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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:
1) 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.
2) Platform: In-person, tech-based, or a mix depending on the dynamics and residential situation of the campus
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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.
Please take explore this Google folder for photos and ideas from the prototyping session.

Yes! We talked about how some high schools might have schedules/curriculum that limit any additional classes, and if so, there's also the options of having guest lectures or guest speakers. Even a one-time 45min-1hr exposure can be eye-opening. This then ties into building passions as well. Students don't know if they have a passion for something if they never know that something exists!