A few words from the editor - Laurie Schnarr, associate director, student life & counselling services
Student development and transition... when you think about it, the theme of this issue encapsulates beautifully the primary focus of our work in Student Affairs. Whether interacting with students at a Residence Porter's Desk, in one of the examination rooms in Student Health Services, on the rink, rugby pitch or basketball court, or in a CSD Advisor's office we are each here to support students in their transitions and to provide developmentally appropriate opportunities for them to learn and grow. To learn about themselves, the world around them, and others...
The reality is that we encounter students as they experience many transitions. Of course, the transition from high school to university comes readily to mind, but we all know that this does not represent the sum total of a student's transition experience. Many international students arrive on our campus without ever having worked, studied or lived in this country. Some new students share a residence room after never sharing a room in their lives! Other new students experience a campus population that is three times the size of their hometown. Thousands of new students make the transition from residential to off campus living in their second year of study. A large number of students change programs, experience relationship break-ups, and come to terms with a newly diagnosed disability. And, of course, in their final year of study, senior students en masse are planning to make the transition from university life to careers, post-graduate study, professional school, and work abroad among many other endeavours.
So what can we do to support students in the many transitions they experience? In this issue, Brenda Whiteside, Irene Thompson and Barry Townshend offer examples of the many challenges that are encountered - and the range of programs and services that are provided to students in the first year. Benny Quay sheds some light on the experience of international students. Alan Fairweather highlights the many supports in place - from intramurals through to varsity athletics - that engage students in their own growth and development. It is clear that a great deal is achieved throughout the division - often in collaboration with students and colleagues within and beyond Student Affairs.
Key to this work is a strong understanding of who our entering students are, and the developmental challenges they face as they make their transition to and through university life and study. The department of Resource Planning and Analysis recently released a summary of the 2008 Incoming Student Survey data (available at www.uoguelph.ca/analysis_planning/studentresults/) which offers a wonderful snapshot of the most recent incoming class. Highlights include:
• Distribution by race has been almost unchanged between 2003 and 2008. The incoming population is predominantly white (86%).
• Respondents’ fathers are most often business managers, business owners, engineers and skilled trades workers.
• Respondents’ mothers are most often business managers, nurses, school teachers and homemakers.
• The percentage of first-generation (any student who indicated that neither parent attended university for any length of time) has ranged between 29% and 36% over the past 6 years. In 2008, the percentage was 31%.
• The percentage of first-generation females has been consistently higher than males, ranging between 30% and 37%. 33% of females were first generation in 2008. The percentage of males has been between 25% and 32% and was 26% in 2008.
• Over the last 5 years, the percent of students whose parents were divorced or separated has remained constant at around 19% to 20%.
• The percentage of students speaking a language other than English or French at home increased slightly from 9% in 2004, to 11% in 2008.
• The percentage of students with disabilities remained unchanged at approximately 9%.
• On self-rating items, the trends over the years are fairly constant, with most students rating themselves in the average to above average range in most areas.
• Respondents tend to rate themselves the highest on drive to achieve, maturity and competitiveness. They rated themselves lowest on computer skills, artistic ability, problem solving skills and mathematical ability.
• The percentage of students who estimated their parents’annual income was more than $150,000, increased from 11% to 15%. At the same time, the percentage of estimates at the lower income bracket also increased, from 6% to 8%.
• During their past year in high school, females were more likely than males to frequently: feel overwhelmed by all they had to do, study with other students, tutor another student, do volunteer work, use a public library.
• During their past year, males were more likely than females to frequently: drink beer, use computer software packages, and do computer installations (hardware and software).
• Males were much more likely than females to rate their abilities in the highest 10% on almost all the self rating scales.
• On the two items in which female self-rating surpassed male self-rating, the differences were marginal. Females rated themselves higher on artistic ability and drive to achieve. There was no gender difference in self rating of artistic ability
• Males were more likely than females to agree with the following: taxes should be raised to reduce the deficit, the death penalty should be reinstated, there should be laws prohibiting homosexual relationships, a university degree increases earning power, and married women should stay at home. On most other matters of opinion, there were only slight variations between males and females.
• Females more often cited the following as important reasons for attending Guelph: Guelph’s academic reputation, scholarship offer, special educational programs, potential to be accepted at a top grad school, the attractive campus, and the friendly atmosphere on campus.
• Males were more likely to have chosen Guelph because of pressure from parents, guidance counselors or friends, or because of co-op programs. For most other factors, there were minor variations between males and females.
• Comparing on the basis of specific issues that could cause new students some concern, females were considerably more likely than males to be worried about everything. Females were also apt to worry about more things, and average of 5 items compared to an average of 3 items for males.
• Females were more likely than males to think there was a good chance they would: learn new computer skills, need tutoring, get a job, and use career or personal counselling during their time at university.
• Males were more likely to anticipate: taking part in work study or co-op programs, making the Dean’s list, and playing varsity sports during their time at university.
The transition experience - no matter when it occurs - can be overwhelming for some and exhilarating for others, depending upon the context. Without doubt, the Student Affairs team plays a critical role in supporting students, whatever that experience might mean for them.