At the beginning of the semester I have lots of students wander in to my classes because they were told that the had to take Introduction to the College Experience. Many of them are recently graduated high school students and some of them are returning after working, raising kids or a stint in the military. On the first day of the semester I like to ask them why they signed up for this class.
At my college, Palm Beach State College, (www.palmbeachstate.edu), the course is required and that is the main reason why students wind up there, but there are lots of reasons why a course like this would help many students and a good reason why so many colleges require it for incoming students.
Students need to know how to interact with the college system. Colleges and universities have their own vocabularies and ways of approaching credits and grades and degrees and certifications. Students who have a chance to understand what those things are and how to use them will likely make better use of the college or university than those who have to find things out by wandering campus and figuring it out.
Many colleges and universities have greatly increased their support systems to ensure greater student success. Most colleges have student learning centers, career offices, disability support services, writing centers, testing centers and expanded library services. Learning about these supports and practice using them can mean the difference between staying in school or dropping out. These supports help students find jobs while attending school, provide tutoring services or accommodate learning needs that students have.
Good Intro courses help students plan. They help students select a career and/or major. This is increasingly important as states tighten funding for classes and programs that they consider essential and non-essential. Frankly, states don’t want to fund courses that don’t lead to a degree or specific certification. Under these circumstances, college students are not encouraged to explore their interests in the courses they take, but rather earn a degree as quickly as possible.
They also help them with an educational plan so they find and schedule the courses they need. This helps them look at program requirements and prerequisites needed to complete or transfer or prepare them in some other way.
Learning About Learning:
Good Intro or First Year Experience courses help student learn about learning. We stop teaching kids how to read in about 3rd grade and after that we expect them to learn by reading. The methods teachers and professors us go largely examined by students. Most of my students have never been challenged to think about their thinking (known as “metacognition“). In a good Intro course, students learn about how to process information and which modes of learning are more effective for them to gain knowledge and skills.