The Importance of the Senior-Year Transition


Author
Matt Skoy, NASPA IV-W, Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community Representative

Published
February 28, 2017


The discrepancy between those preparing students and those hiring graduates has created problematic issues. Employers are searching for students with an array of leadership skills in addition to their degree. As a result of their search, employers have noticed important skillsets that college graduates are lacking. If this problem is not addressed, the dissatisfaction from employers may significantly grow and potentially create a greater divide between industry and institution. As a result, college students may begin questioning their financial investment in their college experience, and the purpose of America College’s may be mocked. So how much attention should faculty, staff, and administrators on college campuses invest in the senior-year transition?

The first year experience has received national attention over the last 20 years. Colleges and universities have created many successful and intentional initiatives to serve the first-year student. The authors describ a successful first-year experience as a sum of many parts ranging from curricular and co-curricular experiences interacting together creating a holistic experience for students (Upcraft, Gardner, Barefoot, & Associates, 2005). These initiatives have been used to increase retention rates and promote graduation rates. According to Gardner (1998) the transition from college to work is similar to that of a first-year transition.

Gardner (1998) both the freshman and senior year transitions are critical for students attending college. Similar to the freshman year transition, successful senior year transitions involve a holistic approach creating a link between academic and student affairs. The first-year experience builds the foundation for the senior-year transition. However, limited research has been done related to the senior-year transition and the benefits associated with investing resources into a graduating student. Gardner argued multiple benefits may emerge as a result of a successful transition ranging from improving relationships between corporations and colleges, building intentional partnerships between student and academic affairs, and improving alumni engagement. These benefits may create pathways for college representatives and employers to engage in conversations regarding how to best prepare graduates for work.

As colleges and universities continue to define their role in our global educational system, these conversations will continue to evolve. Colleges and universities play a critical role of transitioning the first-year student into the university and the same should be true with the senior-year transition into the workforce. Our colleges and universities should be providing the leadership opportunities necessary for our graduating students to be successful after college. How can we as educators contribute in a positive way to ensure all stakeholders are being served, while the success of each student is at the forefront of our decisions and actions?

References

Gardner, J. N., & Van der Veer, G. (1998). The Senior Year Experience. Facilitating Integration, Reflection, Closure, and Transition. Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94104.

Upcraft, M. L., Gardner, J. N., & Barefoot, B. O. (2005). Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student: A Handbook for Improving the First Year of College. Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of Wiley. 10475 Crosspoint Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46256.


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