First Year Out – Just Not That Into Us

A sociologist at my institution, Tim Clydesdale, has written a book, The First Year Out, about the mindset of students during their first year out of high school. A main point of the book is that during their first year of college, students are primarily concerned with issues relating to “daily life management,” especially relationships with friends and family. Only after students have the “first year project” behind them will they become more open to the possibility of serious intellectual engagement.

I found this very helpful in explaining some of the complete blank looks I get in some of my instruction sessions with first years. It also fit well with my memory of my own first year of college. Clydesdale suggests changing our expectations for first year students and doing a better job of meeting them where they are. He suggests using any material in classes that has to do with personal relationships or personal conflict.

An example I thought of for library instruction could be that when introducing first year students to the variety of information sources–books, magazines, journal articles, web sites etc. to be also sure to include “people” as information sources. Talk about professors, librarians, and friends as sources of information. From there you could introduce the idea of trust and credibility, and how we trust the word of some people more than others. Then apply that to information, and how some information sources are trusted more than others.

In trying to understand and reach students, it’s useful to not lump them all together as “millennials” and to remember that first years are different. They’ve got a lot going on, and most of it’s not academic.

5 thoughts on “First Year Out – Just Not That Into Us

  1. Thank you Marc for sharing this. I am a MLIS candidate (December 2008) interested in working in academic libraries and your post has given me food for thought. If first-year students’ main concerns revolve around daily life management, then it behooves the library to link to local sites that address these needs–social hot spots, grocery stores, online communities, public library, student blogs, churches, etc. Campuses whose student body typically come from afar would be well served.

    Such provision of information can no doubt help students acclimate themselves to their new community and personal responsibilities. According to the information presented in your post, the sooner this happens, the sooner first-years will be able to absorb that which we hope to teach them.

    Thanks for sharing this Marc!

  2. I am using Clydesdale’s book as a resource for a journal article I am about to submit to a peer-reviewed journal. I spent a semester attending a freshman English class “as a student” and am writing up my experience – “My Freshman Year” was the initial inspiration for this.
    My findings match these for sure!
    Stay tuned …
    Eleanor Cook
    Appalachian State University

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