UNA first-year programs pave road to success

The first year of college can be very frightening, overwhelming and challenging. Students find themselves in a new place devoid of the comforts of home. It is easy to feel alone.

UNA offers two programs, First-Year Experience and First-Year Frenzy, to help first-year students get involved on campus, and make valuable connections with students and faculty.

First-Year Experience is a credit-bearing academic course, which is required for all first-year students and students under 24 years old. Transfer students having less than 24 hours of college credit are also required to take an FYE course.

These courses are distinctive because they cover a variety of topics including “how to present yourself on social media,” “heroes and villains” and “living in the Shoals.”

“It’s not just about what it means to be a college student, but what it means to be a UNA college student and citizen of the Shoals,” said First-Year Experience Director Matthew Little.

FYE also orientates students with different majors early in their college career. Students can take an FYE course that is related to a major in which they are interested so they can get a feel for what that major entails.

“What we’ve asked the faculty to do is to pick something they’re passionate about, then help the student explore that through that passion,” Little said.

So what are the perks? Introduced in fall 2014, the FYE program saw half of the first-year class. Students who took an FYE class had GPAs half a point to a full point higher than students who did not take these courses. Compared to students who did not take FYE courses, 2 percent more of the students who did returned to UNA the following spring.

Like FYE, First-Year Frenzy engages students, though in a different way.

First-Year Frenzy gives first-year students the opportunity to win a $1,000 scholarship for the next semester

Students were required to consult the University Success Center, attend the Upperclassman Student Panel Discussion, attend presentations at Research Day, attend Career Carnival and register for the Fall 2015 semester.

All of these events are free for students and offer valuable learning experiences.

The goal of these programs is to give first-year students a head start in campus involvement, meet other students and bring them one step closer to a career they believe in, Little said.