It seems difficult to believe, but just five weeks from today students will begin to move into our residence halls. Five days after that, classes for the fall 2021 semester will begin. These students will look like other entering classes, but their experience over the past 16 months ensures that they will be far different from first-year college students of the past.
We saw this with last year’s incoming class. A study from Inside Higher Ed found that “nearly six in 10 fall 2020 first-year (students) felt at least somewhat unprepared for postsecondary education because of COVID shutdowns as they wrapped up high school.” This year’s students experienced an additional year of high school uncertainty. Besides missing traditional experiences for high school seniors, our incoming students probably did not visit campus before deciding to attend, and they were not on campus for an in-person orientation. It is difficult to understand the effects of such uncertainty and disruptions on their curriculum, learning and college preparation.
In such a time of disruption, NMSU has an advantage. We have a long history of working with students from highly diverse backgrounds and helping them to achieve their educational goals. This history is good to have in a time when the term “traditional student” is increasingly difficult to define. More than ever before, we will need to focus on individual students and their individual needs.
It is important to note that both new students and many returning sophomores will be experiencing college life for the first time. Students who have been out of a physical classroom for over a year will need help re-engaging with academic life. Last year, students recognized that faculty wanted to help them deal with pandemic challenges, but they questioned the value of that education to their own lives.
As faculty and staff dedicated to student success in higher education, we can all help by referring students to support like tutoring and by serving as role models, coaches, advisers and mentors for our students.
It is the start of a new era, and we all have a role to play in helping our students succeed.
If you have time for summer reading, consider some of these articles.
- Faculty support for student mental health – Pedagogy of healing: Bearing witness to trauma and resilience
- Supporting students: Stepping out from COVID
- Student success this fall will depend on faculty–staff cooperation
- Why, post pandemic, your campus needs more ‘super courses’
- Despite positive experiences, students question value of college
- How COVID-19 damaged student success
- High school students are changing college plans
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Be Bold. Be Kind. Be Safe.