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CLASSmates program connects first-year students

CLASSmates is a program designed to increase success during the first year of college. | File Photo/The Cougar

CLASSmates is a program designed to help increase student success during the first year of college. | File Photo/The Cougar

Connecting with your classmates when a new semester starts can be tough, doubly so if you’re a freshman. The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences offers a solution with their CLASSmates program.

Founded in 2011, CLASSmates is a cohort program for freshman, meaning students take classes together. The idea is that students will have a social experience and a strong support network of colleagues, so they’re more likely to be successful in their first year.

“Walking into the lecture hall, I can hear the difference between CLASSmates students and students in my other classes,” said Kelly Hopkins, a history professor teaching in the CLASSmates program since its inception. “CLASSmates students get to know one another much quicker because of their common courses.”

Hopkins said she became involved with the program when she learned about the initiative to help improve the learning environment of first-year students, particularly the large auditorium settings of many CORE classes.

“The students take the history and their political science introductory courses (first half) together, and are introduced to many services that the campus offers all students,” Hopkins said.

Advertising freshman Elena Ruiz, a student in CLASSmates, said she felt the program was helpful in keeping her education a priority, and connecting her with resources.

“I do believe having familiar faces in my classes benefits my grades by being able to reach out to them for help,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said that she’s still getting to know people, but it’s only the first month of classes, and she expects that the CLASSmates program will help her when it comes time to form study groups.

“It’s nice that we’re all on the same boat by being in the same classes,” Ruiz said. “There’s less of a barrier in reaching out and you’re more comfortable with one another.”

Incoming freshman with CLASS majors are automatically approved to the program, according to the CLASSmates FAQ.

The website also said the level of involvement for each student was up to them, and that the only requirement of the program is that the student enrolls in the CLASSmates designated courses. Students can even change their majors later, as the courses are core requirements that all degree plans need.

Joining a cohort program helps students “earn higher grades” and “express greater satisfaction with the University experience,” according to the FAQ, and Hopkins agreed that the connections are real.

“I always hear them talking to their classmates about anything and everything rather than tuning out the people around them with earbuds and whatever is on their phone screen,” Hopkins said.

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