Transitioning Students to College Life

This story is featured in the Fall 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how caring staff transition students into college life.

What’s it like to make 1,500 new friends in a week? Scott Wojciechowski knows.

It happens each August as new students arrive at their home away from home. As HPU’s assistant vice president for student life, Wojciechowski is at the front door welcoming them in.

He’s part of a Student Life staff committed to enhancing students’ academic success and personal development by nurturing relationships before students move in. By the end of their first year, they are fully connected into residential and academic life.

Students know Wojciechowski and remember that his last name sounds like, “Where’s your house keys?”

He introduces himself this way when he first meets students like senior Courtney Morris, who was a freshman when he joined HPU in 2015.

“He’s encouraged me to go the extra mile and not be afraid to ask for help,” says Morris, an exercise science major from St. Augustine, Florida. “I was initially afraid to ask for support when I hit a roadblock I couldn’t overcome myself, but then I reached out to Scott. He has helped me gain confidence and my place on campus.”

For Wojciechowski, small interactions build the foundation for this kind of mentorship.

“Individual points of contact or just a smile can make you feel that you matter and that you belong in a place,” he says.

They are also the building blocks of a student’s first year at HPU. 

It begins with HPU 101: Live. Learn. Grow., an online orientation that introduces students to college. Then comes Welcome Week. Students meet their peer mentors, resident assistants, success coaches, faculty and a host of others.

They participate in HPU’s Common Experience, which involves them in meaningful, thoughtful interactions as a campus community. They read a book and participate in discussions and events centered on a common theme.

Throughout the year, students continue these discussions at community meetings in their residence halls and in First Year Seminars. They also have one-on-one Panther Chats with their resident assistants.

In all aspects, the first year blends the academic and residential experience together. HPU refers to this unique, cohesive approach as an “ecosystem of support.”

“Learning happens all around, 24/7, on every corner of campus,” Wojciechowski says. “That’s the beauty and transformative quality of college. We want to overlay as many layers of support as possible to help students learn from experience while having a safety net below them. We want to put as many people in your corner as possible.”

Morris, a peer mentor and part of this network of support herself, found out how important it is during the death of a family member.

“Scott helped schedule flights for me and my twin sister, Kelsey, to get to Pennsylvania to be with our family,” she says. “His help in that moment has been one of my most treasured memories and reminds me that HPU truly does care for its students.”

Wojciechowski’s personal experience inspires his work.

“My father passed away the day before I graduated high school, so I have a special place in my heart for the things folks experience in the adjustment to college,” he says. “I hope I’m putting as much back in the bucket as what others have poured out for me.”