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Beneficial First Year Student Programs For HBCU College Students

For many, college is something you have looked forward to for years. It is often seen as a doorway to bettering yourself and a path to a lifelong, fulfilling career. Going off to college can mean new adventures, new responsibilities, a chance to grow and a chance to learn new things. And while it is all that and more, it is normal to feel entirely different after you finally get there!

Getting into a university and anticipating all of the new experiences you will have there can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. Within the first year, many students begin to doubt whether they can handle the pressure of managing class schedules and additional responsibilities that come along with being on their own. Unfortunately, roughly 30% of first-year college students drop out due to these stressors. So, what can you do to find support and establish a sense of direction during the first year of college?

Look to your student programs on campus. There are many beneficial student programs for first year college students designed to help you manage stress and navigate campus life. Let's look at a few programs you should consider to help you through the first year.

First Year Experience (FYE) Student Programs
Almost every historically Black college or university offers unique student programs intended for specific student groups. Whether you are a recent high school graduate, took a few years off, or an older adult learner, a first year program is likely to help you make the most of your time on campus. Seminars usually answer many questions from new students while also explaining the skills needed to navigate college experiences.

FYE programs were created to help you become an active and integrated member of the university. By participating in the program, you will be learning about the skills needed for academic and personal success in your first year of college. These programs teach strategies for critical thinking, time management, test-taking, and working effectively with other students while also sharing campus resources students may not have been aware of otherwise.

Depending on your college, FYE could also be known as Freshman Year Experience or a Freshman Seminar Program. These FYE programs frequently encourage students to participate in extracurricular activities such as reading, concerts, art exhibits, and guest lectures. Programs may be available for a couple of weeks or last as long as the entire school year!

Do HBCUs Have Student Mentoring Programs?
Yes, many HBCU programs go beyond the first year experience. A student mentor program pairs a mentor with a mentee, most commonly a first year student. Some of these programs also provide opportunities for continued participation as an upperclassman in a mentoring role. In a program like this, mentors can help with anything from local recommendations to academic or faculty situations while providing thoughtful information about the campus and organizations available to their mentee.

Benefits of Mentor Programs for Students
Mentorship programs have a common objective—to help incoming college students feel like they belong in the campus community. Mentors do this by serving as a thought partner while assisting students in finding and accessing their own resources to become independent learners. Usually, mentees and mentors can be matched well through interest-based surveys and personality profiles.

As a mentee, you can discuss important topics with your mentor, such as:
• How to access resources on campus
• How to join a club or get involved with the campus community
• Suggestions for developing college-level study skills
• How to use (if available) any public transport
• Questions about culture on campus
• Share feelings of homesickness

Peer mentoring programs have increased perseverance, provided opportunities for academic success, and fostered a sense of belonging. The one-on-one model is student-centered and student-directed, allowing participants to easily balance their busy schedules with the program's requirements.

By participating in a mentor program as a first year student, you may also be well-qualified to become a mentor as an upperclassman. Mentors have a chance to relay advice and lessons learned with the helpful perspective of having been through the program as a mentee. Plus, this continued participation looks great on a resume!

HBCU First: HBCU Near-Peer Mentoring
The HBCU Near-Peer Mentoring program is a 10-week internship that assists Black youth in transitioning from college to career. Students from America's 100+ HBCUs collaborate to create a playbook for college-to-career success, focusing on social-emotional resilience. Full-time HBCU students are eligible for this paid virtual program.

Black Executive and Student Training (BEST¬) Program
The Black Executive and Student Training, also known as the BEST program, provides mentorship to HBCU students. The program entails matching HBCU students with successful Black executives to guide mentored students to understand how to transition from higher education toward their desired career path. The BEST aims to empower, support, and ensure the success of future Black leaders.

HBCU Student Ambassador Programs
A Student Ambassador Program is a leadership opportunity for an honorary group of students within a college that commit themselves to serve and represent the college as a whole. Student Ambassadors often provide campus tours, educating new and prospective students on various student support services and other programs or community events available on campus. These campus tours offer lots of valuable insights and information, so don’t miss out!

As student ambassadors, you have the opportunity to develop leadership and communication skills while also inspiring other students to take a more active role in representing their college. Student Ambassador programs provide yet another opportunity to support and enhance the learning experiences of your fellow students.

Benefits of Participating in Student Programs
While we certainly haven’t covered all of the beneficial first year student programs for colleges, we strongly believe these programs offer at least three benefits that every new student should consider.

1. Establish Trust. Students often perceive ambassadors and mentors as peers and equals, meaning you are more likely to feel at ease asking them a probing question about their day-to-day campus experiences.
2. Build Relationships. Colleges often make efforts to ensure mentors and ambassadors come from various backgrounds with different strengths. This makes it easier to find support and establish a sense of belonging with other students.
3. Give Exceptional Students Opportunities for Leadership. Participation in any of the programs highlighted in this article offer a chance to learn or practice leadership skills needed in college and in your career.
The key to having a successful first year is to be aware of your needs and find support if it is difficult to manage expectations or initial outcomes. Many student programs also serve as learning communities, plan social activities, and more to keep students engaged, productive, happy, and far more likely to succeed.