Getting into college for today's over-achieving adolescents is tough; adjusting to college may be just as difficult. A new program started this fall at Hamilton attempts to ease the transition.
For many students, college represents the first time they will share a room, manage their own schedules, confront issues associated with alcohol and interact with a more diverse community than they may have left at home.
Barry Seaman '67, author of Binge, What Your College Student Won't Tell You, says the many choices students encounter when they arrive on campus "is part of the overwhelming aspect of college life."
Traditionally, Hamilton brings the first-year class together in late August for six days of intensive orientation before returning students arrive and fall semester classes begin. Nearly half of the new class arrives even earlier to participate in Adirondack Adventure, a pre-orientation wilderness experience in the nearby Adirondack Park.
But this fall, orientation included participation in the First-Year Forum, a five-week mini-seminar that focused students' attention on study and time-management skills, the Honor Code, getting involved on campus, diversity and free speech, alcohol and sexual assault, and career planning, among other topics. Typically, each of the 10 75-minute sessions was led by a team comprised of a faculty member, a junior or senior and a member of the College administration.
"Our goal was to give students the tools to be successful at Hamilton and to provide new students with the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with their peers and their leaders," said Dean of Students Nancy Thompson.
"It was nice getting to talk about managing things like tons of reading and a constant social life and all of the other new things that come with college," said Ilana Carlin '09. "Most of the topics were helpful, especially the library session. They enlightened me to a lot of information I wouldn't have known otherwise."
Still, Thompson is looking to make adjustments to the forum. "We will fine-tune the program for next year based on student and leader evaluations," Thompson said. Issues under consideration include the frequency with which the groups should meet and coordinating session topics to avoid redundancy with what's covered in orientation.