ONLINE EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE
by: Amar Kapadia
Being a freshman in college is probably one of the most challenging things in life. More difficult than being a freshman in high school, college usually signifies transition into adulthood and the first time a person is away from his or her family for an extended time. With so many new situations and pressures, college academics can be overwhelming. There is however, a program designed to help those students who need extra guidance: Rider Achievement Program, commonly known as RAP.
RAP, according to its website, “… offers first-year students a highly specialized learning experience and is designed to give motivated students the assistance and guidance to achieve.” Mary Beth Carstens, assistant director of the Student Success Center, of which RAP is a part of, explains it as “an admit program at the university. So students are admitted into the Rider Achievement Program, and it’s a transition from high school to college program. It’s a pretty comprehensive program for the students. They’re in an academic class together. They also have a strategic learning workshop, which is a supplemental instruction model.” She also says that students take part in a course called freshman seminar, which helps guide students throughout their first year. The freshman seminar does not work like a traditional course, however, as it offers no credits. “So the freshman seminar is ten weeks,” Carstens continues. “It ends right before Thanksgiving break. And it’s really kind of like a Rider 101.” Some of the topics discussed are time management, ethics, and healthy eating. How to properly use Facebook is also taught to the students.
The RAP students are assigned a coach to guide them through the process. Students assigned to the RAP program arrive a week ahead of other students to participate in the Summer Bridge Program, which is a rigorous, one-week program designed to get the students acclimated to campus life, both academically and socially, according to the website.
Is the program available to all incoming freshman? “No, that is an admission decision,” Carstens says. Admissions was not yet available for comment. The students who are placed in the program have a lot of academic potential, but may have low test scores, she says. They are not placed on probation or something similar. “They’re fully admitted to the university, so they’re full matriculated students,” she says, explaining that the students have not decided on a major yet. “Through the process and working with us and working with their academic advisors, they determine a major throughout their first year, and they can declare their major at the end of the first year.
However, students who are not admitted to the program can still benefit from the services provided by Student Success Center. The only difference, Carstens emphasizes, is that the non-RAP students do not have the structural support that RAP students have. However, if a student who is not part of the program wants to discuss his or her academic situation, that person is always welcome to come, Carstens says. “College is a lot different than high school. So let’s talk about what the professors expect. Let’s talk about the resources available. And we do that in a packaged program for the Rider Achievement Program, but we do it for every student,” she says.
Students who have been through the RAP program feel as if they have greatly benefited from it. Angelina Franco, Senior Class President and Student Entertainment Council Special Events Chair, says “The RAP program is hands down is one of the best programs here at Rider. As a peer assistant I can honestly say that students placed in this program, who do the work and apply themselves, do exceptionally well and benefit from the experience.” She also says that, “The added support enables students to connect as part of the Rider community.” Cody Goodwin, Peer Assistant with RAP, and Class of 2014, says that initially, he was more excited to just be at Rider than be in the program. However, Goodwin says via e-mail, “When I found out more about the program, I was actually excited to know that all this support and guidance would be provided for me, and I got to move in a week earlier, which for most incoming freshman is a bonus.”
Katie Kochis, a Sophomore who is an Elementary Education/Public Relations major, along with being a RAP Peer Assistant, says that, “This program helped me figure out what major I wanted and how to use my resources on campus.” She goes on to say, “I truly believe that this program was the reason I was able to make the Dean’s list my freshman year and end with a high GPA. The habits that the RAP program taught me are still with me in my sophomore year, and has me stay really involved on campus.”
Laura Green, an alumna of Rider adds that “College is challenging, but RAP broke it down by giving me the tools to manage my time, study effectively, and create realistic goals and expectations. She says that she still keeps in touch with Mary Beth Carstens, her RAP coach and that the program “…helped me develop my own philosophy on how I want to help students the same way RAP helped me.” Green, who now works at the University of the Sciences as the Administrator of Tutorial Services/ Professional Advisor, also says that RAP “is a life-long program that I will always have a connection to.”
But should the program be open to everyone? Cory Goodwin thinks so. Goodwin believes that RAP should definitely be available to all incoming freshman because it can be proven that students who take advantage of this program not only succeed as students, but also as members of the Rider Community. While the program is not yet available to all incoming freshmen, Mary Beth Carstens says that, “… The services that we offer through the Student Success Center are available to all students.”