Summer Enrollment Key For Football Freshmen

The NCAA now permits colleges to enroll new student-athletes for summer classes to acclimate them to college and get a head start on their class work. The Fighting Illini football team has signed a large freshman class. They plus a number of walkons need a great deal of help from the academic staff.

Kristin Kane has been busy this summer. Illinois football's head academic counselor Kristin Kane describes the opportunities and needs for entering freshmen.

"In June, we have all our freshmen come to campus for the first time. We've been working with them over the last couple of months to get prepared for this. Setting up their orientation, setting up their summer housing.

"It's been 6 or 7 years the NCAA has allowed freshmen to come on campus to take classes, and we can use their scholarship to do that. I think it's been a great way for them to get acclimated to campus when it's not so hectic. When there's 40,000 people and it's new to everybody, it's hard.

"In the summer, I think it's a very smooth transition. They get the layout of how campus is, they get to see where they're going, how to use the bus, those things. And they figure out from a football standpoint what the workouts are like. It's much harder on their bodies, so they're more tired and sore. Those things affect how they are in school, their ability to focus and all that.

"They're able to take two classes on campus, general education classes that are going to count toward their degree. But they are also ones we think are good transitional classes. A lot of them have graduated from high school one week, and they are starting classes the next week. So that's a lot to ask of a kid. Kids graduate high school, and they get the summer off. Our kids don't. A lot of it is just that transition."

Kane provides more detail on her role.

"They get to campus, go through an orientation program and meet with their college advisor to set up their summer and fall classes. And then we'll work on all the little day-to-day things they need to know as a new student away from home for the first time.

"It's things we may take for granted, like how to budget, manage your time, use a planner, make sure you know where you're going on campus. We do maps so every kid knows where the classes are at.

"As we progress through the summer, we do one-on-one meetings with them. It is a standard thing for all freshmen going through freshman year. The student and his academic counselor have a 30 minute meeting every week where he's talking about what's going on in his classes.

"How they're doing with grades so we know where they're at. And then plan for how to study for a test or writing a paper, the organizational part of what they need.

"That's individually, and then as a group we do once a week what we call "rookie training." The NCAA requires us to do mandatory academic skills hours for all kids in summer. So we do things like college study skills; doing papers; reading textbooks; taking notes in class; how to prepare for exams; time management; stress management; personal health, nutrition and wellness; what resources are available for them on campus.

"And how to budget, so when they get money, whether it's financial aid or scholarship checks or whatever it is, we make sure they know how to manage that money and plan a budget for themselves, pay their phone bills and all the other things that people might take for granted. A lot of kids haven't had to worry about those things because they haven't been out on their own.

"So my job is a little bit of everything. We do some of the academic stuff, we do a little of the life skills counseling. But a lot of it is all transitional right now, to move away from being at home with somebody taking care of you to being on your own and being responsible."

Kane's role is made more complex by the sheer number of new student-athletes this summer.

"They're a handful. It's a big class. We have 37, the biggest group we've had in awhile. We have a large group of walkons. If they're good kids, which this group seems like it is, it'll be easy. They make our jobs easy when they listen to what we tell them to do.

"Last year's class was fantastic and made a really smooth transition into the fall semester. We're hoping for the same thing in the transition for these kids."

There is a large computer lab within the Illinois football coaches' building, and Kane's office is adjacent to it. The freshmen are there frequently.

"This is used primarily by our freshmen. It is football only technically, but we will do our football study hall here. So typically from about 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm at night, one of us academic staff members is here. And then we also have study hall monitors, so we're working with guys one-on-one if they need help on things.

"We require the freshmen to do their study hall here in the evenings. We have 22 desktop computers. Some have laptops, so they can use the room across the hall. They don't have to be here every night, they just have a certain amount of hours they have to get total in their week.

"Freshmen have 10 hours of study hall. Depending on how they do their first year, some guys might go down to 8, some may have none. It's all individual, based on how we think that student's doing and what we think they're capable of."

The Irwin Academic Center is also available for their use, although upperclassmen are the primary benefactors.

"Our older guys tend to use the Irwin Academic Center. We don't put limitations on the number of hours they do there. Our freshmen are only allowed to do 3 hours there so we can watch how they're progressing. As they get older, we know what they can do. We know they'll be focused on their work."

Kane talks about how the academic staff aids in planning course work, providing tutorial assistance and arranging academic schedules in part four of this report.

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