KOKOMO, Ind. — For some students, starting college is like diving into the deep end of a swimming pool — they’re pretty sure it will be great, but also apprehensive about that first step.
The freshman class at Indiana University Kokomo can take the plunge without worries by participating in the week-long Summer Bridge program, which teaches them the skills they need to successfully navigate the waters.
For Stephen Sanders, this opportunity offered him a smoother transition between high school and college.
“It’s not just throwing you straight into the pool and expecting you to swim. They’re showing you the steps,” he said. “You’re still getting pushed, but you’re prepared for it.”
More than 60 incoming students will begin the fall semester with one credit for completing the Bridge program — and they also arrive with new friends among their classmates, knowing where their classes are, and where to find help if needed.
Christina Downey, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success, said data from the past three years shows that students who complete the program are more likely to return for their second year and beyond, compared to those who do not.
“By familiarizing students with the physical and social environment of campus, students build connections and knowledge that help them succeed and stay beyond their first year,” Downey said. “They learn the layout of the campus, understand offices and services available, get pointers on how to manage their time, study for classes, and stay motivated to succeed.”
“It’s helping relieve my stress a little about being in a new environment,” Sanders said. “It helps get you familiarized with everything.”
During lunch each day, special guests from advising, financial aid, career services, and other departments, introduced the new students to what is available on campus.
One activity sent the students on a photo scavenger hunt to get a better understaning of where offices are located.
“We’re giving them more tools in their tool boxes to draw on as things come up during their first year,” said April Mouser, assistant dean of the pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. “They have at least been exposed to these resources, and they have contact information for us to serve as mentors, and for the people they’ve met this week.”
During the scavenger hunt, Nelly Zimbron’s group took a silly selfie with a campus police officer. The next morning, she parked in a different location than she had before, and happened to see that officer patrolling on a golf cart. Because she had met him, she was comfortable asking for directions.
As nursing students, Melanie Garcia and Josie Martin appreciated the chance to talk to their Bridge instructors, and ask specific questions about getting into the School of Nursing.
Lindsey Osburn, a recent Kokomo High School graduate, was relieved to learn how easy it is to order textbooks, and that there is help available when she starts writing papers.
“I was excited to see the writing center in the Library,” she said. “I’m going to be using that a lot.”
IU Kokomo received grants from the IU Women's Philanthropy Leadership Council and Destination Education to support the Bridge program.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.