News - Preseason Learning: August Term Takes Freshmen From “Rookie” to “Seasoned”

Preseason Learning: August Term Takes Freshmen From “Rookie” to “Seasoned”

by Rachel Heston-Davis Preseason Learning: August Term Takes Freshmen From “Rookie” to “Seasoned”

This summer, Greenville University launched a pilot program that offers incentives to students who want to overcome educational gaps and succeed at college life.

Called August Term, the pilot program brings freshmen to campus three weeks early for a class called College Writing Strategies, which strengthens the critical thinking and written communication skills they’ll need in college. Students who earn a C or higher receive an extra $1,500 in financial aid from the University. 

The class is targeted to students who may not have received adequate academic preparation in high school and want to overcome this preparation gap for maximum success as an undergraduate. Twenty students enrolled this August.

Writing Walkthrough

“My goal is to get them familiar with the writing process,” says Instructor of English Zach Marshall, who teaches the class. His curriculum walks students through all phases of the academic writing process, from understanding tough readings to structuring a paper to self-editing and redrafting.

Students practice writing each day in class with short assignments and turn in a final project at the end of August. The final project invites students to reflect on their lives as they practice good writing. Each student chooses a piece of conventional wisdom such as “you only live once” or “just do it” and writes an essay critically examining the truths and shortcomings of that wisdom.

Marshall reports that the first August Term went well. He was excited about the work his students produced.

Newbies Together

This year, Marshall shared something unique with the August Term class. He, like them, is brand new to Greenville University.

Until last year, Marshall served as instructor of English at University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned his PhD. He, his wife and his daughter enthusiastically relocated to Greenville this summer where he would teach in the English department at Greenville University—starting with College Writing Strategies.

But Marshall had been here all summer. The 20 freshmen who arrived August 1 were even greener to Greenville, and because August Term convened before New Student Orientation week, Marshall’s class pulled double duty as writing workshop and unofficial orientation to college life. Mindful of this, Marshall connected with students outside of class and planned events in partnership with Residence Life staff. Members of the University hosted dinners in their homes during the first week of class to help students feel connected right away.

Carrot or the Stick?

The $1,500 of financial aid offered to students who successfully complete College Writing Strategies is part of what Director of Financial Aid David Kessinger calls “a carrot approach.”

He explains that most universities award academic scholarships with a “stick” approach: “If you don’t keep these [academic] standards, we’re going to take it away.”

“August Term reverses that,” he says. Instead of the fear of losing a scholarship, students are motivated by the promise of gaining something additional after they complete good work. 

Kessinger hopes this positive approach to motivation—and the entire August Term in general—will provide insight on how to better serve students.

“One of the things Greenville University has always excelled at in the past is taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary,” he says of the program.

Long History of Success

The University has a long history of working with students who weren’t able to reach their full potential in high school. The BRIDGE program in the early 1990s offered a pre-semester catchup course very similar to today’s August Term. Soon after, the University developed the PASS program (Professional Assistance for Student Success), still used today. PASS students are assigned an academic coach for the semester, meet with peer tutors weekly and meet with the Student Success office to assess their goals and academic performance.

Vice President for Development Linda Myette, who helped spearhead the BRIDGE and PASS programs in the ’90s, sees today’s program as a continuation of the values Greenville University has always upheld.

“Greenville has always believed in the potential of every student, and has been committed to providing an environment where students can grow and excel,” she says.

The freshly-minted August Term is part of the PASS program, which carries on as usual this fall.

The office of Student Success hopes that by observing this group of August Term students, they can answer an important question: will students perform better when they start their college prep—particularly the English class—before the regular semester? It can be hard to close the preparation gap while adjusting to a full course load and a campus full of back-to-school activity. Three uninterrupted weeks to hone writing skills could make a difference. 

“Regardless of academic preparation and background, everyone needs support at some point in their college experience,” Myette says.

Learn more about academic support at Greenville University:

Student Success at Greenville University

PASS Program

You help support every student on his/her unique educational journey when you contribute to the Greenville University Fund. Thank you for your support.

This story was published on September 18, 2017

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