First-Year Experience

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About the Program »
Meet-n-Eat »
First-Year Student Skills »
Getting Organized »
Time Management »
Improving Study Time »
Test-Taking Guidelines »
First-Year Family Survival Tips »
Shifting Gears Unlimited (SGU) »

What is the First-Year Experience Program?

The Medaille College First-Year Experience is a holistic academic and sociocultural support program dedicated to helping first-year students become active members of the Medaille College community. Focused on high goals and expectations, students will participate in a six-week Summer Scholars Internship Program and will benefit from academic skills assessment, classroom instruction, personalized academic advising, supportive faculty relationships, structured study halls, monitoring of academic performance, tutorials, academic coaching, civic engagement and career exploration. The Medaille College First-Year Experience is a supportive community of faculty and staff dedicated to providing inclusive and rewarding experiences for first-year students.
In addition, the First-Year Experience will engage students’ families and support networks by providing opportunities to visit campus, access to campus officials, opportunities to participate in campus-based activities, and timely updates about important events during the academic year. Personalized mentoring opportunities, sociocultural activities, workshops and community-based projects are transformative experiences for participants.
The first year of college can be a difficult transition for students, especially first-generation and low-income students. The ultimate goal is to help students to grow as individuals by providing extra support in a safe and inclusive community. The First-Year Experience is designed to help students reach their own academic and career aspirations, complete their first year of college, and successfully matriculate as second-year students.


The Medaille College First-Year Experience presents MEET–n-EAT:

For first-year students interested in getting to know a Medaille College faculty or staff member better and also have some food and fun. Students can follow these three easy steps:

  1. Invite a faculty or staff member via email.
  2. Forward their reply, including your name, to Use the subject line “FYE Meet–n-Eat.”
  3. Pick up your Chartwells coupon (worth up to $15; only one per student) in the Main Building, Room 222. It’s that easy!

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First-Year Student Skills

Good students follow a set schedule, are organized and have excellent time management skills. Here are some strategies to help you become a successful first-year student. 

  • Attend class and pay attention. Don’t ask a professor to go over material you missed by skipping a class or not concentrating.
  • Come to class on time and do not leave early. If you have to enter a class late, do so quietly and don’t disrupt the class by walking between the class and the professor. You should not leave the class unless it is an absolute necessity.
  • Don’t talk with other classmates while the professor or another student is speaking. If you have a question or comment, you should raise your hand rather than start a conversation about it with a neighbor.
  • Show respect and concern for others by not monopolizing class discussion. Allow others time to give their input and ask questions. You should not stray from the topic of class discussion.
  • Turn off electronic devices like cell phones.
  • Avoid audible and visible signs of restlessness. These are both rude and disruptive to the professor and the rest of the class.
  • Focus on class material during class time. Sleeping, talking to others, doing work for another class, reading the newspaper, checking email or Facebook, or exploring the Internet are unacceptable and can be disruptive.
  • Don’t pack your book bag or backpacks to leave until the professor has dismissed class.
For further clarification, view classroom standards of conduct.


Get Organized This Semester

Use an assignment notebook or planner.

Take your assignment notebook to every class and record each assignment under the date it’s due. When you are given a large assignment, use your notebook to break it down into smaller parts. Whenever you are given a syllabus, immediately copy the assignment into your notebook or planner.

Use three-ring notebooks for class notes.

Three-ring notebooks work well because you can easily insert handouts, and if you miss a class, you can copy someone else’s notes and insert them where they belong.

Save all files in organized computer folders.

Most classes require that you write papers and do projects using a computer. Keep a separate, labeled folder for each class, and save all of your work in them. Make sure that computer folders are saved to a flash drive or hard drive. Always have a back-up.

Keep returned papers, quizzes and tests.

Have a folder for each class, and in that folder, keep all of your returned papers, quizzes and tests. Old quizzes and tests can help you study for future tests, and they can also come in handy if there’s a question about your grade. You can also use the old exams and papers to study for mid-term and final exams.

Save emails and phone numbers.

Make sure you have the email address or phone number of at least one person in each class, along with the professor’s email/phone numbers. Email addresses and phone numbers are helpful when you have a question about an assignment or an upcoming test. They are also helpful if you are going to be absent from class.

Maintain a neat and organized space.

Set up a desk or study area so that it has everything you need. In addition to paper, pens, and pencils, your study area might be equipped with a calculator, dictionary and a thesaurus.

Sign up to meet with a tutor or academic coach.

