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First Year Transition & Support

Embarking on your college career is an exciting step. Our First Year Team works closely with you before and during your first year to help you identify support, get connected and settle in at McDaniel. The office of Academic Life is the hub of this on-going support and is responsible for overseeing the First Year Experience. 


The goal of McDaniel’s First Year Experience is to connect students, in a “one stop” approach, to people, places and programs. New students are supported in their development within the offering of orientation, first year and transfer seminars, the Peer Mentor program, and overall programming and support for academic and social engagement in the college community. The First Year Experience aims to build a strong foundational base for new students and support their development into a lifelong path of learning and success at McDaniel and beyond.

student walks under balloon arch
students at McDaniel Local

McDaniel Local Taking your first steps on the Hill

McDaniel Local is a mandatory two-day, one-night event designed to help you get to know not only your new campus community but the larger Westminster community. Led by students known as “Local leaders,” the program allows you to participate in volunteer service and be introduced to campus resources and new classmates. McDaniel Local will hone your sense of purpose as you head into college and provide you with the opportunity to connect with student success coaches, faculty, and staff, and register for your fall classes.

new students at orientation

New Student Orientation All new students should plan on attending New Student Orientation.

New Student Orientation (NSO) brings you onto campus a few days before returning students arrive for the fall semester. Designed to engage and excite you about McDaniel, NSO is filled with activities and events to acclimate you to your new college community. Led by a team of enthusiastic peer mentors, you will attend workshops, team-building exercises, Introduction Convocation, and a walk down Main Street to meet more of the off-campus community.

A group of students plays Tripoley in a classroom. The professor points at the board.

First Year Seminars (FYS) The peer mentor you met at Orientation serves as your FYS Guide

First Year Seminars (FYS) are innovative topical and thematic courses on a range of subjects suitable for first-year students that introduce the liberal arts and sciences and support an academic transition to college. They seek to excite you intellectually and engage you as scholars. In addition to offering rigorous academic content, First Year Seminars focus on fundamental skills that are necessary for academic success: critical thinking, effective writing, analytical reading, and oral communication.

Another unique part of the FYS is the First Look series. These workshop-style sessions serve as a “how-to” for college and address topics such as time management, study strategies, and academic integrity.

Two students with laptops speaking in Hoover Library.

Student Success Coaches Ongoing first year support

As you adjust to the academic rigors of college, you will work with your own student success coach. They help educate you about college expectations, connect you to resources, and serve as a guide to help you navigate your first year in college.

Student success coaches meet regularly with you to provide a friendly, supportive environment where you will work through any transition challenges. They employ a holistic approach to advising and help you develop an individualized plan for your academic, professional, and personal success.

The Impact of First Year Programming

The Student Outreach Network

We understand that students may not always know how to ask for help but are demonstrating need through their behavior. The Student Outreach Network (SON) was officially implemented in early February 2007 to help students who might need it but don't know how to ask. Each week the SON group gathers to discuss students who are demonstrating various signs of “at-risk” behavior. As each student is discussed, members of the group provide up-to-date knowledge which includes, but is not limited to, academic performance, out-of-classroom involvement, disciplinary issues, and information gathered from faculty, coaches, family and friends. With key players at the table, we develop an appropriate plan of action to help provide comprehensive support. From week to week, staff and faculty members support the student by implementing this plan of action.

Grad students in classroom.
Lisa Lebo

Meet our Team Lisa Lebo Associate Director of the First Year Experience

I have a soft spot in my heart for first-year students, and I could not be happier in my role as the Associate Director of the First Year Experience and Transition Programs. I am responsible for planning and executing all of the events that relate to the first-year experience, including summertime Local sessions, New Student Orientation, the First Look series in the First Year Seminar (FYS), Jan term's "My Design," and other year-round programming. I also hire and train all of the Local leaders and FYS peer mentors. I am fortunate enough that I still get to be in the classroom as an instructor, too, and I teach both an FYS course that I designed as well as a section of My Design.

Connect With Us

Phone: 410-871-3305

Office: 2nd Floor


Roj Student Center
2 College Hill
Westminster, MD 21157