A peer solution to college pressures

As they head off to college this week, thousands of students are getting their first real taste of freedom - a chance to sketch out dreams, manage their time, and test sundry Ramen Noodle creations.

But for a group of 10 urban students who just left for Maine, the transition also represents the culmination of eight months of preparation for college life. Through the new Boston Posse Program, they were awarded merit scholarships to Bowdoin College. And after weekly meetings with their peers, they feel ready to tackle anything from physics finals to racial issues they'll likely face in the semesters ahead.

More important, many will become the first in their families to study amid the grassy quads of a college campus. Among new college students, 40 percent are first-generation freshman - only half of whom typically return for their sophomore year. As a broader range of students shows up on campuses, schools are seeing that peer groups like those formed through the Boston Posse are vital to helping these freshmen navigate the trials of new roommates and heavier course loads.

In today's story, Stacy Teicher delves behind the scenes of such a program, following the posse members from February to July.

The Posse approach not only tries to help students adjust, but also partners with selective schools striving to bring a greater mix of perspectives to their classrooms.

Over the months, the students bridged their diverse worlds and started building a firm foundation of trust that will undoubtedly support them through this first year away from home - and beyond.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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