UWM expands help for new students transitioning from virtual high school

Because many graduating high school students attended their senior year in a virtual learning environment, they may need additional help transitioning to college.

UWM is expanding the number of students it can accommodate in its first-year bridge program and offering a second option for incoming freshmen who need to acclimate to college: a two-week summer program taken before the start of the students’ freshman year.

In UWM’s existing first-year bridge program, freshmen receive extra support as they take courses and earn college credit. Students do not earn college credit in the summer program, but they can qualify for a $250 scholarship if they complete the program, said Dave Clark, UWM vice provost for student success.

The two programs will potentially serve 250 more students than in the past. The summer session will accommodate 200 students, while Clark said he hopes to attract 50 more students in the yearlong program in the fall. The summer program is supported by funding from the UW System.

“We hope to be able to bring in additional students by targeting ZIP codes most affected by COVID-19,” Clark said. “Underprepared students who completed the one-year bridge program do better academically and persist longer than underprepared students who do not enroll in that program.”

Smaller classes, more help

UWM’s yearlong program for freshmen who are admitted on a conditional status take courses like other freshmen in the College of General Studies. But they are enrolled in smaller classes and choose from a limited number of courses, allowing for individualized academic advising and built-in resources, like professional tutoring and supplemental instruction.

The shorter, summer option includes instructor-led online workshops that prepare students for college-level reading, writing and discussion, while they learn about Milwaukee and UWM. Students also have the opportunity to improve their math placement before the fall semester begins.

Most of the summer program is offered online so that students have the flexible schedule needed to also work a summer job. It concludes with an on-campus visit that includes financial literacy training and an orientation to UWM campus and services.

Operating both programs will allow the College of General Studies to assess which approach works best for students, said Clark. The college is also investigating ways to help current UWM students who had taken online courses last year and will be transitioning “back to normal” in the fall.

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