First Year Experience Courses
Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
- This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
- Supplementary courses or seminars instructing new college students on subjects that can improve their college experience academically, personally, and socially
- Focus on studying skills, social interactions, and access to institutional support
- Studies suggest these programs increase credit accumulation, the likelihood students will complete their degree, and general achievement
Strength of evidence
Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)
Strong (second-highest tier)
Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse
Students enrolled in post-secondary education
Outcomes and impact
- Increased academic achievement
- Increased social development
- Increased chances of degree completion
- Increased sense of community in the college environment
Keys to successful implementation
- Note: This content is under review
- Consider making the program mandatory for target populations (such as students enrolled in remedial courses or in a specific major).
- Design a holistic program that incorporates academic (like study and technology skillbuilding), personal (such as goal setting and responsibilities), and community development (i.e. relationship building and experiential education) programming.
- Provide faculty members with substantial training and workshop opportunities, such as in teaching, course planning, and facilitating a sense of belonging for students.
- Keep cohorts relatively small (15-20 students) to allow for more individualized skill- and relationship-building opportunities.
- Recruit faculty members to serve as cohort leaders, and older students to serve as teaching assistants and informal counselors.
- Incorporate events into the program frequently, such as career services events, study abroad fairs, campus organization fairs, university sporting events, and picnics.
- Encourage faculty members to clearly define both academic and nonacademic goals for the course, and to tie any grades or student feedback to both sets of goals.