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Transitional Studies Program helps build confidence

August 16, 2017

Devin Fulton, Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month for March 2017. (Photo by Daniel Binkard/Chadron State College) Devin Fulton, Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month for March 2017. (Photo by Daniel Binkard/Chadron State College)

CHADRON – Building confidence is just one of the benefits of the Transitional Studies Program at Chadron State College, according to one of the CSC students who participated in the program as a freshman during the 2016-17 school year.

“For the first time since I was like 12 years old, I felt that I was good at math,” Devin Fulton said of the Transitional Studies math class he took during his first semester at CSC. “To be able to build that confidence level heading into the real deal was very helpful.”

The Transitional Studies Program aims to help students build their academic skills and make a successful transition to college life, particularly in their first year, according to its director, Tamara Toomey. Students qualify for the program based on their academic needs, ACT or SAT scores and results of specific placement tests. During their first semester, students enrolled in Transitional Studies take 12 or 13 credit hours that may include English, math, an education class on academic life and an Essential Studies course. Toomey also provides personalized academic advising for participants, assistance in scheduling courses, finding financial aid and obtaining other services.

Each year between 40 and 50 percent of CSC’s incoming freshmen take at least one Transitional Studies course, the college website notes. Nationally, the rate is as high as 60 percent.

“Sometimes students are initially surprised when they are identified as program participants, which happens after they apply to CSC,” Toomey said. “Students have the ability to test out of the program, but, after learning what Transitional Studies offers, they usually see it as something that will help them be successful in college.”

Fulton, who spent a year working and traveling after graduating from high school in Glenrock, Wyoming, entered CSC last year with the aim of becoming a social studies teacher.

High school classes were adequate preparation for college in some cases, Fulton said, but didn’t teach one of the most important skills he learned in his freshman year at CSC. “High school just prepares you to take notes, never critical thinking, and critical thinking is probably the most important thing they teach you in college,” he said.

While the course in math helped build his confidence in the subject, Fulton said the Transitional Studies English class he took was equally important as an introduction to the process of writing at the college level.

“I think that was the most beneficial transitional studies class,” he said.

Fulton said he learned from his Transitional Studies classes the importance of interacting with and asking questions of professors.  

“I’m always asking questions,” he said. “My transitional studies classes taught me to be the student the professor wants and you will get the grade you want.”

Fulton also praised Toomey for her work advising students, particularly during the first weeks of class.

“The most important thing is she was very informing,” he said. “She was very helpful for me.”

Although CSC hasn’t done a specific study of students’ perceptions of transitional studies, Toomey said most of the feedback about the program has been positive.

“I hope that students see the program as a bridge to help them along the path to college success,” she said. “The courses are designed to help them build their academic skills in areas of need, and we hope they feel that we are meeting that purpose in addition to providing them support in areas outside the classroom.”

Based on his experience, Fulton said he would recommend the Transitional Studies Program to others.

“This is a good way for you to start off strong. The courses are designed for you to get off to a good start. Take advantage of that,” he said.

—George Ledbetter

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