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First Year of Studies program offers guidance

Peter Ninneman | Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Notre Dame’s First Year of Studies (FYS) program is meant to be a guiding force for freshmen, the University’s attempt to stabilize the potentially unstable. While some freshmen are taking full advantage of the resources, others are unaware of their existence or skeptical of their benefits.

The FYS Learning Resource Center (LRC) provides small-group workshops and individual appointments to help students learn better strategies for studying and adjusting to the academic life at Notre Dame. Help topics include time management, test preparation, efficient reading and getting organized.

The LRC also provides assistance in improving English language skills of non-native speakers.

Sandra Harmatiuk, one of two LRC directors who presents workshops and provides individual instruction, predicted that this year’s freshman class will use the LRC more than the previous five years’ classes by the end of the fall semester.

“In the past five years, the average number of participants in Learning Strategies programs has averaged 225,” Harmatiuk said. “As of the end of the fourth week of classes, the participation is already at 110 – more than double [in] the same period for 2004.”

In addition to providing students with the LRC, FYS gives students access to peer advisors, upperclassmen who provide informal help in matters of adjusting to campus and dorm life as well as study habits.

Some freshmen still don’t realize that they have access to peer advisors.

When asked if she had visited a peer advisor yet, Kristina Merz said, “No. Do we have one of those?”

However, most freshmen said they knew and had met with their peer advisor.

“It was helpful to meet my peer advisor because she is really knowledgeable about the resources available to first year students,” freshman Alessandra Bouchard said. “I know that if I have any problems in the future she will be a good person to go to.”

Not all freshmen, however, found the experience so beneficial.

“Actually, I would have rather stayed home to do homework,” freshman Matt Kernan said. “It didn’t really help too much.”

Through FYS, freshmen also have individual meetings with their academic advisors to discuss subjects like required classes and potential majors. Assistant FYS dean Holly Martin said each full-time first year advisor has an average of 488 individual meetings with first year students during the fall semester.

“Some students may only have one one-to-one meeting with their advisor, others have many more,” Martin said. “It depends on the needs of the student.”

These needs may be minimal, in the freshman’s eyes.

Although the FYS keeps “pestering” him to set up an appointment, freshman Nathan Bernardi said, “I don’t have time for it right now.”

But freshman Devin Fee found his meeting with his academic advisor useful.

“It helped me put things in perspective,” Fee said. “She organized my priorities and promised support if I needed it.”