CENTENARY COLLEGE (New Jersey)

From a report by Suzanne McCarthy, Director, Learning Support

We created two sections of our Academic Foundations course in 2007 specifically for undeclared majors and named it Major Discoveries.  We had thirty one students enrolled between the two classes and adopted On Course as our text and approach.

Course Experience

We followed the reading and journal writing schedule prescribed in the On Course Instructor’s Manual.  We complimented this with On Course interactive activities in class.   To help students better discover their own strengths and interests we had them complete the ACT Discover surveys and take the MBTI.  We conducted nine in-class information interviews with professionals from a variety of fields who work both on and off campus.  Each student was required to conduct three information interviews on their own as well as complete a half day shadowing experience in a work place.  These activities were followed up with a written reflection on each of these experiences and all of this was uploaded into an e-portfolio.

The final was an oral presentation with a power point or movie maker visual titled “My Next Steps.”  Many of these presentations were outstanding and truly reflected the self knowledge and the sense of empowerment they had acquired.  A sampling of statements in these presentations included:  “What I accomplish in college is up to me” and another student wrote “Make realistic goals.  Show up.  Make things happen.  Never settle for anything less then [sic] your best effort.”  Many commented on their experience of writing journals saying “It’s okay to feel big emotions.”  And it is “a good way to evaluate yourself.”

The Students

The group of 31 undeclared students included eleven who were provisional admits (“students whose credentials are insufficient for admission by the usual college standard may be given and opportunity to study” – Centenary College Catalog, 2007).  Additionally six of the enrolled students had accommodation letters from the Disabilities Service Office.

The Outcomes

At the end of the semester we reviewed their transcripts.  Nineteen students earned a semester GPA over a 3.0 including four with a 4.0, ten earned between a 2.0 and 3.0 and two failed to make minimum satisfactory academic progress.

As a group the undeclared students often seem “goal less.”  From a review of their final presentations it was evident that a few actually felt defined enough to declare a major.  For the majority they seemed to have a greater sense of self and possibility. Some  identified a general direction for study and work and others at least acquired the skill of how to explore a career path.  These students were empowered to be successful in their overall course load based on their first semester GPAs.  This was often demonstrated by their own vocabulary speaking of being creators and not victims, setting goals and managing their lives as students. 

Conclusion: A comparison of CentenaryCollege’s Undecided Freshmen first semester grades for the two years’ prior shows the 2007 group as a whole earned higher GPAs with the On Course program as the underpinning for their Academic Foundations course, especially in the 3.5-4.0 range.

YEAR

GPA 0-1.0

GPA 1.0-1.5

GPA 1.5-2.0

GPA 2.0-2.5

GPA 2.5-3.0

GPA 3.0-3.5

GPA 3.5-4.0

Fall 2005*

3%

0%

9%

13%

25%

28%

22%

Fall 2006*

5%

18%

9%

13%

5%

27%

23%

Fall 2007**

3%

3%

7%

16%

13%

26%

32%

* Undecided students were in various Academic Foundation courses

**Undecided students used On Course as text and curriculum