Be brave: Welcome to a whole new world! Using mentor telephone calls to increase attendance at orientation and support transition

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Transition to university starts well before students set on foot on campus. This process of transition is birthed by submitting an application for university, and grows when offers are accepted. This period can be a ‘pendulum... between excitement and terror’ (College Parents of America, 2015). For the vast majority of commencing students, tertiary study is new and university life is an unknown. There is considerable literature addressing the importance of embedding transition pedagogy across topics, courses, co-curricular activities and institutions (Kift, 2009). Many institutions now invest significant effort and resources in supporting the successful transition of their commencing students with carefully designed orientation sessions, peer mentoring programs and the like. Invitations to orientation events can be both exciting and intimidating. Some students may see no need to attend because they believe they are already experienced and expert learners, despite having no higher education exposure. At the other end of spectrum, some students may be too scared to come – perhaps because they don’t know what to expect, have no experience of university, don’t know anyone, or are too shy. Increasingly too, students seek to maximise paid work outside formal semester periods, and/or have caring responsibilities, and so regard attendance at orientation events as an optional luxury they simply cannot afford. When students choose not to or can’t attend these events, they can miss crucial opportunities to connect early with their cohort and peer mentors, so important in building the senses of connectedness, capability and resourcefulness identified by Lizzio (2006) as critical for successful transition. This presentation will report on an innovative project in 2015 at Flinders Law School to increase a sense of personal connection in prospective students as early as possible, injecting support into their process of transition prior to actually coming to campus. It will discuss the process of development and implementation of the project, and how the project has benefitted commencing students. Informal review of students identified as ‘at risk’ at Flinders Law School since 2011 showed a high correlation with students who did not attend the New in Law orientation program or access the student peer mentor provided. This suggested it was vital to invest resources early in ensuring students actually attend and participate in orientation activities before semester commences. We saw potential in an institution-wide Student Success Program piloted at Flinders in 2014 that used phone calls to contact students identified as being ‘at risk’ in weeks 2, 4, and 8 (Kutieleh, Seidel & Hutchinson, 2014). We designed a similar intervention that was pro-active rather than reactive and that took place even earlier - immediately after students received an offer, which they might still be considering accepting, and when they were likely to nervous, anxious, or unsure about their capacity to succeed. Recognising the role of our student peer mentors as a ‘guide through the early stages of studying law’ (Rodrigo, Khamis, Lead, Sahukar, McDonagh and Nguyen, 2014, p. 113), we considered them to be those best placed to make this initial contact with prospective students, ensuring that prospective students received a telephone call from the mentor who would be allocated to them for the entirety of Academic Semester One (part of our annual Mentoring Program for commencing students). As part of the project, we developed telephone protocols and scripts, frequently answered questions, and detailed referral information. We also provided extensive training for mentors. Initial feedback from new students and mentors has been overwhelmingly positive, and improved attendance at orientation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventHigher Education Research Group of Adelaide Conference 2015 - Brave New World: the Future of Teaching and Learning -
Duration: 21 Sept 2015 → …


ConferenceHigher Education Research Group of Adelaide Conference 2015 - Brave New World: the Future of Teaching and Learning
Period21/09/15 → …


  • Orientation & Transition
  • Peer mentoring
  • Legal education
  • Telephone calls
  • Student engagement


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