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    A qualitative study about first year students’ experiences of transitioning to higher education and available academic support resources

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    Successfully transitioning students to higher education is a complex problem that challenges institutions internationally. Unsuccessful transitions have wide ranging implications that include both social and financial impacts for students and the universities. There appears to be a paucity in the literature that represents student perspectives on their transition experiences. This research study aimed to do two things: first to better understand the transition experience and use of academic support services from the student perspective and second to provide strategies for facilitating a more effective transition experience based on student discussions. This research explores the experiences of primarily non-traditional students at one institution in Australia. Data collection involved two phases using a yarning circle approach. The first involved participants in small unstructured yarning circles where they were given the opportunity to speak freely about their transition experience and their use of academic support services. This was then followed by a larger yarning circle that was semi-structured to explore some of the themes from the small yarning circles more fully. The yarning circle data was analysed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six-steps of thematic analysis. The analysis indicated that participants felt that the available academic support services did not meet their needs. It also provided insight into how the students approach higher education and what they are seeking from their institution by means of support. One major finding that has the potential to impact transition programs around the world is that older non-traditional students appear to approach higher education as they would a new job. This shifts the lens away from the traditional transition program of social integration to one that uses workplace induction strategies as a form of integration. The recommendations from this study also include recognising and accepting the emotions associated with transitioning to higher education, reworking the transition strategies for non-traditional students and facilitating opportunities for engagement as opposed to providing them directly
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