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January course promotes spring semester student success

Going back to school after winter break can be a challenge for students. To ease the transition into spring term, Aurora University in Illinois launched its January Jumpstart, offering prep classes on study and self-help skills.

What it is: January Jumpstart runs for three days in early January prior to the start of the spring semester. Faculty and staff teach the one-hour virtual workshops three times to give students multiple opportunities to join across the three days.

Aurora University staff selected topics based on student feedback in focus groups and surveys and ran 12 sessions in 2022 and nine sessions across three tracks in 2023: Academic Support, Financial Wellness and Launching Your Career.

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Academic Support covered procrastination, test-taking and academic reading skills. Financial Wellness talked about paying for college, building a budget and financial security. Launching Your Career discussed student values, career path design and searching for a job or internship.

In January 2022, 2,155 students participated in the workshops (with 98 percent reporting they were helpful), and 1,772 students participated this past January.

Fine-tuning: The workshops are a collaboration between departments, including career services, the Academic Support Center, financial aid and student success.

Career services, the support center and financial aid staff are responsible for designing and hosting presentations, and student success staff communicated with participants, promoted the event and tracked attendance.

Hosting the large-scale webinar also demanded some logistics. The first year, AU hosted January Jumpstart over Zoom and transitioned to a webinar format this year, streamlining the registration process and allowing more students to join.

The impact: Following the workshops, surveyed students reported higher levels of confidence in achieving the workshop’s goals, with 88 percent of students having more confidence after the 2022 workshops and 90 percent of students reporting increased confidence in 2023.

Participants had a financial incentive as well: those who attended three Zoom sessions for at least 50 minutes and completed a survey qualified for a $250 credit on spring tuition.

Scaling up: Looking toward next January, officials hope to include more students both in the workshops and in selecting topics. The university will also add financial workshops throughout the year to support students, as a direct result of feedback.

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