Getting Freshmen “Off and Running” to Success in College

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Nearly 90 percent of four-year colleges and universities across the United States have implemented some form of first-year experience or freshman seminar program on their respective campuses. Although program models differ in structure and implementation, fundamental to each program is the goal of helping incoming freshmen successfully transition to college. Despite this common goal, many universities are encountering an increasingly large percentage of incoming freshmen with underdeveloped college readiness skills, both cognitive and non-cognitive. This article describes an innovative freshmen seminar course at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Off and Running, and outlines how the course systematically leverages long distance running as a metaphor for success in college and in life. The Off and Running freshmen seminar course, culminating with a final half marathon run at the end of the semester, is described in detail. A particular focus is placed on how the running-based activities and assignments within this course assist first semester freshmen in making a successful transition to university life. This article provides a new method for engaging and orienting incoming students to university life. Recommendations for other institutions implementing similar innovative freshmen seminar courses, or wishing to improve existing similar first-year course offerings, are presented. The article concludes with a discussion of the limitations, suggestions for future research, and a general discussion of the implications of this course.