Given the increasing complexity behind the choice of university training paths in the modern context, during each academic year the Department of Psychology, in collaboration with the University’s Orientation Committee, organizes numerous orientation activities for new students. These are meetings whose goal is not merely to provide information but also educational content to new students and – separately – their parents, in order to help with the choice of a university training path and provide an introductory experience to the academic environment. They include Open Days for students, Open Days for parents, and the “Spring in Bicocca” initiative.
Additionally, the Department and the University make available to prospective students, free of charge, the Orientation Services Network, which includes, among other things, the Psychosocial Assistance Service for University Orientation launched in 2001 by the Department of Psychology. This service is provided by orientation psychologists and is aimed at prospective undergraduate students. With the goal of preventing students from dropping out, the service responds to the psychological need for orientation by providing a space to consider which university path to choose to a very diverse user base: both traditional new students and non-traditional ones (students from other faculties or universities, adult students who work, students from other regions).
Specialized orientation services are provided through individual face-to-face sessions, support groups, and telephone and online assistance. Psychosocial assistance aims to facilitate an educational university experience that enhances students’ self-orientation abilities and allows them to make well-informed choices. More specifically, activities include: a) exploring motivations, doubts, and fears related to choosing a course of study; b) comparing expectations with reality as concerns the university and/or professional environment; c) making the criteria behind choices more explicit, by distinguishing personal desires, interests, and plans from those of others (friends, parents, partners) and from misleading stereotypes fuelled by mass media and by one’s socio-cultural context; d) clearing up the differences between courses of study perceived to be similar; e) discussing the strategies that facilitate rapid integration in the university environment (class attendance, study methods, relations with peers, etc.). The Service’s activities – which are monitored through a database – have also made it possible to shed light on the needs behind the demand for orientation and facilitated the creation of ad hoc responses, such as the creation of support groups for mature students or FAQs and online assistance for parents.
Orientation activities for enrolled students aim first and foremost to reduce the dropout rate by helping students face the problems they come across during their university careers and facilitating long-term planning through support programmes, the re-visitation of such plans, and re-orientation processes. The activities of the Psychosocial Assistance Service are aimed at both first-year students and students in other years, and include different levels of support. More specifically, their aims include: a) helping first-year students think through their choices in terms of objectives, motivations, and professional goals in order to better face the difficulties that can emerge during their first year at university; b) identifying personal resources (cognitive, emotional, and relational), potential, and constraints to take on the problems that may emerge over the course of their university careers (later academic years); c) re-motivating choices and/or the re-orientation towards another course of study in keeping with personal plans and goals. A form is filled out for each individual session, including the user’s personal data and the type of request that was submitted. Additionally, each user fills out a questionnaire evaluating the quality of the Service. A database draws all this data together and makes it possible to carry out statistical analyses on a multi-year basis, relating both to how the Service functions and to identifying the main problems encountered by students. Additionally, the database also makes possible the long-term, indirect evaluation of the Service’s effectiveness in preventing drop-outs (even through the orientation variable cannot be teased apart from the other variables that can intervene in favour or against the course of study over the years), since it makes it possible to track the requests over time of the users who turned to the Service on multiple occasions over the course of their university careers. There are no limits on how many times students can access the Service over the course of their studies.
In addition to the Psychosocial Assistance Service for Orientation, the Department provides a tutoring programme for first-year students in which master’s degree students serve their as mentors (in keeping with the British model), under the coordination and supervision of the Assistance Service and of the Undergraduate Degree Course Directors. The tutors are responsible for supporting the first-year students socialize within the university context, helping them to develop plans that can be implemented, facilitating the self-monitoring of their university careers and the establishment of relationships between peers, and steering them towards the University’s Orientation Network Services if necessary. Every tutor is assigned a group of students with whom they interact both in person and through online activities over the first academic year. There is also a dedicated page on the e-learning site.
Comparative studies at the European level show that there are relatively few university graduates in Italy compared to many other European countries, and that in spite of its advantage in terms of employment opportunities, investment in education is significantly lower than in many other countries with similar levels of socio-economic development. In such a framework, the issue of employability is particularly relevant for degrees such as psychology, where employment opportunities in the public and private sectors are relatively limited in the field in question. Based on this data, the Department of Psychology tries to facilitate the transition to the job market in various ways, building upon the choices made during the course of study – choice of exams, thesis, master’s degree course, traineeships, and pre- and post-graduation internships – and through individual and group orientation activities (in person and online) that allow master’s degree students to: 1) imagine possible professional scenarios; 2) think about the construction of training paths in a meaningful and well-informed manner; 3) feel supported in terms of their personal self-efficacy.
In today’s complex socio-economic context, families play a key role for their children: they are a support network against stress, they serve as a representation of the future, and they facilitate social inclusion. At the same time, since parents wish for their children a “good” and “fulfilling” life, they run the risk of steering the choice of a course of study towards fields that are stereotypically believed to be ideal in order to ensure a “safe” future. This leads to the tendency of parents to replace their children in orientation activities, with predictably negative outcomes
-“When our children enrol at university” (event)
-“The future of our children – being a parent today” (national research project - Uni.Co, University Network for Counselling, lead partner Bicocca)