Helping students succeed

January 08, 2004, vol. 29, no. 1
By Carol Thorbes

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Even new undergraduates who have aced high school worry about maintaining good grades in university.

That is why Simon Fraser University's health, counselling and career centre (HCCC) offers On your way to an A - a course to help first year students succceed academically.

As many as 2,500 students, fresh out of high school, enter SFU as undergraduates, annually.

Three quarters of them start university in the fall, with just 150 entering in each of the spring and summer semesters.

On your way to an A, offered as a one-day course in the fall and as a series of workshops in the spring and summer, fills up quickly.

“The high school grads taking these courses and workshops do not have academic problems by any means,” says Connie Coniglio, associate director, counselling and clinical support at HCCC. The required average to enter a SFU arts program is 82 per cent. “They come into our environment with excellent grades, but in some cases they lack confidence about extending their high school success into a university setting. They are looking for a head start.”

Coniglio says learning how to manage time and access campus resources are huge challenges for even the most successful high school students.

“In many cases, they are leaving behind a structured environment where a lot of their work is in a classroom setting under the supervision of teachers and are entering one where most of their work is done independently,” explains Coniglio.

As well as offering a workshop on time management, HCCC offers a range of other programs.

They include learning about university resources, preparing for lectures, understanding and managing the university classroom experience, note taking, reading and library research.

“Many students are not familiar with different library resources and research techniques,” notes Coniglio.

The one day workshop in the fall includes a panel discussion in which successful SFU students offer newcomers their top 10 tips on how to ace first-year university.

This panel discussion is not part of the spring and summer workshops. But Coniglio notes six learning skills peer educators are available to coach new undergrads individually.

HCCC hopes to obtain funding to eventually study the long-term value of its academic success program. For now HCCC relies on positive anecdotal verification based on surveys of graduates.

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