It’s that time in summer vacation that a little reality drops in – College Orientation. While some schools started back in June, many really ramp up during July. So, what should you know about college orientation, both as a student and a parent?
First, the student.
Keep an Open Mind High Schools can often be homogeneous, people from the same town, experiencing similar things. College will undoubtedly broaden your horizons and that starts at orientation. Don’t judge people on their looks, style and most importantly, their accents. Engage during the ice breakers and intro sessions. If there are old friends in your group, skip them and move to a new one with "strangers". Broaden your circle of acquaintances, this will help you establish friends in the dorm, classroom and clubs.
Do the Silly Things Orientation leaders spend a lot of time planning your days and there is a method to the madness. Embrace the crazy, awkward games. They help break down barriers and get everyone more comfortable sharing their experiences.
Meet with your Advisor, Dean or Counselor We know you just finished successfully navigating the past four years of high school and you are now an adult (18 or about to be), but college has a lot of offerings and schedules can get complicated. You may think you have designed the perfect schedule (classes only Tuesday and Thursday, none starting before 11:00 am) but that might not be the best schedule for your ultimate goal. Your advisors are there for a reason, they know the school and the progression of classes. Listen to their advice. Taking the 8 am English Lit class might benefit you down the road – again keep an open mind.
Engage with the upper classmen They are a great resource in getting answers to questions that can’t be found on the website. Which dining hall is least crowded at noon? Can I really make it across campus in the 10 minutes I have between classes? What’s the best way to find a ride home at Thanksgiving? Orientation leaders are ambassadors of the school and have a deep sense of pride and commitment. If they don’t have an answer, they’ll find out. Make sure you keep their contact info because you’ll have questions after you get home.
Explore Find your dorm, your classrooms (or at least the building they're in), the dining hall etc. Take a few pictures to which you can refer in a few weeks. There might also be some hidden treasures out there; a tire swing, a koi pond, a horseshoe pit, who knows? These little spots will give you a break from the norm and make you a popular person in the dorm when you ask, hey who wants to go to the tire swing?
Now the parents –
Let Go We all realize that time with our precious children is waning and we want to stick close in these final weeks, but this is their orientation, let them take the lead and give them the space to explore. If there is a choice of staying in the dorm or in the hotel with you, let them go to the dorm. That’s where the kids and the adventures are. You’ll have the whole car ride/flight home to talk about what you each experienced.
Get Involved (but not too much) Attend the parents’ briefs, yell out the school fight song, pose for a picture with the mascot. This is your school too (they are, after all, on your bankroll). Find out what makes it special to the students and embrace it. If it's different than your school (or where you wanted to junior to go) remember this is about your student not you. One word of caution, in every group session there is that one parent who asks too many questions and you think, "Hey didn’t you read the brochure, its right there?!?" Please be patient. Everyone handles this transition differently and if hearing the answer from the Dean versus the brochure makes this mom more comfortable, then let it go. Sometime in the four years, you’ll have a “dumb” question and you’ll be glad someone took the time to answer it (even though the answer is in bold right on the website).
Trust the Process Whether this is college kid number one or five, every school has a different version of orientation and that’s okay. Universities have been nurturing students to go from child to adult for a long time, they know what they are doing. Be patient, be kind and be understanding. Support the school just as you want them to support your student. It’s a two-way street.
Enjoy! This time goes quickly. Orientation turns into graduation in a blink of an eye. Take it all in; pictures, spirit wear, football tickets. You’ll never regret spending time on campus with your child, make the most of every opportunity you have.