First Year Experience Courses

Program basics

  • 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)

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Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse


Target population

Students enrolled in post-secondary education

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

1970s-present

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.

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