The Increasing Importance of First-Year Programs in Higher Ed
With the pandemic, many higher ed administrators have had to get creative to keep
students engaged and motivated. A great way to offer students many activities and
build relationships with one another is to introduce a First-Year Experience or First-
Many institutions have adopted First-Year Experience and First Gen Programs for
years to nurture the specific needs of their students. They have been proven to
engage and connect students with each other and with the campus. With Covid-19,
these programs are more important than ever to maintain student retention.
During the pandemic, many restrictions have been put in place to protect students
and their communities. Although these are necessary precautions, they make it
easy for students to feel lost and bored, detracting from a real college experience,
and presenting a challenge, especially for first-year students making a big
transition. Most activities and classes are held through virtual meeting programs
like Zoom. They make a reasonable attempt at simulating in-person gatherings, but
we all know it’s not quite the same, and these extensive digital meetings cause a
great deal of fatigue. The pandemic certainly makes it difficult for students to be as
involved, and first-gen students are some of the most engaged students on campus
– highly motivated by an energetic commitment to their futures and a drive to
change the world. A virtual setting can make these students feel limited, but that
doesn’t have to be the case.
Providing a First-Year Experience or First-Gen Program promotes social
connection, which is essential in maintaining those personal interactions usually
associated with a college experience.
How Schools Are Adapting
One of our partners, Northern Arizona University (NAU), has implemented a First-
Gen program at their school for years to support their substantial first-gen
population. More recently, NAU partnered with Suitable to leverage that experience
for their students. In their program, NAU offers students the opportunity to
experience three different levels of engagement touchpoints (Low, Moderate,
and High), where they provide various programs in each to involve students.
For the new 2020 school year, NAU launched YouPath@NAU for use across all
Student Affairs programs and on Suitable. Using Suitable, NAU can track
engagement, and students can track their progress through the program as they
complete activities and reach milestones. The pandemic causes some challenges
when it comes to engaging students, but NAU plans to utilize Suitable’s gamified
platform to capture the attention and involvement of their students.
Start Developing Your Program
Implementing a First-Year Experience or First-Gen Program can foster the
relationship between students, their peers, and school. These programs can include
various activities that help with student development and events to bring students
together, in small groups or virtually for the time being. With the drastic changes in
how higher education institutions function today, a First-Year Experience and First-
Gen Program can still make goals for both students and the school attainable!
Contact Suitable to find out more about how you can keep your students connected,
engaged, and excited about their college experience and help drive your school
towards your goals.