My university has a first year program that is designed to help freshmen become accustomed to the college experience. We have a triad of classes that are intertwined. There’s a large political science or psychology class, a smaller composition class and a small seminar class. The science/psych class is a normal large lecture, with about 150+ students, but the others have 25. The coursework is similar and the seminar class is designed to help students with any questions they have and to help prepare for a successful academic career.
My school believes their award-winning first year program helps students and it’s been in use for almost ten years. Texas State University, Ohio State University and the University of Georgia are among schools that have similar programs. While I haven’t researched in great detail the programs of other colleges, I can give you first hand knowledge of the one at my school (name protected for my privacy).
It is designed for students who will not otherwise succeed in college. All classes and instructors in the first year program do not grade or teach on a college level. The classes are on an upper (think Advanced Placement) high school level. For students that do not need to be babied, this program is a waste of time and money. Yes, it’s nice to get easy A’s (assuming you do the work), but it gets you used to easy coursework. Upper classes in college are not easy. Sometimes you will find easier, smaller classes, but for the most part, once you get into your major, you will have to work much harder.
It decreases freshmen dropout rates…
But it increases sophomore dropout rates. These programs get freshmen think college is easy and they can skate by without doing any real work like in high school. Students that otherwise would have dropped out to find a job will stay longer and spend more money only to find out they were misinformed and end up leaving the next semester, when classes get tougher.
These programs do not prepare students for the real world. When you get a job, unless you are the luckiest person alive, your boss is not going to give you a grace period to mess up. He’ll give you the real work on day one. You’re lucky if you get an hour to figure out your way around the office.
High school was the transition into college. Junior and senior year of high school are supposed to get students prepared to enter the workplace or attend a university. Students take advanced placement and honors courses to get used to the type of classes they will encounter in college. AP classes at most public schools are not hard enough, but they’re much better than regular curriculum. Why have another year of that? And why pay an incredible amount of money for it?
Currently, my university does not allow freshmen to opt-out of the first year program, but I wish they did. If you have to participate in the first year program at your university, enjoy the easy work while you can because you’re in for an awakening your sophomore year.