From Freshman Year to the Future: How SSI Programs Set Students Up for Success

For many incoming freshmen, the idea of completely transitioning to life at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) can seem daunting. However, units on-campus like Student Success Initiatives (SSI) offer a variety of resources to support students as they adjust to life at UCI.

For instance, scholarship programs like SSI’s Summer Bridge give new Anteaters a chance to enroll in Freshman Edge at no cost to them. Freshman Edge offers incoming freshmen the academic, social, and emotional support they need to successfully transition from high school to the university. 

While Freshman Edge will take place in a remote setting this year, participants usually get their first taste of campus life through the program. This was certainly the case for UCI student Amy Liao when she attended Freshman Edge the Summer before her freshman year. Amy was able to attend the program by receiving a Summer Bridge Scholarship, which is made available through SSI. Her involvement with the program allowed Amy to start taking classes, live on campus, and build relationships with her fellow students.

As Amy describes, “I did Summer Session while living on campus to get immersed in the college-like atmosphere and experience. It helped me know what I was getting myself into!”

Not only did her participation in these programs help her get a head start in earning her degree in business economics, but it also gave her access to special benefits after the summer, including personalized academic advising, priority enrollment, scholarships for tutoring, and other opportunities. One opportunity that Amy was excited to pursue was becoming an SSI TRIO Scholar. 

She recalls, “Through the Summer Bridge, I received an email for an opportunity to apply to TRIO my first year, so that’s what I did. I heard about the opportunity, applied, and got in!”

The TRIO Scholars Program managed by SSI offers low-income students, first-generation students, and students with disabilities access to resources to help them achieve academically. Through TRIO, eligible students can receive ongoing academic, social, personal, and professional support throughout their time at UCI.

According to Kevin Huie, Executive Director of SSI, “The goal of the TRIO Scholars Program is to increase the retention and graduation rates of UCI’s first-generation, low-income students by providing these students with the necessary resources and support to help them be successful at UCI and beyondwhether that be academically, professionally, or personally.

In her freshman year, Amy took advantage of all the services and events hosted by TRIO as a way to network and build relationships. Amy emphasizes that while the general student body may be familiar with SSI for offering free scantrons or providing access to other free academic materials, it offers so much more. She specifically mentioned the counseling from professional staff, and the peer tutoring and mentorship opportunities available as some of the major benefits of participating in TRIO. 

Additionally, Amy also points out how TRIO has helped with her professional development. By speaking with TRIO mentors and staff, Amy learned more about internships and the other things she could consider doing over summer. Through these conversations, Amy was actually able to land a job working at the front desk in the SSI office. Not only did this help her develop important skills for her future career, but it also gave Amy the opportunity to learn more about the other programs and services offered by SSI.

“There’s a little bit of everything to suit whatever you personally need,” Amy says in regards to SSI’s services. “It’s just really up to the students to take initiative and take advantage of what resources they want.”

While Amy recognizes the academic and professional support that she has received through her involvement in TRIO, she says that the most important thing that she has gained from the program is a sense of belonging:

I’m working with a community of people who are kind of similar to me in the sense that we grew up in backgrounds where our parents are immigrants. So, a lot of the students I interact with are usually first-generation and low-income. Knowing that we’re all from different types of cultures but have a similar upbringing creates a really strong and supportive community of peers and the professional staff.

With the support of her TRIO family and the entire SSI community, Amy has come into her own.“It’s not that they’re just helping me academically, but emotionally and everything else. It’s kind of the whole package.”

Far from her start as a timid freshman, Amy is ready to face whatever the future holds. 

Are you a UCI student interested in learning more about SSI and the services and resources it offers? Then visit their website here.