Making the transition into postsecondary education
Bridges Project for Education believes in the benefits of postsecondary education, whether in pursuit of vocational training, a two-year associate or a four-year bachelor’s degree. The effort you, or the prospective or current college student in your life, put into attending, persisting through and completing a certification or degree has exponential rewards. These include: knowledge of a particular subject or across a range of subjects; career foundations and skills; expanded job opportunities; increased income; better health and well-being; and community engagement via voting and volunteering. Individuals, families and communities can benefit as more citizens engage in postsecondary education.
The transition into college, however, can be challenging for the student and their family, guardian and support network. As positive a change as it can be, those who are first-generation to college are especially affected, since they do not have the benefit of their family’s previous experience with higher education to smooth the path. In addition, students from small, rural communities such as ours may find the transition uncomfortable, especially if they leave home to live on or near campus.
What are some of the challenges that new college students face? It depends on whether they’re a recent high school graduate or nontraditional student (GED/HSE grads, parents, military and those older than 24). Many recent high school graduates are becoming adults even as they tackle a college-level course load and new responsibilities. This may be the first time they live on their own, with a roommate or roommates, and in a new community that may differ greatly from the one in which they were raised. Some students may work while in college. Nontraditional students may experience some or all of these changes, while also balancing family and work duties.
All schools offer support services for new and current college students. The U.S. Department of Education sponsors TRIO programs, including Student Support Services, intended to assist low-income, first-generation and students with disabilities into and through college. If you’re eligible, check your college to find out if they participate in TRIO.
Colleges offer other supports based on student need. Most provide training on how to navigate their college system, academic advisement, mental health and wellness centers, tutoring services and centers for underrepresented student groups who may need additional supports. This can include African-American, Asian-American, people with learning or physical disabilities, Hispanic, LGBTQ, Native American and women student centers. These centers provide cultural programming, mentorships, scholarships and workshops, while promoting campus diversity, student retention and academic and personal success.
Engagement equals success
A recent study by Challenge Success, a nonprofit affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, identified student engagement as one of the most important factors in student success. Students who participate in their classes, internships or research, student organizations and other extracurricular activities – who are active participants in their education – report the greatest student learning, job satisfaction, well-being and future income. Student success may have less to do with attending a more selective or even a particular college and actually rest in the student’s hands and initiative. Read Bridges’s blog to learn more:
Bridges encourages students, families and support networks to keep the lines of communication open throughout this process. Talk with those who have shared similar experiences. Our college counselors are available to speak with all involved about the many changes they might be going through. We offer advice, help guide people to relevant support services and assist our clients with the financial aid process while they’re in school. Call (575) 758-5074 or email Bridges at [email protected]sproject.org to schedule an appointment.
Mackenzie Frederick is the college counselor and development coordinator for Bridges Project for Education.