The first day of classes marks the beginning of another school year for returning sophomores, juniors and seniors, but for every freshman, it represents the beginning of a new chapter in their lives at the University of Memphis.
One of the many freshman support programs the U of M offers freshmen is a three credit hour elective course called Academic Strategies, also known as ACAD 1100. Carl Chando, director of the academic counseling center that manages the Academic Strategies program, said this course gives students an "extended orientation" and helps connect them with campus resources.
"We consider students ‘under construction’ their first semester as they enter a new environment," Chando said. "So, these courses teach them college survival skills, like time and self-management, critical thinking, communication with their professors and peers, career-decision making... and U of M policies and procedures."
Academic Strategies is a common course across the country. Chando said the goal of the course is to connect freshmen with resources across campus.
"We want our students to learn key strategies as well as to develop a connection and sense of belonging with the university," Chando said.
Through student surveys, Chando and the Academic Strategies program have found increases in first year retention rates. Students express a high degree of satisfaction with the course through meeting and bonding with other students.
Another freshmen support program is the Student Success Program, or SSP. Melvin Harding, director of the U of M's SSP, and his staff target freshmen that are first-generation, financially unstable or have a disability and uses the services SSP offers to help prepare those students for the social and academic aspect of college life.
"It is a very challenging environment," Harding said. "I believe that programs like ours help allay those fears and they can come in and have a one-stop shop to deal with those issues."
In addition to focusing on keeping grades up, Harding said to “go beyond the academics…” and use the many opportunities for connections the U of M has to offer and start constructing a hefty resume early.
"We push that you've got to make those connections to distinguish yourself," Harding said. "If I'm drinking coffee and reading résumés, there's got to be something that makes me put my coffee down because something you've done sticks out. I need to see experiences beyond what the average person would have done."
The majority of freshmen came to the U of M straight out of high school. Kennedy Harris, a 19-year-old journalism and music business major, said the transition was not what he expected.
"I was hyped about the wrong things," Harris said. "I realized later on that it is best to buckle down on your academics first before you decide to experience all the other fun stuff they offer."
Aside from the college's academic standpoint, Harris, similar to Harding, said "building and bulking" résumés early on will give students the upper-hand when applying for jobs or scholarships.
"At some point, you're going to be faced with applying for departmental scholarships or career jobs so, you need to be ready," Harris said. "Start to build your resume now so when you come up against competition, they won't think twice about choosing you."
Harris took an Academic Strategies course his freshmen year and recommends new students sign up for the class.
Andreas Williams, a 19-year-old film major said the only advice he can give freshmen is to "stay focused."
"Set your priorities straight," Williams said. "If you're having a hard time, reach out to a study group or start one yourself; talk to your professor, most of the time they will help. You don't want to be left behind because your adult life starts now."
Freshmen can register for Academic Strategies courses into the first week of classes. Advisors have more information about the class. If freshmen are unsure if they qualify to be a part of SSP, contact them via memphis.edu/ssp.