Students today need more than a college catalog to plan their future. The quickly changing demands of the professional world, graduate school, as well as the undergraduate experience require that a first year student be more sophisticated about personal strengths, setting realistic goals, and adapting to changes in society which influence their life in college. The First-Year Experience program is designed to give entering first-year students the tools to make intelligent decisions about personal matters, academic direction and career choices.
The First-Year Experience program is composed of a two-course sequence, taken in the fall and spring semesters, which is designed for and required of all first-year students. A member of the faculty teaches both First-Year Experience courses and the students meets this person during freshman orientation. This faculty member serves as an advisor, mentor and friend in order to help them adjust to college, succeed in their academic pursuits, and lay down plans for career paths that they will pursue after college. The faculty who teach in the First-Year Experience program do so by invitation only. These faculty members are especially dedicated educators who are committed to helping students adapt to and succeed in college. Additionally, each First-Year Experience program faculty is paired with a student mentor. These are upper-class students that have successfully completed the First-Year Experience program. These peer mentors offer additional support to new students both academically and socially as they help new students connect to the UT community.
One of the greatest challenges freshmen face is time management. Consider that in high school, each week a student is in a structured learning environment lasting about 35 hours per week where they are supervised by their teachers. In college, that number drops to about 16 hours. In those 16 hours, the lectures are typically delivered at a faster pace and the number of hours that a student must spend outside of lecture greatly increases if the student is going to master the material. In order to succeed in college, freshman must effectively manage their time outside of class, balance their academic and social life, adapt to new teaching styles and expectations, master outside readings, keep pace with lectures and assignments, plan their academic career to satisfy their degree requirements and begin to prepare for a career path.
The faculty also offer guidance in making these adjustments and discuss with the students individually how they are succeeding at four and eight weeks into each semester. They also help the students develop their planned course of study at UT and begin to consider career paths. Most important of all, Gateways provides the students with a faculty member whom they can seek out for guidance with both their academic life and other aspects of life at UT.