The 6 Pathways That Indicate Whether Second-year Students Will Thrive

Posted by Beth Black on 4/9/19 9:39 AM

First Year Experience, Second Year Transition

people-2567915_640Supporting second-year students in the midst of the multifaceted transitions they face is more than a matter of getting them to persist into their third year. Instead, we want our students to thrive. Thriving is an expanded picture of student success defined by Laurie A. Schreiner as optimal functioning in the three key areas of academic engagement and persistence, interpersonal relationships, and psychological well-being (Schreiner, 2010). “Sophomores who are thriving are investing effort in their academic work and in the process of selecting a major that interests them and brings out their best. They experience a sense of meaning and purpose to their lives that provides direction as they engage in their classes, become involved in campus and community life, form healthy relationships, and make a difference in the world around them” (Schreiner, 2018).

Through analysis of a decade’s worth of data gathered via the Sophomore Experience Survey (more info on their surveys here), Schreiner and colleagues identified six consistently significant pathways to thriving in the second year of college. An important finding of this recent work was that the significance of some pathways varied for certain racial groups.

  • Major Certainty: White and Latinx students who are sure of their major are significantly more likely to thrive. This pathways is not significant among African-American and Asian-American students in their second year.
  • Campus Involvement: Being involved in campus activities is a significant pathway to thriving for White students.
  • Student-Faculty Interaction: This is a powerful pathway for all students, but only if they are positive interactions. Especially beneficial are interactions where the student feels the faculty member is expressing a personal interest in them.
  • Spirituality: Many students in their second year are facing critical personal developmental questions of identity and purpose, making spirituality a strong pathway for thriving. This was especially true for underrepresented students, for whom this pathway is twice as strong a predictor of thriving.
  • Institutional Integrity: Does the institution deliver to students on its implicit and explicit promises? For example, it matters when students of color experience levels of diversity on campus lower than the implicit promises of recruitment brochures, or when first generation students discover financial aid and other institutional supports aren’t the same in their second year.
  • Sense of Community on Campus: This is the dominant pathway to thriving for most second-year students except African-Americans, for whom this is second following Spirituality.

What influence do librarians and the library have on these six factors?

Librarians, whether in a faculty or a staff role, have the potential to provide the positive student-faculty interaction and support the sense of community on campus. This might mean leaving the library to become involved as advisors to student organizations, mentors in programs that pair students with faculty and staff, advisors for service and study abroad trips.  Once these initial connections are made, the librarians being in the library, often a central place on campus, makes them more available that other faculty might be. It can be challenging to get to know students just being in the library because they are busy and we are busy; it sometimes feels as though we are separated by an invisible barrier. Yet, when we leave the library and join in the activities on campus, we begin to take that barrier down.

The library as a place has the potential to help fulfill the implicit and explicit promises the students perceive by looking at our policies through the lens of a second-year student. Do we inadvertently make it harder for students to find the information they need? Do we put up barriers to use of the library? Work with second-students to get a view of the library from their perspective. You might be surprised to learn things like students don’t understand the names we are using for key services, such as reference and circulation, and that they are intimidated by our service desks. Then change what you can.

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Schreiner, Laurie A. (2010). The “Thriving Quotient”: A new vision for student success. About Campus, 15(2), 2-10.

Schreiner, Laurie A. (2018). “Thriving in the second year of college: Pathways to success.” In Sophomore Success: Makin the most of the second year, edited by Laurie A Schreiner, New Directions for Higher Education, no. 183.

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