The Office of First Year Experience coordinates an academic alert system that allows faculty and advisers to monitor freshmen in their first semester. The alert system coordinates the efforts of faculty, advisers, and student support personnel in identifying at risk students and helping them find and use the support they need as they adjust to the demands of college.
The Alert Process
The Office of First Year Experience sends an alert roster to every faculty member who has first semester freshmen enrolled in their classes. Faculty may receive a roster that contains the name of 100 students, as is the case in BIO 101 or CHE 111, or a roster that contains the name of only a few freshmen.
Alerts are sent to faculty twice during the fall semester:
1) A first alert is sent in late September after students have been attending classes for 3-4 weeks. This first alert is meant to identify students who may be having difficulty adjusting to college. It identifies the following areas and asks faculty to indicate any problems: attendance, classroom behavior, basic comprehension issues, and missed assignments. This roster does not ask for feedback on test performance since it is intended only to identify students who may be having difficulty with social or emotional adjustment.
2) A second alert is sent in mid October when many students are taking midterm exams. This alert asks faculty to identify students who are having academic difficulty as demonstrated by low test scores, low quiz scores, failure to turn in assignments, missed classes, and understanding course content. Faculty will also recommend a course of action, such as “needs tutoring,” or “needs help with study skills.”
Faculty have approximately one week to ten days to complete each alert roster and return it to the Office of First Year Experience. The Office of First Year Experience notifies first year advisers of the feedback their advisees have received. This typically happens the second week of October and the first week of November. Advisers in turn meet with students in order to discuss and address issues raised in the alerts.
The Adviser’s Role
The adviser’s role in the alert process is critical. If advisers do not follow up with students identified through the process, the feedback we receive from faculty is useless. It is vitally important to make contact with students who are experiencing difficulty in the early weeks of their first semester. Your role is to ask questions, listen, and guide students to the appropriate resources or to make necessary changes.
- Make appointments to meet with any students identified by their professors. The sooner you can talk with these students the better. Many of them would like to talk to someone but don’t know who or how. Many of them need guidance or need to find various resources on campus. Remind students that it’s normal and common for students to experience some difficulty adjusting to college. Talk with them about how the issues they may be having and possible solutions.
- General adjustment issues are quite common for first semester freshmen and can negatively impact their academic performance. As an adviser you need to be aware of the common adjustment issues students are facing and be willing to talk with students about their experience. Adjustment issues include, but are not limited to, stress, loneliness, homesickness, fatigue, problems adjusting to roommates, not understanding how to behave in class, and not understanding the consequences of missing class.
- Academic adjustment issues are also common. Freshmen typically spend the first semester learning what study habits and strategies no longer work; but they don’t yet have new ones in place though. Find out how students are studying, what their habits are, etc. and encourage them to make necessary changes.
- Freshmen will be unfamiliar with the role of student support areas such as the Tutoring Center, the Writing Center, and the Counseling Center so you may need to encourage those need help to take advantage of these support services. Help students understand the usefulness of tutoring or counseling, help them find out how to locate and use these services, and reassure them that seeking help is a strategic and intelligent choice. There are also many other resources on campus for support and getting involved, so be sure to inform students about those as well.
- A very common problem with first semester students is that they do not attend classes. Many freshmen don’t understand the need to attend class, especially if they observe that attendance is not taken. You should help them understand why attending class will be vital to their ability to succeed in college.
- Connect individual advising appointments to what you are discussing in UNV 101. Around the time that you receive feedback on your advisees from the first alert roster, your students will be discussing academic self awareness and time management and will have already discussed active learning and their obligations in the university community. As you receive feedback from the second alert, they will be preparing to register for classes, but you can revisit earlier discussions about academic habits and choices.
- Make sure to ask students how they are doing in every one of their classes, not just those in which they are having difficulty. Students tend to respond with short answers when asked about their academic performance (e.g. “I’m doing fine.”), so it’s important to probe a little by asking what feedback they have received, what grades they have earned so far, if they have done any extra credit, etc.
- Follow up. You will see your advisees in UNV 101 so you should make sure to ask them how things are going. Find out if they have sought out any support services you may have recommended. Or, send an email to the student to let him/her know that you continue to take an active interest in his/her success.
- Make sure to contact the Office of First Year Experience with any questions or concerns you may have about your advisees.
For questions regarding academic alerts, please contact The Office of First Year Experience: