022 survey by CollegeData, almost 30% of students surveyed said they felt the least prepared for the academic side of college. To help students academically before the semester starts, be sure to promote helpful resources such as peer mentors, tutoring and writing centers, and academic calendars. This can help prepare students for the rigorous academic side of college.

Encourage Self-Care and Highlight Resources on Campus

Promoting self-care and sharing mental health resources will better equip students to better navigate typical college stressors and more. Students may need to learn to prioritize their emotional needs. They may need to learn to manage their time for academics and activities, but also to take time out for themselves to relax and enjoy being at college. Sharing resources such as the counseling center and/or student mental health programs can better prepare them for the transition to college life.

Consider Kognito for New Student Programs

Giving students the tools they need to thrive is critical for their academic and social achievement, as well as overall retention. Kognito’s solutions for higher education rapidly builds the capacity of both students and faculty to lead real-life conversations on topics including:

  • Mental health and well-being
  • Suicide prevention
  • Sexual misconduct prevention
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Prescription drugs
  • Inclusion and belonging
  • Military Cultural Competency

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