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Since the 1970s, significant efforts have been made to improve student transition experiences on U.S. campuses. A variety of campus programs have been developed to meet the needs of first-year students and help them become successful university students. The University of South Carolina was the first school to offer a class associated with the first-year experience. The original goal of USC’s University 101 was simply to “improve the educational experiences of first-year college students.” This course provided the impetus for a movement to improve the first-year experience for students.
By 1982, 175 universities had convened at the first Annual Conference on the Freshman Year Experience. The National Resource Center was established at the University of South Carolina in 1986 to provide research on student transitions in higher education. In 1998, the name changed to the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. The mission of the Center is “to advance and support efforts to improve student learning and transitions into and through higher education.” For more information and research, click here.
The University of Wyoming initially offered its first-year transition course in its 1991 University Studies Program requirements. UW’s answer to the first-year experience was its course, University Studies 1000, “Intro to University Life.” This course was a one-credit graded course that included visits to various areas around campus, an introduction to academic skills, and alcohol awareness training. This Freshman Seminar was discontinued in 2003 in lieu of a more comprehensive orientation in the summer.
In 2015, a new freshman course, the First-Year Seminar (FYS), was introduced into the University Studies requirements. Its focus was different from the 1991 Freshman Seminar. Rather than an introduction to academic skills and campus resources, the six student learning outcomes for the 2015 FYS emphasized critical thinking, communication, and research skills. The missing pieces that some students expected from a first-year university course had been those that were included in the original 1991 one-credit seminar. To compensate, some instructors added aspects of time management, campus resources, and wellness skills into their FYS syllabi. The current FYS, however, maintains its focus on the development of analytical skills rather than of skills that aid in the transition into university life.
In 2017, plans were underway to create a First-Year Experience course to capture college transition skills that the FYS does not cover. The administration tasked the Learning Resource Network, housed under UW's Office of Academic Affairs, with the creation and implementation of the First-Year Experience course. The course, STEP 1102: STEP into College, was first offered in the Fall semester of 2019. Click here to learn more about the impacts of the pilot course.
In addition to full-semester offerings of the FYE course, there will be one section that will be available after the Early Alert process when advisors can identify students who may be missing the transition skills that can help them succeed.