The Voices and Experiences of College 101 Students at Kirkwood Community College
The purpose of this qualitative study was to provide insight into how community college students experienced college after completing a first-year experience course. The population studied included students at the main campus of Kirkwood Community College, a comprehensive community college in a suburban setting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The study examined the experience of the Kirkwood students who successfully completed College 101, Kirkwood's first-year experience course. Research questions included: Did the completion of the College 101 course in their first semester influence students' academic success? Did the completion of College 101 in their first semester influence students' sense of Kirkwood as the right fit for them? Did the students think that the completion of College 101 benefited them? How did the second-year students describe their first academic year at Kirkwood? What did the completion of their first year of college mean to the students?
Seven Kirkwood students, including five females and two males, were interviewed regarding their perceptions of their College 101 experiences and the overall experience of their first year of college. Narrative inquiry was the methodology used to explore their stories. Upon analysis, several themes emerged from the data, all of which promoted a new familiarity with the experience of these Kirkwood first-year students. Most of the themes overlap each other in content and support. The analysis resulted in the identification of five larger themes: Social Development, Academic Development, Career Development, Personal Development, and Personal Meaning. Those themes were developed after clustering smaller themes that appeared to support and define the larger themes.
Overall, the completion of College 101 appeared to influence the participants' academic successes and to confirm that Kirkwood Community College was a good fit for them. All participants gave overwhelming positive responses regarding the benefits they received from College 101. The study suggests that the Kirkwood College 101 model was effective for a small group of students.
While community colleges attract large numbers of traditional-age first-year students, there has been little research regarding first-year programming designed to help students acclimate to college. The bulk of the literature pertaining to first-year programming has been generated from four-year colleges. Indeed, most of the literature included in this study's review is primarily based on first-year students at four-year colleges. This study not only informs further development of the College 101 course at Kirkwood; it also suggests implications for the larger academic community regarding the experiences of first-year students at the community college.