With the spring semester quickly concluding, now is the perfect time for first-generation students to make their summer plans. Though fun events, such as family vacations, hanging out with friends, and not doing any homework may top the list, summer time is a wonderful opportunity for first-generation students to plan for the upcoming academic year. After spending the last two semesters reacculturating (Bruffee, 1999) to the collegiate culture, first-generation students have formed transition communities (Bruffee, 1999), whether friends, roommates, or study groups, to help them successfully navigate through the campus culture. As a result, first-generation students have a much greater knowledge of what college is really like. So, why not plan for the following academic year?
Exploring academic areas of interest, conducting informational interviews, and researching possible student organizations are all items that first-generation students can do over the summer. Taking the time to familiarize themselves with their degree audit and the online undergraduate catalog are useful strategies for the upcoming academic year. By this point, first-generation students have taken some general education courses and perhaps a course for their academic major, yet have they taken the time to fully review their intended academic degree program of interest? For students who are undecided with their academic major, summer is a stress-free time to compare possible majors and to contact their academic advisor with questions without having to worry about studying for an exam or writing a paper. Jotting questions about possible careers and majors can help set the stage for conducting informational interviews—that is, what information can be gleaned from a professional in the field in order to learn the most about a designated career? Additionally, student involvement, as a direct result of transition communities (Bruffee, 1999), is a fun way to meet other students who have similar academic and career interests. By using the summer to research campus involvement opportunities, including student organizations, in order to decide which ones to further explore, first-generation students can take steps towards a successful and satisfying college career. Further, talking with other students in a departmental club and/or working alongside the organization’s advisor can solidify major and career plans.
In short, using the summer as a time to reflect upon the previous academic year and to plan for the next academic year can be a strategic step for a successful semester. Whether in the form of talking to professionals in the desired career path, reading the undergraduate catalog, or creating an action plan for the upcoming semester, summer is an ideal time for first-generation students to share their college experience with family and friends as well as to make plans for another successful academic year.
Bruffee, K. A. (1999). Collaborative learning: Higher education, interdependence, and the authority of knowledge (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
By Dr. Tracey Glaessgen, First-Year Programs