Scholarly investigations of the first year experience identify various difficulties for students, yet few studies investigate how those difficulties relate to each other or how students’ appraisals help to overcome them. We asked two cohorts of first-year students (109 in 2013, and 98 in 2014) about their experiences with 11 commonly-cited difficulties. They used concept maps to make comparative judgements about their difficulties, appraised their biggest difficulty, and rated how they engaged with that difficulty. The students experienced multiple difficulties at a time. Time management, work load and others’ expectations were the most prevalent and biggest difficulties. Students who appraised their difficulties as challenging or benign were happier with how they addressed their difficulty than those who appraised difficulties as harmful or threatening. Implications include the benefits of addressing more prevalent issues, understanding that students face multiple difficulties, and helping students change their perspectives of their difficulties.
First year students’ perceptions of their difficulties
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