drexel skyline
Jordan Gunselman / Billy Penn

Philly campus resources: What to do if you’re new

Peer mentorships, commuter assistance, ESL classes and other programs local colleges offer first-time students

drexel skyline
Jordan Gunselman / Billy Penn
screen_shot_2017-07-08_at_2.45.41_pm

Philly college students are officially back on campus. And while some will settle into their new routines once they find all their classrooms and figure out where to park, others need more help.

Many local universities offer special programs meant to guide students into their new lives — whether for an international student who needs help mastering their English, or for a transfer who’s feeling overwhelmed walking around a bustling city campus.

Temple University’s Student Government recently announced the beginning of the Peer Mentor program for “first-generation, international, immigrant, transfer, commuter, or other students.” Because let’s face it, being a first-year student can sometimes be a nightmare.

Here’s a look at what Temple and other Philly colleges are doing to help new students find their way.

Temple University

The Peer Mentorship program will run during the fall semester, wherein new students will be paired with upperclassmen who will go through an application process to become mentors (apply here). The mentees and mentors will meet up twice a month on dates that they schedule themselves, said Kayla Martin, vice president of services for Temple Student Government.

“We noticed there was a lack of resources for students in marginalized groups,” she said, “specifically groups that have a hard time assimilating to college life.”

Students in the program can also go to TSG members for any additional help they may need. Martin said she hopes a department in the university will eventually house the program in collaboration with TSG, which would partnership would ensure the program’s longevity.

Drexel University

The Center for Learning and Academic Success houses several programs during the year and one during the summer for all students. Any student who is low income, part of an underrepresented group (such as African American, Native American or Latino), or autistic can apply to these programs, listed here.

International students at Drexel can rely on the office of International Students and Scholars Services for advice or referrals on “immigration, cultural, financial, academic and personal concerns.”

St. Joseph’s University

The Early Arrival Program at St. Joe’s provides different opportunities for a variety of first-year students.

The Running Start program begins with a $60 pre-orientation (it ran August 22 to 26 this year), and is followed by a mentorship program that runs throughout the year with monthly workshops. Per the university, the students helped in this program are “first-generation, traditionally marginalized and underrepresented students, and those from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.”

The second program, Biology Experience Aimed at Growth, Learning, and Experience, is for biology and biochem majors — because the classes for those majors are hell. So, the program helps students adjust to science college-level classes over four days.

The AIM Program (which ran August 22 to 25) is open to all students, but it does cost $175 to participate in the four-day schedule. AIM focuses on the shift from high school to college through social activities and success seminars, per the university.

And several information sessions — mostly about transitioning to college — were offered this year during orientation.

University of Pennsylvania

Penn doesn’t mess around when it comes to helping first-year students get settled in. The university offers several programs before and during the school year.

The Peers Helping Incoming New Students program pairs incoming freshman, transfer, and exchange students with current students. The students talk through Facebook over the summer and meet at New Student Orientation.

Wharton students who are from “underrepresented groups” can relax if they receive an invite to apply to the Successful Transition and Empowerment Program. The three-day program allows students to discuss with and meet student mentors, academic advisors, cultural center leaders, and more.

Another year-long resource the university offers is the First-Generation, Low Income Program, which began in 2016. Per the program’s site, FGLI supports students’ “academic, personal, and social transition.” Here’s a detailed list of services.

International students can get help transitioning to Penn from either the International Student and Scholar Services, which provides immigration assistance, workshops, and events  or the International Mentorship and Orientation Committee, which organizes the mentorship program and the International Student Orientation.

Community College of Philadelphia

At CCP, International Student Services helps students with immigration assistance and course planning, and gets them adjusted to their new environment. Per the ISS site, the group organizes an orientation and several social activities and sightseeing trips throughout the year.

If any international students need help with their English, CCP has been offering ESL courses for more than 30 years.

La Salle University

The Multicultural and International Center at La Salle University is for new and current students from diverse backgrounds and international students from around the world. Here’s a list of the programs and services it provides.

Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University)

Trying to make friends and learn the ins and outs of a new campus can be tough when you’re not on campus full time. The Commuter Involvement Committee gives these students the chance to meet each other and talk about off-campus life.

First-year commuters are also assigned a Commuter Assistant, who also live off campus, but are older and wiser.

The Office of Commuter Life and Off-Camping Housing uses “C-CASH Auction” to get commuter students involved on campus, said Heather Weaver, director of student engagement at the university. Commuters get “C-CASH” certificates, which they can use to bid on prizes at the end of the semester. Yep, the best way to make a college student feel at home: free stuff.

Before classes start, the university offers Summer Orientation programs for transfer students and a two-day International Student Orientation program run by the International and Exchange Student Programs.

Chestnut Hill College

Chestnut Hill College begins to help commuter students during New Student Orientation. The orientation offers a commuter-focused session that educates new students about meal plans, parking, the bookstore, and a tour of the campus, said Emily Schademan, director of student activities at CHC.

A tour is a simple way to encourage a student to take a break in the campus’ commuter lounge as opposed to a local Starbucks, Schademan said. She also noted that CHC  has Commuter Assistants, who help plan community programs for about 40 students a semester.

This year, around 40 international students got a chance to meet each other and attend information sessions during a special orientation, said Trachanda Garcia, director of Global Education at CHC. During the two-day orientation international students were treated to hoagies, soft pretzels and water ice. (Welcome to Philly, have some carbs, salted meats and sugar.)

Holy Family University

At Holy Family’s New Student and Transfer Student Orientation, students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and first-generation students have the option to meet and talk to other students, staff, and faculty members about the university.

Transfer students can also benefit from specific programs tailored for them during orientation, said Mike McNulty, assistant vice president of Student Life.