My work with Swift Kick gives me the joy of visiting tons of colleges every year. In 2016, we’ll work with 90 different schools. The majority of our trainings are done within the Student Affairs department (often called co-curricular as a balance to the curricular (academic) side of an institution). Through my travels, I get to experience and analyze a unique macro view of trends happening in higher education.
One trend I’m seeing within the co-curricular space is around having a special freshman (or first-year experience) program that is by application only. At the University of Akron, it’s called Emerging Leaders. At University of Delaware it’s called QUEST.
A separate application is needed in order to apply and, if accepted, participate in these special programs. The programs often start prior to the official move-in day, and are packed with an amazing line-up of personal development trainings as well as team-bonding. The students who participate enter into college not only with extra life skills, but also with a large group of positive and supportive peers. The trainings then continue throughout the year. And while these programs are massively beneficial to the students, the school administration also champions the effort, because the correlation between student participation and student retention is strong.
In asking some of the current participants how they found out about the programs, in every case, they told me that someone from a prior year (friend/sibling/etc) told them to apply, so they did. I’m sure schools do plenty of marketing to high school students about these programs, but in my small sampling, it seems like these programs aren’t as well known as they should be. Space is limited, so the schools probably put in just the right amount of recruiting effort to the program to makes sure they reach capacity.
If you have a child, or know someone who is looking at colleges, I highly recommend asking potential schools if they have any special freshman programs like the ones I mentioned above, as it’ll give your child exactly the kinda of foundation they need to success in college.