Find Your Place at Cal U: Assistance for First-Year Students

Even successful high school students need information to help them transition successfully to college life. Having someone to talk with helps, too! 

Cal U's Peer Mentoring program, First-Year Seminar and Learning Communities can help you settle in and find your place at Cal U.

Smooth the transition with a Peer Mentor.

The Peer Mentoring program matches first-year students with upperclassmen, typically in the same major. Have a question? Ask your mentor! The peer mentor serves as a support and resource person who provides information, encouragement and guidance.

It's a fact: Cal U freshmen who have mentors move on to their second year of college at a 10% higher rate than freshmen without mentors.

The freshman or transfer student assigned to a mentor is called a protégé. The Peer Mentoring program offers each protégé:

  • A built-in resource/support person who can answer questions and tell you what to expect when you arrive on campus.
  • A guide to help you find your way around, before and after classes start.
  • A contact who can keep you up to date on requirements and deadlines in your major and show you how to get involved in campus life.

Mentors are available to all first-semester students, both freshmen and transfer. Assignments are made on a first come, first served basis.

To request a peer mentor, please email

How do I become a Peer Mentor?

Between 600 and 700 Cal U students volunteer their time to mentor protégés at Cal U. Mentors generally have at least a 2.3 overall GPA and meet requirements of their academic departments. They also must have a genuine desire to help others.

Each spring, the Peer Mentoring Office sends an all-campus announcement, as well as an email to all protégés, to recruit mentors for the following fall. All mentors must participate in training before they are approved.  

Approximately 15 peer mentors also serve as peer mentor coordinators, overseeing 60-70 mentoring relationships. Each coordinator maintains frequent contact with mentors and protégés, answers mentor and protégé questions, and provides early awareness of at-risk students to staff members.

To contact the Peer Mentoring Office, email or call 724-938-1682.

First-Year Seminar gives you the low-down on college life.

The First-Year Seminar is designed to help incoming students make a smooth transition into the Cal U environment. This one-credit course (UNI 100 or UNI 101) is required of most first-time students. Course topics include an overview of student success, plus:

  • Health and wellness issues.
  • Time management.
  • Campus life issues.
  • Library resources.
  • Campus resource centers (Math Lab, Reading Clinic, Writing Center, etc.)
  • Cal U's core values.
  • Liberal arts education.
  • Academic plan development.
  • Registration, career planning and financial aid.

Students who take First-Year Seminar also develop a success plan to help them graduate in four years. It includes an academic plan, a personal (extracurricular) plan, a career advantage plan and a financial plan.

Although it's recommended, transfer students are not required to complete the First-Year Seminar if they transfer a course equivalent to UNI 100, or if they transfer a total of 24 or more credits.

In addition to First-Year Seminar, Cal U offers courses in Critical Thinking and reading (3 credits), Career Planning (1 credit) and Career Readiness (1 credit) that may be helpful to first-year students.

Make learning a community experience.

Some Cal U students are part of learning communities - groups of students who take three or four different classes in their major together.

Learning community faculty work together as a team to coordinate classroom topics and assignments. Because students in learning communities have a shared educational experience, they quickly make connections with their classmates. They can support one another academically, collaborate on group projects and even find common ground outside of class.

Cal U has learning communities in majors such as music, business, sport management, psychology, justice studies, biology, secondary education, exploratory studies, childhood education, special education, and communication, design and culture.

Stay on track and connected with Starfish.

Starfish connects you to campus resources using your laptop or smartphone. Once you've set up your Starfish profile in VIP, you can "raise your hand" to ask for help with an academic or financial concern, or schedule an appointment with a professor during office hours.

Starfish helps you stay on track toward graduation, with reminders about important deadlines and dates. The one-stop "Services" tab lets you reach staff in Academic Records, Financial Aid, Peer Mentoring and other offices. And it's a great feeling when a professor sends "kudos" to acknowledge a job well done!