Wheaton magazine

Volume 22 // Issue 1
Wheaton magazine // Winter 2019

Research on Student Transition Programs

Student transition programs have proliferated across the country in recent years, which isn’t surprising since more and more research is showing that these programs help students better adjust to college.

“Social support is the key predictor of a good healthy transition into college, so having a peer group that you’re close with—especially if they’ve gone through a program together—helps cast a vision for college, which has been shown to increase GPA, to increase engagement in college life, and reduce dropout rates,” says HoneyRock Director Rob Ribbe.

Wheaton Passage is unique in that the social network is not just composed of students’ peers, but of upperclassmen and faculty. “Passage is one of the few of over 200 programs like this in the country that has a high level of faculty engagement, so that the faculty actually become part of the social support as well,” Ribbe says.

In their own research, Wheaton professors Dr. Emily Langan ’94, Dr. Barrett McRay ’83, M.A. ’86, M.A. ’95, Psy.D. ’98, and Dr. David Setran ’92, M.A. ’94, found that Wheaton students report finding their closest friends first through residential life, but second through participation in Wheaton Passage.

Passage has also been the subject of four doctoral dissertations, including one from Ribbe, who found that engagement with the institution, social support, and overall transition to college were shown to be impacted by Passage. Another was from Yukon College’s Dr. Wally James Rude, who researched three outdoor orientation programs at Christian colleges, among them Wheaton Passage.

These days, Dr. Brent Bell from the University of New Hampshire is one of the foremost researchers on outdoor orientation programs. In 2010, he published the first-ever census of outdoor orientation programs in American colleges and univer-sities—and continues to study their growth and efficacy.

“Developmentally, the needs of incoming college students appear to be changing such that there is a gap between where they need to be in terms of readiness for college and where they are when they finish high school— and as that gap continues to grow, the impact of these programs is growing as well,” HoneyRock Passage Program Manager Rachael Cyrus ’14, M.A. ’15 says.