Students new to post-secondary education can be confused by all the changes, new regulations, and procedures. Schools have now implemented first year programs and advisors to help new students cope.
Many schools now have an orientation week for first year students. This is generally considered a series of social events, but is designed to give students a “crash course” in college or university life, academic expectations, and the chance to meet new people.
Typical aspects of orientation week include a campus tour. This takes students to all the places they will need to know about in the future, such as the student union building, registrar’s office, bookstore, and libraries. Students also get the chance to see where their new classes will be held so they don’t get lost on the first day of classes. Campus tours also include a tour of the residences and associated facilities (such as recreational facilities).
Information sessions for first year students are also held during orientation week. This includes things such as general academic expectations, lecture hall manners, time management, (home) work ethic, how to use libraries, and student-professor relationships.
Orientation week also has a large social aspect: pub crawls (eg. in Quebec, because of the CEGEP system, first year students are generally of legal drinking age), talent shows, banquets, and sporting events are common. This allows students to meet other first-year students in a social context, and can be the basis for future friendships or relationships.
Some schools have implemented a buddy program, which pairs senior students with new students to help them navigate their first year of study. These buddies help with common issues such as procrastination, moving into residence, how to set up their email account, and finding new friends at social events.
Many schools have first-year advisors, who are usually academic counselors who specialize in helping first year students deal with their specific academic issues (eg. above-average students in high school becoming average university students). First-year advisors also help students to decide on their academic program, such as which electives to take, how large a course load to take, and balancing school with work and social life.
First-year advisors also give feedback on financial issues since many students are on their own for the first time, and are unsure how to cope with money issues. They help students with scholarship applications, give advice on how to pay tuition fees, and aid in the student’s personal financial management.
Schools have writing and math help centers available, and these are often of great help to first-year students. Students often come into post-secondary school with little knowledge of how to write an essay, or barely passed the requisite high school math courses and are having difficulties with college or university level math or calculus. These centers help by offering tutoring sessions, and allowing like-minded students to meet and form their own study groups. This is also a good way to get personal contact with the professors and lecturers in these subjects (since first year classes are so large, personal attention is generally non-existent).
First-year international students
International students have additional challenges in addition to the high-school to college or university transition. They often have to deal with a foreign language and new customs in addition to the first-year experience. Schools with a large international contingent (eg. schools in Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal) will often have an international center specifically for these students. See the article on international students for more information.