Call it the “freshman slump.”
While most students expect to succeed during their first year of college, freshmen often struggle academically, according to a study released this week by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. The survey — completed by almost 25,000 students at 105 four-year institutions — revealed that while most students succeed socially in their first year, many freshmen fare poorer than they expect to in the classroom.
The study did not include students from Yale or any other Ivy League university.
“Although most respondents studied and discussed their courses with other students during the first year, findings suggest that many remain disengaged from their coursework,” the study’s authors wrote. The survey, which tracked the responses of participants at the beginning and end of the 2001-02 academic year, showed that many freshmen felt intimidated by professors, while 37.7 percent said they “frequently felt overwhelmed by all they had to do.”
And while 97 percent of freshmen thought there was “some chance” or a “very good chance” that they would maintain a ‘B’ average or higher, only 77.3 percent of those surveyed achieved that goal.
Despite these academic difficulties, a majority of students — 52.9 percent — felt “completely successful” developing close relationships with other students. Still, many cited significant ways in which their social lives had changed — compared to their last year of high school, students tended to party more often and exercise or attend religious services less frequently.
Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said freshmen at Yale did not seem to suffer from the same problems as first-year students at other universities.
“It’s not especially my impression that is the case,” Brodhead said.
Because the University is so academically selective, Yale freshmen may not find it as difficult to adjust to college coursework, Brodhead said.
In addition, Brodhead said Yale differs from other institutions because of the variety of assistance it offers students, including freshmen and ethnic counselors, tutors and residential college deans.
“There’s lots and lots of different kinds of support,” Brodhead said. “This is a place that takes a more proactive approach to the welfare of its students than is the case at many other institutions.”
Claire Brickell ’03, a freshman counselor in Silliman College, said she felt academic advising and individual help from professors is necessary to provide struggling students with assistance.
“The freshman counselor is someone you can go to, especially when there are problems,” Brickell said. “[But] the freshman counselor isn’t really equipped to give specialized academic help.”