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T2U provides roadmap for a successful first year

Get off to a great startTransition 2 University program helps first-year students navigate the realities of college life.

The first year away from home can be tough for even the most eager of college freshmen.

To help them learn to navigate the realities of college life and form strong social ties Queens offers Transition 2 University.  The program brings first-year students together in discussion groups led by upperclassmen volunteers once each week during the fall semester.  The goal is to help them adjust to their new independent lives and responsibilities while maintaining valuable connections with family and friends. 

 "The discussions often become the basis for new friendships, healthier choices and a general sense of social support during what is typically the first big life transition they've experienced," said admissions counselor Kaysi Winsman, '09, who led T2U groups for two years as an undergraduate.

"I've seen shy freshmen evolve into confident student leaders, and others encourage and support one another through break-ups, family changes, evolving friendship, academic hiccups and a host of other issues we simply don't foresee until we find ourselves wading through them. T2U is a life-changing program, and I highly recommend it to incoming freshman."

More than a third of freshmen participate in the voluntary program, which is modeled after a Canadian program offered at six universities. Queens is the only U.S. school to offer T2U.

Advisors Drs. Melinda Harper and Chris Allegretti, who teach psychology at Queens, say the program reduces students' risk of  depression, loneliness and stress, and increases their overall satisfaction with their life and studies. They introduced the program here in 2006 with about 20 students, and it grew to 50 the next year. Since then it's grown to more than 100 participants every fall, and most groups choosing to continue meeting during the spring semester, they said.

"The benefits of T2U are win-win," Allegretti says. "The student facilitators learn about group dynamics - how to facilitate and run a group while discussing everyday issues - while the freshmen participants gain a mentor and a new group of friends."

During meetings, leaders help the groups work through issues using role playing, scenarios and open discussions.

T2U' effectiveness is measured through questionnaires and data collected by group leaders that looks at participants feelings at the beginning of the semester, the variety of experiences they share and student retention rates.  The student leaders have presented their research at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence and the International Conference on the First Year Experience.  And several other U.S. universities have consulted with Queens to help launch the program on their campuses.
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