Sign up early for a tutor and try to meet every week. Tutors can help you with understanding content, readings and assignments. Sign up for an academic coach to keep you on track with your study skills, including time management and test-taking techniques. See your academic advisor/counselor/mentor whenever you need help with scheduling, finances, problems or other issues. You should seek their advice regularly during the semester.


Time Management Tips

Your time is very important. What you do with it today will determine your future. Follow these time management tips, and start using each minute wisely.

  1. Examine your old habits and search for ways to improve, change or eliminate the bad ones.
  2. Put up reminders in your home or dorm room about your goals.
  3. Always keep those long-term goals in mind.
  4. Keep a planner with you to jot down the things you have to do or notes to yourself.
  5. Plan your day each morning or the night before and set priorities for yourself.
  6. Develop a list of specific things to be done each day. Set your priorities and then get the most important things done first. Briefly evaluate your progress at the end of the day.
  7. Look ahead in the month and try to anticipate what is going to happen so you can better schedule your time (e.g., tests, presentations, papers).
  8. Try rewarding yourself when you accomplish a task (e.g., go out with friends, see a movie).
  9. When you catch yourself procrastinating, ask yourself, “What am I avoiding?”
  10. Start with the most difficult part of projects. Once the toughest part is done, you might find that the rest is far easier.
  11. Catch yourself when you are involved in unproductive activities and stop as soon as you can.
  12. Find time to concentrate on high-priority projects or activities.
  13. Concentrate on one thing at a time.
  14. Think on paper when possible—it makes it easier to review and revise your plans.
  15. Be sure to set deadlines for yourself whenever possible.
  16. Ask for advice or help when necessary.
  17. Examine and revise your goals on a monthly basis.
  18. Stop regretting your failures and start learning from your mistakes.
  19. Find something to enjoy in whatever you do.
  20. Remind yourself, “There is always enough time for the important things. If it’s important, you should be able to make time to do it.”
Material adapted from: Dartmouth Academic Skills Center and Alan Lakein’s How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life.


Seven Effective Ways to Improve Your Study Time

It’s difficult to juggle a job, family life and school. That’s why it’s important to maximize your study time. Here are seven keys to help you improve your study time and avoid distractions.

  1. Choose Your Best Study Time. Most people study when they can find time, but it might not be the best time for you. Do you work better in the morning, afternoon or evening? Whenever possible, study when you feel you are at your best. Time spent studying during those periods will maximize your study time.
  2. Choose The Best Location. Most people study at home because it’s the most convenient, but it can also be distracting. If possible, find a location where you study best. If you study better with background noise, consider a local coffee shop or in the Sullivan Center. But if you need total silence, consider your neighborhood library or the Medaille library in Huber Hall.
  3. Use Note Cards. Note cards or index cards allow you to study whenever you have a free moment. Leave the cards in your pocket or bag and pull them out whenever you have a free moment. You’ll be amazed how much studying you can get done just by referring to note cards daily.
  4. Don’t Procrastinate. Most students procrastinate on big projects or tests because it seems like it will take a long time to finish. To avoid procrastination, don’t think of your assignment as something gigantic. Instead, break the project into small, manageable sections. 
  5. Reward Yourself. Another key to studying well is to think positively about your study time. Plan on rewarding yourself afterwards.
  6. Study Groups and Tutoring. Time spent in a study group or with a tutor can help make studying more enjoyable and more effective. It might not always be practical to meet with a study group, but even a brief meeting with other students can help you focus on key areas to review. They can also clue you in on something you might have missed in class.
  7. Take Breaks. Take breaks every hour to relax your mind. Try 10 minutes each hour. It’s refreshing to take a break, and it gives your whole body time to rejuvenate. It’s recommended that you spend your break walking around and stretching a little bit. It might make your mind more focused when you return to work.

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Test-Taking Guidelines

General Strategies

  • Always arrive early and take a moment to relax and reduce your anxiety.
  • Listen attentively to last-minute instructions given by the professor.
  • Read the test directions carefully and watch for details.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Rely on your first impressions
  • Plan to finish early and have time to review your answers.
  • Consider every test a practice session; analyze your performance each time.

True/False Questions

  • When you do not know the answer, mark it true!
  • Look for any factor that will make a statement false.
  • Look for extreme modifiers that tend to make the question false: all, always, only, invariably, none, never, nobody, no one, best, worst, everybody.
  • Qualifying words tend to make a question true: usually, some, probably, might, frequently, seldom, a few, often.

