Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Mark Pancer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Although the transition to university can be a time of great opportunity and personal growth, many students find this period to be very challenging and stressful. Universities across North America report that up to 40% of entering students fail to complete their degree. Many universities attempt to enhance their rates of retention through programs that familiarize students with campus and academic life. Most of these programs, however, are brief and few studies report rigorous evaluations, particularly in the longer term. This thesis evaluates a social support-based, long-term intervention program that attempted to ease first-year students’ adjustment to university. 110 incoming university students were quasi-randomly assigned to either an intervention group, or a questionnaire-only control group. Sixty intervention participants met in six small groups, nine times throughout their first-year, to discuss topics relevant to their first-year experiences (e.g., “balancing work and social life”). Results of an evaluation conducted at the conclusion of the program by Pratt et. al. (2000) indicated that intervention participants were better adjusted and experienced fewer behavioral problems that did control participants. Participants were followed up at the end of their second year of university, a full year after the completion of the program. Seventy-eight usable surveys (43 intervention, 35 control) were completed at this time. Based on the results of the assessment conducted at the end of first year by Pratt et. al. (2000), it was expected that program participants would continue to derive benefits from the intervention in their second year of university. A broad set of measures was collected, including assessments of participants’ psychological adjustment (e.g., perceived stress), behavioral problems (e.g., alcohol consumption) and rates of retention. Results indicated that although some of the effects of the intervention that were evident in first year had apparently attenuated by the end of second year, there remained some evidence that the program continued to have an impact a year after it had ended. Female intervention participants reported lower levels of perceived stress and less loneliness than did control females, and the intervention group as a whole experienced fewer behavioral problems on one measure (extent of missing classes) than did the control group. The attrition data, gathered for the entire original sample, were particularly compelling in that intervention participants were significantly less likely to leave university (i.e., drop-out, transfer) by the end of their second year than were control participants. Results are discussed in light of the possible influence that a biased sample may have had on group comparisons. Specifically, control participants who took part in the second year follow-up were significantly better adjusted in first year than those who did not participate in the follow-up assessment. Also, those who left university were less well-adjustment than those who stayed, and most of these participants were from the control group. This follow-up evaluation suggests that by helping to ease students’ transition to university through a social support-based intervention in first year, benefits will continue to be derived throughout students’ second year of university. Future research should evaluate the intervention across students’ university careers, and implement the program in settings that may be more challenging than the relatively small and friendly Laurier campus.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Psychology Commons