Identify academic direction and supports.
Every student’s postsecondary education begins with a well-designed process that empowers them to choose an academic direction and build a plan that starts with passing credit-bearing gateway courses in the first year.
Students are far more likely to succeed in postsecondary education if they have a purpose in mind. Yet many new students start their postsecondary journey without clear goals, and in many cases, without an understanding of their options. An effective enrollment process is intentionally designed to accomplish critical objectives for equitable student success. Specifically, a well-designed enrollment process empowers students to choose an initial academic direction; identifies the academic and integrated supports needed to pass the critical gateway courses of math and English; and assists them in developing a full academic plan, all within their first year.
For example, many institutions are helping new students choose from a small set of broad career and academic focus areas (sometimes called “meta majors”), such as social and behavioral sciences, information technology, health careers, business, the arts and STEM. These focus areas are characterized by a default curriculum, which includes appropriate math and English courses and is aligned to a specific program of study. By the end of their first year, students are able to make informed choices about their major from among the more defined options within that general area of study. Such an early determination of academic direction helps students better understand the purpose of the courses they are taking, which leads to increased motivation and persistence.
Effective institutions are not focused on screening students out of credit-bearing work and into remediation. Instead, they are designing innovative, aligned and effective intake processes that help students clarify their goals, build their academic confidence and college know-how, and position themselves for success in gateway courses. It should also be noted that while onboarding is a critical phase in a student’s learning journey, support should continue throughout the journey and not stop after the first year.