K-State First: Taking the first steps to success

Leasure Hall on the Kansas State campus in Manhattan, Kansas. (Justin Wright | The Collegian)

Transitioning to college life can be a challenge for some first-year students. Acknowledging this issue, K-State First offers guidance to help set students up for success for their freshman year and the rest of their college careers.

“We actively seek ways to continually improve upon what we do and how we help K-State students,” Brent Weaver, learning assistant coordinator for K-State First, said. “Programs like K-State First represent how intentional our university is about the success of our students. We have so many programs that are designed to help students maximize their time at K-State, and I’m proud to work for a university that puts this level of care to the well-being of its students.”

K-State First offers four main programs to students, which includes Connecting Across Topics (CAT) Communities, First-Year Seminar, K-State Book Network (KSBN) and Guide to Personal Success (GPS).

“Our Connecting Across Topics learning communities offer students the chance to take a group of three courses together and build a community of peers that share the same interests,” Mariya Vaughan, assistant director for K-State First, said. “First-Year Seminar courses, which are small, exciting classes taught in a lively, interactive way. We are the home for the university’s common reading program, KSBN, and a one-on-one mentoring program, GPS, that connects first-year students with K-State faculty, staff, graduate students and alumni.”

Greg Eiselein, director of K-State First, said the program aims to integrate students into campus and into their classes, but also works to build and encourage community involvement.

“We’re trying to make them feel like they’re part of the K-State family and introduce them to some of the key programs, the key people, their professors, other students and the key parts of K-State that are going to help them be successful during their college career,” Eiselein said.

CAT Communities are interest-based and are available to students on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students are able to enroll in CAT Communities and First-Year Seminar courses during orientation and enrollment. For the spring semester, there will be 10-15 First-Year Seminar courses available for students.

If students are interested in the GPS program, they can email gps@ksu.edu to receive a link to fill out a questionnaire.

A smaller program offered to students is Beyond the Classroom.

“We take professors into the residence halls, and they share their research in kind of an entertaining, interactive way with students living in the residence halls,” Eiselein said.

K-State First offers guidance while transitioning from high school to college, but the program has also been proven to enhance academic performance and student engagement.

“Students have indicated they are more engaged in their K-State First courses, and they truly enjoy the experience and are active participants in their learning,” Vaughan said. “Students in the K-State First program have higher rates of persistence, quicker time to degree completion and tend to have slightly higher GPAs.”

Eiselein said one of the most important aspects of success during the first year of college is creating connections.

“The students you meet your first year will be the key to your success,” Eiselein said. “Building a social and academic support network—that’s going to help you through the rest of your college career.”

K-State First emphasizes the importance of a student’s first-year experience at a university.

“In general, the first year is the time where students are most likely to encounter a whole range of obstacles that might deter them from the degree and the learning they want, but K-State First works to help students avoid those obstacles and help them learn the skills and confidence to succeed,” Vaughan said.

Eiselein said first-year experience programs are increasingly growing at other universities across the country.

“I think we’re part of a bigger national trend that has to do with making sure that college is really effective and interesting for students from the very first semester on,” Eiselein said.

K-State First not only benefits students socially and academically, but also introduces them to the K-State atmosphere.

“I think what makes our program distinctive and very K-State-like is family,” Eiselein said. “K-State has one of the best campus cultures — high-quality student life. I think there’s something about what we emphasize that fits perfectly with K-State culture and our K-State values.”

K-State First will also be offering a new program called Transfer Connections. The program will be available for transfer students only.

“I think our program highlights how much those who work for K-State truly care about students and how much we want to help them succeed,” Vaughan said. “We have some amazing faculty and staff members teaching our CAT Community and FYS courses. They go the extra mile of attending workshops and professional development year-round so that they can be the best teachers and meet the needs of first-year students and beyond.”