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Easing the transition between high school and university

Program targets first-generation students.

BY KRISTEN WRIGHT | NOV 28 2011

Andre Matte had heard all the horror stories about transitioning from high school to first year university. To add to his anxiety, Mr. Matte is the first in his family to go to university. So when he was flipping through the application for residency at the University of Alberta last spring, something at the end of the package caught his eye.

That something was the Transition to University: Residence Network (TURN) program. New this year, the program aims to ease first-generation students into university life by helping them to develop social networks, academic skills and self-confidence. Through workshops, icebreakers and informal meetings with faculty, TURN presents students with what the program’s coordinator, Neil Buddel, calls the key pillars for success: “confidence, community and capacity.”

While researching his PhD in educational policy studies, Dr. Buddel says he found that little attention was being paid in Alberta to helping first-generation university students. After seeing success with similar programs in Ontario, he put the model for this program together and found “a lot of appetite” for it.

Of 97 applicants, TURN selected 15 students based on their status as first-generation students, their anxiety heading into first year and their desire for the program. The students moved into residence a week early to meet the other applicants and participate in workshops geared to preparing them for university. “Being able to bond with these 14 other students before school even started, that was a tremendous relief,” says Mr. Matte. Workshops are also scheduled throughout the winter semester for students to reflect on their year so far.

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