College 101 Class Seeks to Build Student Confidence

The crunch of autumn leaves. The soft padding of small steps. New pens, new friends and new fears. On the first day of kindergarten students take the first small step in their own big adventure.

But beyond kindergarten the adventure continues, and this Fall students will once again face the nervous excitement of a first day of school. This time, in college. And while the goal and the school have changed, for many the fear remains.

Students will not only face old fears like making new friends and keeping up with schoolwork, they will also have to learn how to navigate campus, find resources and choose the right classes so that they graduate on time.

To equip students with the tools to succeed, Clark is mandating a college success course for all first-time, transfer-seeking students starting this Fall. The course, College 101, is meant to serve as a foundation for students throughout their time at Clark.

According to Kristin Sherwood, the coordinator for College 101, the course was first introduced as an elective five years ago. After finding it greatly improved student success, the college decided to require it.

According to Associate Vice President of Planning and Effectiveness Shanda Diehl, students who take College 101 have a retention rate increase of almost 10 percent compared to students who do not take the course. Additionally, students who took College 101 during their first term have a success rate of 90.5 percent in all other classes, versus 81 percent for students outside of College 101.

Sarah Kaufman, a student athlete at Clark, will start working towards her transfer degree this Fall. In the two weeks before the quarter started she took a condensed College 101 course intended for student athletes.

“It’s nice to have a staff member who is dedicated to helping you succeed,” Kaufman said, regarding her instructor Deena Godwin.

Kaufman also said she appreciated the chance to become familiar with the school before the quarter started.

“I’m nervous, but excited,” she said.

Godwin is one of the 50 instructors teaching College 101, and supports the decision to make it a requirement.

“There are so many resources that students are unaware of,” Godwin said.

College 101 students learn about the variety of resources on campus and how to use them. This includes amenities like the Career Center, the Cannell Library and the Financial Aid Office. Students will also complete a two-quarter-long academic plan.

Godwin considers the academic plan to be one of the more “valuable components that students take away.” She said the academic outline allows students to define their goals and provides a way to reach them.

According to Sherwood, there are 62 sections of College 101 this Fall, compared to 29 last Spring. Nearly all sections are full.

One section will be taught by President Bob Knight.

There’s fear of the unknown, that college is so big. And there’s fear of failure,” Knight said. “And I think we can take care of that ‘unknown’ and that fear of failure through the college success course.”

College 101 is part of a larger effort at Clark to improve students success and retention. Both the development for the college success course and the Guided Pathways program were funded by a Title III grant given to Clark in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education.

Though College 101 is just a small component of a complicated process, some Clark faculty members hope the course will serve as a foundation for all students to build off of, putting students one more small step towards a degree.

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