First-Year Redesign

Harmonize and transform the First-Year experience.

Retaining students can feel like an impossible task. There are too many variables that can lead to students dropping out before even getting the chance to succeed.

Imagine having a greater understanding of your first-year students, a strong plan of action that enhances learning, and a broad-based collaboration to execute the plan. First Year Redesign (Foundations of Excellence) gives your institution the power to unlock these resources. 

Through the guided evidence-based planning process, your institution can create a more effective experience for first-year students, gain more efficient institutional resource allocation, and lead to greater gains in IPEDS first-to-second-year retention and higher graduation rates. Get started today with Foundations of Excellence First Year.

Who Should Participate

  • Two-or-Four Year Institutions
  • Public and Private
  • Institutions committed to improving or creating a first-year program
  • Institutions with student success as a strategic priority.

How You’ll Benefit

  • Effective First-Year Plan. Your team will tailor an action plan for the entire institution that is data-driven, and strategic with equal access to success for all students.
  • Harmonize & Synergize Retention: Redesigning the entirety of the first college year increases first-to-second-year retention and ultimately increases graduation rates.  You will reduce program duplication and contradictions that can lead to reduced student success.
  • Enhancing Resources for First-Year Students: The self-study results from the First-Year redesign task force will also bring awareness to the existing needs of your students. This can lead to greater investments of resources to support them in their transition and throughout their college experience.

Unlock Retention Success Through First-Year Redesign

Get the expert support you need for a successful first-year redesign.

With Foundation of Excellence, First-Year, from the Gardner Institute, you can improve your institution’s first-year experience and build a better future for your students. 

Key Features

Through a comprehensive evidence-driven plan, build upon current strengths and address existing deficiencies in order to improve the first-year student experience. The Inventories give a comprehensive overview of first-year student cohorts’ demographic and academic characteristics, arming the task force with pertinent data and insights that will facilitate their redesign process.

The Foundations of Excellence is built upon nine aspirational principles with performance indicators that help the institution evaluate its current delivery of the first college year and determine strengths and areas of concern.

These open-access dimensions provide an aspirational foundation for redesigning the first college year.

Four-year Foundational Dimensions

Four-year Foundational Dimensions (Spanish Version)

Two-year Foundational Dimensions

Our team is dedicated to supporting institutions in developing and implementing plans that work in their unique context. We provide guidance on establishing a task force, offer feedback throughout the self-study process, and support implementation to promote sustained student success. Our focus is on developing high-quality student support and academic programs to help guarantee that students are well-prepared to progress toward graduation and beyond.  

An experienced and dedicated Gardner Institute advisor assigned to your institution from the onset will guide and monitor the entire process of the First-Year Redesign process. 

The Inventory feature allows institutions to increase evidence-gathering about first-year students’ experiences. Data collected on first-year cohorts can inform changes in policies and programming decisions.


Quality Assessment Tools: Foundations of Excellence Faculty/Staff and Student Surveys allow university administrators to better assess the quality of their university experience, as well as pinpoint areas where changes might be needed.

The Institute’s team of data security and informatics experts provide  technological support to ensure your university can run a successful and secure First-Year Redesign project.


Analyze and Plan

A one-year guided evidence-based planning process institutions identify inequities and gaps in services which can lead to the development of a more effective experience for students and more efficient institutional resource allocation.


An optional second year advisory service for institutions that want additional structure and expert support from the Gardner Institute as they implement the action plan derived from the Redesign self-study process.


Now, accepting applications on a rolling basis. Your start date will be customized for your institution.

Fees are based on your institutions undergraduate enrollment as reported to College Navigator.

Email for more information.

Transform your institution’s retention rates with First Year Redesign



colleges and universities participated in Foundations of Excellence First Year
Students Impacted
$ 0
made by participants in retention revenue for every $1 used to work with us

Upcoming Events

06 Jun 2024
In-Person Convening

Intensive on the First Year Seminar

June 6, 2024 8:00 am - June 7, 2024 4:00 pm
10 Oct 2024

Ready to Get Started?

Not Sure Where to Begin?

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