Leveraging Positive Psychology to Support First Year College Students: The ROCK Goes to College

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positive psychology
first year college students
higher education
positive connections
belonging uncertainty
purpose for learning
Multicultural Psychology
Other Psychology
School Psychology
Social Psychology
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Sanderson, Kerry
Greenberg, Jill
Ogle, Lauren

Each spring, students in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania complete service learning projects in partnership with nonprofits from around the world. For this specific project, MAPP students collaborated with the ROCK Center for Youth Development, a nonprofit currently providing positive education and programming to middle and high school students in Midland, Michigan. The ROCK is about to begin offering its services to local universities as well and requested assistance adapting an existing workshop to better address the social and cognitive impediments to student success in college. Our literature review indicated that college students commonly struggle with stress, time management issues, and belonging uncertainty, and all three are correlated with poor outcomes across a variety of academic and well-being metrics. In contrast, social connectedness and sense of purpose are overwhelming linked to positive outcomes at college. Based on this research, our application plan for the ROCK recommends that they retain the sections of their existing workshop covering stress management and building positive relationships while adding three evidence-based activities detailed herein. The first activity mitigates belonging uncertainty, the second assesses and develops time management skills, and the third cultivates students’ sense of academic purpose.

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