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The Daily Tar Heel

Study: Freshman Year Takes Toll

In a 2001 study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institution at the University of California-Los Angeles and the Policy Center on the First Year at College at Brevard College, researchers surveyed 3,680 first-year students at 50 four-year colleges to determine how students changed during their first year at college.

The researchers conducted the study "with the intent to improve the first-year experiences and retain those students most likely to withdraw from higher education," the report stated.

Researchers surveyed students in the fall of their freshman year and again at the end of their first year and compared the results. "Students report drinking alcohol more frequently after the first year in college," the report stated. "By contrast, activism, community service and religious participation significantly dropped."

In examining the emotional transitions of freshmen, the results did not reflect positively on the experience. The percentages of students feeling overwhelmed, bored in class and depressed after their first year in school all increased.

"Nearly 56 percent of students rate themselves above average or highest 10 percent with respect to emotional health prior to entering college versus 43.4 percent at end of the first college year," the report stated.

The report reflected positive impacts of first-year seminars. The students who participated in seminars designed for first-year students were associated with greater satisfaction with the amount of faculty contact and stronger feelings of success in adjusting to college.

UNC facilitates programs to ease the transitions of first-year students such as the First Year Initiative and Freshman Camp.

The First Year Initiative provides a community designed to meet the academic and social needs of first-year students.

Students live in Ehringhaus Residence Hall and interact with other first-year students, mentors and faculty.

Jonathan Crane who heads the Campus Y's Freshman Camp, said the three-day camp before school made his transition to college much easier. "It was a great way to meet people and see what is out there."

Despite the study's results, many students at UNC said even in the new atmosphere, they are enjoying their first year.

Fritz Kramer, a freshman at UNC, said he has not had a difficult transition.

"It is a different life but still a lot of fun," Kramer said. "There is more opportunity here than there was in high school. Living with all freshmen helped."

Kramer said that he studies more now and still exercises. "I play soccer. It is easy to pick up a game here."

Sophomore Jennifer Coughlan said her experience as a freshman, although overwhelming, was still rewarding.

"It was a little overwhelming," Coughlan said. "In high school it is easy to get work done and do all you want to do. Here it is difficult to pursue all you want to."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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