Incoming freshmen blindsided by new experiences

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    BY Lynne Hetzel

    Angie Anderson, 17, of Soda Springs, Idaho, is both excited and nervous about her plans for the coming year.

    She is graduating in May and will become one of more than 6,500 Freshman students attending BYU in the Fall.

    The nearly 30,000 students and the large number of buildings on the BYU campus can be overwhelming, but Angie is excited to be going somewhere new and expects to enjoy the atmosphere of learning and spirituality that are part of the BYU experience.

    BYU has developed several ways to help new students adjust to college life, and to BYU life in particular.

    According to statistics from Janet Rex, Information Manager for University Communications, the efforts seem to be paying off. Ninety-one percent of the Freshmen students return to BYU for their sophomore year.

    More than 5,000 students participated in the New Student Orientation program last Fall, according to Tammy Clark, New Student Orientation Team Member, one of several team members responsible for coordinating the program. For orientation, each student is assigned to a Y-group of approximately 30 students.

    Each group’s two Y-leaders guide the new students through two days of activities designed to help them understand the mission of BYU and become acquainted with the opportunities available to them.

    Y-leaders are upperclassmen who volunteer their time and, in return, learn leadership skills.

    Lynne Watanabe, New Student Orientation Team Member, provided information which explained the program. During orientation, the new students participate in fun activities to help them get to know their Y-group and others.

    The groups go on a tour to help them find their way around campus and to their classes. At different stops on the tour, volunteers from various organizations on campus give the students information about opportunities and how to become involved.

    The students also learn about their academic discipline and meet some of the faculty members during a Faculty Focus session. They participate in service-oriented projects and build school spirit.

    Time is set aside during orientation for the Y-leaders to address the individual concerns of their Y-group students by leading discussions on various topics. These discussions are designed to help the new students get acquainted with each other, begin to feel more comfortable and get answers to questions they might have.

    The Y-groups have opportunities to talk about where the students have come from, what they are looking forward to and what common mistakes students make and how to avoid them. They talk about study habits and time management, as well as campus resources for students such as computer labs, tutoring and Internet access.

    In their training booklet, Y-group leaders are provided with information to help them answer new students’ most frequently asked questions. This information is also available on the New Student Orientation Web site.

    Freshman Academy is another program available to new students which extends the orientation experience and provides a more student-friendly atmosphere for a freshman’s first semester.

    The purpose of this program, according to Adrian Sheppard, secretary for Freshman Academy, is to make the first year at college a little easier by involving the students with others who are studying the same things.

    Freshman Academy helps them form friendships, study groups, and helps them understand they are not the only ones who have questions and problems, Sheppard said.

    Students who want to participate become part of a learning community; a small group of students, faculty and staff who work together and help each other. Freshman Academy students are encouraged to live on campus and are usually assigned housing with their group, but students who live off-campus are also welcome to participate in the program, Sheppard said.

    According to information from the Freshman Academy Web site, students in the program enroll in clusters of three classes, usually between seven and 13 credits, consisting of a small-enrollment class, a medium-enrollment religion class and a large-enrollment class such as Humanities or similar introductory general education course.

    Several small classes are combined to form the medium-sized class, and several medium-sized classes combine to form the large class. This way students know several others in each of their classes. The students then complete their schedules with other courses according to their interests.

    On-campus housing facilities have areas set aside for evening study groups in connection with the Freshman Academy program where peer advisers are available to help students. Though intended for use by those enrolled in Freshman Academy, these study sessions are open to everyone.

    Writing and math labs as well as computer labs are also available in each of the on-campus housing facilities.

    The students who participate in the Academy program build connections to classmates by attending their three classes together, forming study groups and sharing some meals and off-campus activities. They form connections with faculty members by having more personalized attention in class and by participating in some interaction outside of class in field trips and other activities.

    These connections usually add up to a more successful first-year experience.

    Patricia Esplin, Freshman Academy Associate Director, estimates they will have 1,700 to 1,800 students participating in the program this coming Fall semester. The program is offered during Fall semester and Summer term.

    Since only one other person from Angie’s high school in Idaho is coming to BYU, one of the main things she said she is concerned about is meeting new people and being involved. She said she is planning to participate in both the Orientation activities and Freshman Academy.

    Angie also said she plans to live on campus because of the activities and opportunities for meeting new people which she said she believes the dorms offer.

    Angie’s mother, Kathy Anderson, said she also believes that living in the dorms will allow Angie to become acquainted with more people, and, therefore, her social life will be more varied. Kathy also expressed her concerns for safety issues and said she believes Angie will be better off in the dorms because she will have to be in at curfew.

    Kelly Newbold, 18, of Houston, Texas, also said living in the dorms offers more involvement opportunities.

    She has just completed her Freshman year at BYU. Even though she had the opportunity to live off-campus with two of her sisters, she chose to live in on-campus housing.

    Kelly said she believes this allowed her to become more independent, although her sisters were a great help to her, too.

    Like Angie, Kelly said she was concerned about meeting new people, because she had the same friends since kindergarten. She said she wondered if she remembered how to make friends, and if she would be able to be herself around her roommates.

    She was apprehensive about who her roommates would be, but in the end became good friends with them.

    Kelly had planned to attend New Student Orientation last Fall, but she was unable to do so because of illness.

    Her sisters and the friends she made in the dorms were invaluable as she learned her way around campus and began her classes.

    Kelly said she enjoyed her experience in the dorms and will be returning there for her second year. She said she especially likes the convenience of on-campus housing where she can easily go home for lunch or a quick nap between classes.

    Angie said she only recently visited campus for the first time. On a campus tour she asked how easy it was to get lost, and the guide told her to keep the Kimball Tower in sight and she should be fine.

    Kelly also expressed concerns about finding her way around campus, but she had problems inside the buildings.

    “I got lost in the HFAC, and couldn’t figure out where my classes were,” Kelly said.

    Both girls were also concerned about what classes they should take, and whether it would be hard to get involved.

    When registering for classes, Kelly said the catalog seemed enormous.

    “I had no idea what I was doing or taking,” she said.

    Kelly said she was also worried about living on her own for the first time. She said she wondered how she would handle the everyday life things like budgeting and cooking for herself on top of a full school schedule.

    She said her first year at BYU was a lot different than she expected it to be, and she learned much more than she thought she would.

    In addition to the New Student Orientation program and Freshman Academy, much information is available for students even before they come to campus. This helps new students be better prepared once they arrive at school.

    Anyone with access to the Internet can find out the answers to many of their questions by checking out BYU’s home page on the Web.

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