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College student success Archives - College Bound Advantage

How to help your student succeed in college: Beyond Frog Camp

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In my last blog, we looked at the Frog Camp Experience at Texas Christian University (TCU). The program is designed to help students learn about TCU while deeply connecting with each other, several student leaders, and a member of the faculty or staff. The result is a substantial bump in first to second year retention and clear anecdotal evidence that students are motivated to succeed when they are intentionally connected to their college and a small, cohesive group of others.

Unfortunately, while programs like Frog Camp are strong in Texas (e.g. Fish Camp at Texas A&M, Mustang Corral at SMU, etc.) they have not migrated to Ohio colleges with the sole exception of “Camp Blue” at the University of Dayton. So, what are the options for students in their first year at other Ohio colleges?

First, let’s define the aspects of Frog Camp that provide the magic. In order for these benefits to accrue to students, the program or organization should provide the following: (1) an intentional and ongoing engagement with a small group of peer students, student leaders, and at least one member of the faculty or staff; (2) a set of designed, shared experiences that foster the development of authentic relationships and group cohesion; and (3) an experience that will help students identify with the college through its history, activities, and traditions. The result is that each student will have a strong, diverse, and capable support group and a deep identification with the college.

So, what are the options? If you and your student attended your college’s orientation, you had a first hand opportunity to observe a group of students who have been through such an experience – your orientation student advisors. They were housed together, trained together, educated on all aspects of their college, connected to faculty and staff, and provided opportunities to serve their community – they have the magic. But what about the new student orientees? Unfortunately just attending orientation does not satisfy the above criteria so, while it may have been a helpful experience, it was not a “Frog Camp.”

Well, enough of that. Let’s cut to the chase. Here are some ideas of the types of experiences I am talking about:

  1. Residential Learning Communities (see prior blog on this topic)
  2. Residential Advisors (RAs) – these residence hall advisors are trained and supported just like our orientation advisors
  3. Social Fraternities and Sororities
  4. Immersive leadership development programs that meet the criteria
  5. Optional pre-college trips, excursions, service projects, etc. that satisfy the criteria. Some colleges offer backpacking trips or assign groups to Habitat for Humanity Homes, or offer other travels together.
  6. Immersive Study Abroad trips that are designed in such a way as to meet the criteria
  7. Athletic teams (varsity or club sport) that meet the criteria. Some coaches who intentionally tend to culture can make these exceptional experiences…others…not so much. Intramural sports do not, in and of themselves, satisfy the criteria.
  8. Any student organization in which the student takes on a sigificant leadership role. Membership and involvement helps, but doesn’t necessarily meet the criteria.

So, encourage (and coach) your student to identify and engage possible “Frog Camp” experiences at their college. You will know when your student has completed a “Frog Camp Experience.” They will be happy, engaged, connected, empowered, motivated…..and wouldn’t dream of leaving until they walk across the stage with their friends and accept a diploma from the college they love.

Next time, we will look at the academic side of the house and how an equally powerful motivating force can emerge there.

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

How to help your student succeed in college: The secret I learned from Frog Camp

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I began my professional career in higher education at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Ft. Worth, Texas. The first project I worked on was the development of an incoming student retreat program that we ultimately named, “Frog Camp” (TCU’s mascot is the Horned Frog). The camp was a four-day, three-night retreat to a nearby camp. At the camp, students were grouped into “Frog Groups” of ten-twelve students and partnered with a member of TCU’s staff or faculty and two upper-class student leaders. Over the days ahead, students went through low and high element challenge courses together, learned about TCU’s history, traditions, and spirit, shared their hopes, challenges, and dreams with each other, and generally had a great time together. By the time they returned to TCU, they had a close group of friends, a strong connection with at least one member of the faculty or staff, a connection to two upper class student leaders, and an emerging identity as a “Horned Frog.” Frankly, we were surprised by the enthusiasm and energy accruing to the program and even more surprised by its impact on retention. In its fourth year, participation in Frog Camp was second only to fraternity/sorority life in its impact on whether students returned to TCU for their second year.

Consider this: at TCU, students involved in a fraternity or sorority had a first to second year retention of nearly 92%. Students attending Frog Camp and in a fraternity or sorority were retained at a rate of 94%. Students only attending Frog Camp were retained at 90% and students who did neither were retained at a rate of 68%. These results are compelling and suggest that students stay in college and graduate when they wouldn’t dare to leave college because their experience, friends, and involvements have become so important to them.

In my opinion, colleges all over the United States spend thousands asking departing students why they are leaving. While these students may be able to offer reasons, I believe that they are, in most cases, leaving because nothing happened to them while they were there that made it unthinkable that they would ever leave.

My Frog Camp experience has forever colored my thinking about retention and it illustrates the immediate importance of helping your student identify and execute means to get involved and connected as quickly as possible through immersive experiences that connect them to others and their college.

Join us next time as we look a little more deeply at the profound impact of campus involvement on student success and identify some options to help your student get connected.

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas.

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