Iowa Central helps first-year students make transition to college

Some first-year college students have trouble adjusting to their new environment and responsibilities. To help guide them through this transition, Iowa Central Community College offers several programs and resources.

“Orientation helps with some of those concerns,” said Jennifer Condon, Iowa Central dean of liberal arts and sciences. “We have a summer orientation that we have revved up. We’ve offered more of them, and then some that are program-specific, so they have more program information in advance of the semester starting.”

Students also have the option of taking a College Experience class their first semester.

“That covers general information about transfers and (grade point average), study skills, financial aid, registering for classes, two-year plans,” Condon said. “It’s kind of an integrated orientation throughout the first half of the first semester, for full-time students.”

This year, the college launched learning communities for students placed in developmental reading, math and writing programs.

“Those students have a common schedule with a small group of students, and they have a faculty team for each of those classes that are working together to ensure their success and keep closer track of them,” Condon said.

Janette Miller, Iowa Central student counselor, provides confidential mental health and counseling services for the college’s students.

“They don’t have to have insurance. It’s free. They can just come. And they can come for whatever concerns they have,” Miller said. “I can do brief therapy as far as mental health, behavioral or relationship concerns. They can get referrals to other places in the community, if they would like them. Really, they decide why they need to be here and I’m here for them.”

It is often the case, Miller said, that first year students become overwhelmed or experience difficulties during their first year of college.

“I think that’s true on all college campuses,” she said. “Sometimes, if it’s a young student, it may be their first time away from home, and they may like to have the support to help them adjust to the school.”

Miller helps such students by listening to them and providing support.

“I help them find ways to connect on campus, with organizations,” she said. “Sometimes, people just need to get in with a group of people, maybe try to find what their interests are.”

Campus activities also help students make the transition, said Dave Pearson, Iowa Central director of student activities.

“Student activities are a major player in helping students get acclimated to the campus, introducing them to new opportunities, clubs, businesses in the community, creating an atmosphere where they get to intermix and meet new friends,” he said. “We do our best to try to get them our of their dorm rooms to get them involved in all kinds of campus life and campus opportunities.”

Such efforts are beneficial for students and the college alike.

“It helps definitely with retention. It helps them not get homesick. They’re starting a new chapter of their life, so we’re looking to help with that transition period,” Pearson said. “That’s why these first two weeks of school we really hit it so hard, having day activities, night activities, just fun things for them to do to get used to being away from home and adapting to campus life.”