Smart Start launches today

Today 200 mature and transfer students are attending Smart Start, a day of panels and discussions designed to ease their transition to university.

Smart Start is a brand new orientation initiative at York, says Carole Umaña, director, Student & Alumni Relations (STARS), Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies.

The one-day program is designed for mature students who have had no university experience at all — college transfers and those who have taken pre-university bridging programs, finished high school at night school, or graduated from high school more than three years ago. In a relaxed, interactive atmosphere, participants will share their concerns about starting university as an adult; hear about strategies for balancing work, family and school; and get some insight into their individual learning styles. They will also hear how current mature students managed their first year at York.

“The literature on student success talks about the issue of transition as an important aspect of success in the university experience,” says Umaña. York offers academic and social orientation programs, which mature students also take, she says, but the emphasis of this program is to approach concerns about adjusting to and succeeding at university.

Umaña developed the Smart Start program with Brian Poser, manager, student success & retention, at the Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development (SCLD). They designed a series of short, highly interactive sessions based on best-practice models, reserved Vari Hall A for Aug. 31, then sent personalized letters to 600 incoming mature and college-transfer students who had no university experience. They did not otherwise advertise.

The response was tremendous. A third registered — 150 Atkinson and almost 50 Arts students.

“Feedback from York students who participated in precursor program called ‘The Don’t Crash Courses’ indicates that this kind of programming goes a long way to reducing students’ anxiety and promoting their readiness for engagement in York’s academic and social communities,” says Poser. Student success often hinges on being engaged from the very beginning, he says, which is what both STARS and SCLD aim to do.

Will there be a Smart Start next year? “We’ll be evaluating very, very closely to see how successful it was and how we can improve,” says Umaña. “It’s obvious that the need is out there.”