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AIT wants to help its first year students get connected

Athlone Institute of Technology wants to help its first year students get connected

Going to college can be a daunting prospect and international research shows that making social and emotional connections is just as important as keeping up with course work when it comes to student retention.

AIT Connect is a new seven week programme which has been designed to help new AIT first years settle in and get off to a flying start in college. According to AIT Student Resource Centre Manager, Sarah La Cumbre, “We recognise that the first day and weeks on campus are overwhelming for most students. Rather than take a sheep dip approach by throwing all there is to know at them all at once, we have designed New Student Induction and the AIT Connect first seven weeks programme around specific themes to help ease the transition to college life.” For example, following their first aptly named ‘Get Started’ week, where classes commence and students get used to finding their way around, AIT runs ‘Get Connected Week’. The theme of this week is all about helping student find friends and make connections both with each other and with their department. A large scale, fun and all-inclusive team building event is hosted in their home faculty and the Students’ Union run a series of fun events for Freshers including such novel activities as a petting farm, comedy events and much much more.

It’s not all about the fun and games however. Week 4, ‘Your Learning Support Week’, centres around promoting and giving students access to supplemental academic supports. In addition to an extensive collection of hard copy and on-line library resources and supports, AIT offers additional tutor support across a wide range of subjects such as maths, programming, science and business. “Many students are faced with tackling complex subjects like chemistry or financial accounting for the first time without having studied these subjects at third level. This can cause stress and confidence issues. AIT has invested in tutor supports to help students pace their studies and keep up with new material.” AIT are also on the ball when it comes to supporting literacy and writing skills with a thriving Academic Writing Centre.

“I found the service excellent. It was so helpful to see the same topic delivery in a different way, the numbers in class were small so we could work at our own pace. I was calm and prepared for the exam. I also got a good grade which I was very pleased with.“
Roisin, 2nd year Health Science and Nutrition

Within the recurring theme of helping students Get Connected, a crew of AIT 2nd years will also play an important role in supporting their 1st year peers. The Peer Assisted Student Support (PASS) programme will also be in full swing in the first term, with 2nd year PASS Leaders running study sessions geared towards helping the newbies settle in and connect with each other and their peers in the year ahead.

Student success and wellbeing are a common theme throughout the student experience both in first year and beyond at AIT. Mental Health is high on the agenda and takes centre stage during AIT Connect ‘Mind Yourself Week’ which runs in the 6th week of term. The AIT Students’ Union has won prestigious awards at national level over the past 2 years for their well-being and mental health campaigns ‘Mind Your Mates’ and ‘Your Welfare Week’, as have the student-led Please Talk Society. AIT has a busy and dynamic counselling service, which offers free professional counselling to students. According to Head of AIT Student Counselling Service, Treasa Fox,: “In addition to regular scheduled counselling appointments, we offer a drop-in service daily throughout September, so students have rapid access to a counsellor if they are experiencing difficulties during this period of adjustment to college life”.

“If you are feeling overwhelmed with workload, have any worries or personal issues, there are support services available at AIT, people who understand and who you can talk to”.
Gillian Reidy, Nursing Student

Student Resource Centre Manager, Sarah La Cumbre, is passionate about her staff’s commitment and professionalism. She is herself a graduate of AIT who went on to complete her studies in UCD and UCC. “I’ve studied and worked in a number of 3rd level colleges and I can say from the heart that AIT is a great place to be for new students.”

Vice President Academic Affairs & Registrar, Dr. Niall Seery sums up the AIT approach thus:

“We have a community based approach here and look after our students really well. AIT is committed to supporting students reach their full potential and we have developed a range of supports to help with the transition to Higher education. The AIT connect initiative is an example of how we have invested in the social and emotional connectedness that forms the cornerstone for success”.

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