SIP 2.13 Tips for Successfully Engaging with First-Year Students

Photo of college-aged male student reading outdoorsThirsty for Strong Instructional Practice?

While it may seem like freshmen students only land in First Year Success courses, the truth is that they are scattered throughout all disciplines and course levels.  What does the population of freshmen look like at MSU Denver this fall?

  • 50% are white, 50% are of other races/ethnicities.
  • The average age is 19.
  • 80% are coming straight from high school.
  • Only 4% are considered “not college ready.”
  • There are many students in this cohort who live at or below poverty, who work part- or full-time, or who are undocumented.

When faced with such diversity, our typical teaching strategies often fall short.  How then can we create a successful learning environment and employ effective pedagogy for first-year students who might be in our classes without lowering our standards?

Take a SIP of this: Tips for Successfully Engaging with First-Year Students

Here are a couple of thoughts on how to set your self up for success with first-year students.

1. Start by thinking of the endgame for ALL students:  a successful graduation.  A recent Gallup poll ( ) says that among the student-identified keys to success for college students are:

  • Professors who made them excited to learn
  • Professors who cared about them as individuals
  • Faculty mentors who pushed students to reach their goals

Consider how you might be this type of professor for any student in your course, and naturally you will impact any freshmen who are learning with you.

2. Intentionally employ the pedagogies and strategies that support the widest range of students.  Among these are:

  • Universal Design for Learning
  • High Impact Practices
  • Classroom Assessment Techniques
  • Culturally-responsive teaching

Again, many academic and social-emotional challenges faced by freshmen are faced by a wide range of students on our campus.  By using the above-mentioned techniques, you are able to maintain consistently high standards while providing all students with the support they need.

3. Remember to not teach in isolation!  If you are facing a challenge, get help—there are so many entities on campus ready and willing to assist you.  A logical resource is the First Year Success Program (, but don’t stop there.  Visit the Center for Faculty Excellence, the Access Center, or any of the resource centers in the Student Success Center (website) like the free Tutoring Program.  There is help available, so don’t forget to ask for it.

Still thirsty?  Take another SIP of Tips for Successfully Engaging with First-Year Students

Check out these resources that can give you some ideas around successful practices that will support first-year students!

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