Multiple-choice Questions

  • Read each question with the intention of answering the question without the choices that follow.
  • Use the process of elimination when you do not know the answer for certain. In other words, eliminate the obviously incorrect answers first.
  • When the question has a multiple numerical answers and you are unsure, choose from the middle range of numbers, not from either extreme.
  • Select answers that are longer and more descriptive.
  • When similar answers are given, it is likely that one of them is the correct choice.
  • Watch out for negative words and how they affect the truth.
  • Questions that state a reason tend to be false.

Sentence Completion or Fill-in-the-blank Questions

  • Read the question with the intention to give an answer and make sure the sentence is grammatically correct.
  • Be aware of the number of blanks in the sentence and the length of the blanks. It could be a clue to the correct answers.
  • Provide a descriptive answer when you cannot think of the exact word or words.

Matching Questions

  • Examine both lists to determine the types of items and their relationships to one another.
  • Use one list as a starting point and go through the second list to find a match.
  • Go through the entire list before selecting a match because a more correct answer may follow.
  • Cross off items on the second list when you are certain that you have found a match.
  • Do not guess until all absolute matches have been made because you will likely eliminate an answer that could be used for a later choice.

Essay Questions

  • Organize your thoughts before you begin to write.
  • Paraphrase the original question to form your introductory statement.
  • Use the rules of English composition.
  • Write clearly! Professors need to be able to read it.
  • Include lists or bullets whenever necessary or possible.
  • Carefully read the essay question and identify the verbs or words in the question that give you direction and guide your answers.

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Survival Tips for First-Year Families

Making the jump from high school to college can be challenging. The first-year experience can be a difficult transition for students, parents and family members. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Anticipate changes. It’s to be expected that the student you send to Medaille College will change. We may not always understand or like it, but keep in mind that change is also growth.
  2. Communicate often, but don’t be surprised if you don’t get much information. Try open-ended but specific questions about life at Medaille. Try not to be dismayed by the shortness of an answer, especially in an email or text message. Ask questions, but not too many!
  3. Have faith in your student. Let them solve their own problems. This is how they acquire good critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  4. Being independent is challenging. You will be helping your student by just being there. Students often feel like no one understands their stress. Just listen, and create an atmosphere of support. The family that accepts and tries to understand the student’s experience is providing support and encouragement when it is needed most.
  5. Take time to discuss finances. Many college students are still financially dependent to some degree. Communicate with your student about the family’s financial situation. They need to know how much money will be available and how much of the financial responsibility is his or hers.
  6. College isn’t perfect. There are ups and downs just like any other new experience. Meeting new people and adjusting to new situations takes a lot of time and concentration. 
  7. Understand, but try not to overreact, to pleas to come home. This will pass. Your student may be happy one day and sad the next. It’s to be expected. Just being there to listen is important.
  8. Encourage your student to get involved in student activities, clubs, organizations, athletics and events. There are many opportunities to get involved. Students say getting involved is the best way to get adjusted to Medaille.
  9. Keep your student informed of everything going on at home. Letters, care packages, text messages and emails help them feel connected while they are away.
  10. The Student Health Office and Counseling Services Center are available. If your student is ill or is having trouble coping, there are professionals trained in dealing with these problems right on campus.
  11. There is always someone to help: professors, advisors, counselors, RAs, friends. The entire Medaille College community is dedicated to helping first-year students. Do not hesitate to ask for help. If you are afraid, call the First-Year Experience at (716) 880-2152.
  12. Prepare for their return. When the semester ends and your student returns home for breaks, plan to sit and discuss the rules of living at home. The family needs to respect the independence the student has worked hard to achieve. The student still needs to acknowledge the rules of the family household.

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Shifting Gears Unlimited (SGU)

Shifting Gears Unlimited is committed to conducting one-on-one meetings with each first generation college student as well as their families, in an effort to ascertain the student’s readiness to success in the higher educational environment. Through this intervention, SGU will identify negative feelings, personal apprehensions and possible environmental challenges that may have an impact on their academic achievement.

Shifting Gears Unlimited will conduct one hour confidential sessions, with no limit as to the number of sessions, based on the students’ academic availability. On a case by case basis, a parents, guardian or family member will be asked to participate during a success.  In the hopes of adding supportive insight, to the goal of creating and/or strengthening the first generation college student’s academic path forward.

Please contact James Ramsey at (716) 880-2152 or via email to learn more.

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