Off to college...and a new land: Rowan sociologist sees similiarities between experiences of college freshmen, immigrants

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So you feel like you're sending your college-bound child off to a foreign land? In many ways you are, says Rowan University sociologist Jay Chaskes, who has studied the first-year college experience

So you feel like you're sending your college-bound child off to a foreign land? In many ways you are, says Rowan University sociologist Jay Chaskes, who has studied the first-year college experience.

The experiences college freshmen have--and the challenges they face--are akin to immigrant experiences, according to Chaskes, founder and director of the Center for the Study of Student Culture at Rowan.

"A college student's first-year experience is a process of re-socialization to a new cultural environment very much like the process of acculturation that immigrants experience upon arrival in their new homeland," says Chaskes, noting that first-year students must adapt to the collegiate culture, build a social network with classmates and learn a new academic "language."

But many first-year students expect their experiences to be much like high school, says Chaskes. To help freshmen adjust, schools across the nation have paid careful attention to the "first-year experience." Still, Chaskes, who teaches a senior seminar course on the sociology of the college student, says more attention needs to be paid to students throughout their collegiate careers.

"Everyone thinks the freshman year is difficult, but many schools lose most of their students in the fourth and fifth semesters," says Chaskes.

Students who are most successful in college generally know their strengths and weaknesses, according to Chaskes.

"The most successful ones understand their deficiencies," he says. "They know what they do well and what they have to work on. Most importantly, they're not afraid to ask for help."

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