Whether it’s buying “extra long” twin sheets for a dorm room bed, finding someone to eat with at the Cannon Center to avoid eating alone, or figuring out the difference between the JKB, JSB and JFSB buildings on campus, the first weeks as a BYU freshman can be collectively summarized in one word: awkward.
With an incoming class of approximately 5,000 freshman, new students are invited to participate in the Freshman Mentoring Program. In effort to ease the transition of first-year students to the university, the program not only offers priority registration in specific general education classes but also connects students to a peer mentor for support and advice.
“So many things are new to freshman; even the names of buildings can look like alphabet soup,” said Phillip Rash, director of freshman mentoring.
Rash spoke of the 85 student mentors involved and their training and knowledge of “resources, offices and services students may not even know exist.” Rash said although the mentors offer training for incoming freshman, there are still many challenges they face.
“Freshmen may not admit that it is a problem, but their schedules are now completely discretionary,” Rash said. “They may engage in fun and free activities but soon realize their time is gone, and they may have not done what they need to.”
Leah Cardon, a freshman on campus, said that with the new school year comes newfound freedom of no parental monitoring.
“No one babysits you here,” said Leah Cardon, a freshman from Nebraska. “You don’t have to go to bed.”
Rebecca Redd, a freshman from Virginia, also said there is more freedom in terms of classes than she experienced in high school.
“You don’t have to go to bed, and you don’t have to go to class,” she said. “Classes aren’t the same everyday; you have a lot of time.”
Students are often not only acclimating to a new method of time management but also to the rigor and intensity of collegiate courses.
“Freshmen are often laboring under a lot of expectations,” Rash said. “They have done well in high school, now they are are in classes with everyone who also did well. They had study strategies that may have worked for them then, but they will have to adjust.”
Peer mentors often act as coaches, helping students learn to understand and map out their syllabus, as well as teaching them the effectiveness of study groups.
“(They) send helpful emails to give us a heads up on stuff happening in class or around campus,” said Alec Samuelson, a freshman from Salt Lake City.
Rash encouraged new students who may feel a little overwhelmed and are not fully participating in the program.
“It’s never too late,” she said. “We are open and accommodating throughout the year.”
The Freshman Mentoring Program is committed to helping all students new to BYU have a successful and memorable year.
“Freshman year sets the tone for the rest of your experience at BYU,” Rash said. “We want it to be a positive experience.”