First Year College Students - Skill Building through Small Groups

First year college students to participate in small group seminars for 1.5 years!

Photo of Bethany
3 11

Written by


Some colleges across the country require first year students to take a course that helps them get acclimated to their college, peers, and overall new environment. What would it look like to do this at ALL colleges? How could we assemble all first year students in small groups where they'd meet with each other over the course of the first year and a half. Talking to several current college students, the theme with the most reasons for wanting to return or dreading to return to campus for their second year was community, friends, and peers. Having positive and reliable relationships on campus is key to making a student feel welcomed, comfortable, and valued.


The goal is to create a curriculum or program that groups first-year college students together to provide and build a community and support network that will help build the necessary traits and sentiments for college retention and success.


Below are some areas that have been explored and concluded:

  • Goal: To create a community for students. Experiences has shown that having a community of peers and friends become a crucial reason for a student’s reason to stay on campus and return the next year.
  • Platform: In-person, tech-based, or a mix depending on the dynamics and residential situation of the campus
  • Duration: A year and a half is ideal. During this time, the school is able to cover the summer between first year and second year when retention gets really dangerous. A positive thing about making this program only 1.5 years is that participants can then give back and become mentors/leaders of these groups.
  • Frequency: There are specific critical points when students are more likely to think about dropping out or transferring. Frequency of meetings or attention on the students should increase during these critical points.
  • Groups: 10-20. First years. Have everyone take a questionnaire to identify what group of people they would like to connect with. For example, other peers who are interested in being an English major? Speak the same language? Identify as a certain race? At the same time, allow for flexibility for interchanging groups and interacting groups.

This idea tackles a crucial part of the college experience and path and hope that this idea gets chosen to continue fleshing out the details and expectations.

Have a doc or slides that you're collaborating in? Link it here.

Please explore this Google folder for photos and ideas from the prototyping session. Google Doc with Ideas and Prototyping Session notes: Google Folder with photos and document from prototyping session: Pitch Video!:


Join the conversation:

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV

I was required to take a similar course at my university, and I think it was really helpful (even though I didn't make any lasting friends). 

I like providing people with an option to choose their own affinity group, especially if you presented them with information about possible benefits to choosing people with similar and dissimilar interests. 

Using software to track participation could provide insights to further improve the program too. 

View all comments