What we learned at college orientation (and why we’re glad we went)

Fridge, microwave; who needs a dining hall?

A couple of weeks back, Mod Squad Dad and I joined Pete for his college orientation. This decision wasn’t an automatic “yes” — we live near UVa and are fairly familiar with the grounds. This is a busy summer with work, children’s activities, and other obligations, so we paused before taking a day and a half to take tours, listen to administrators, and eat at a dining hall.

We’re glad we went.

There’s plenty of advice available online for both students and parents about orientation.

Melissa Woodsen wrote a guest post for Countdown to College Coach, Making the most of college orientation:

…the BostonGlobe reports that most parents found the events to be more than worthwhile. With events ranging from “Meet the Dean” to model classes and seminars on “Letting Go,” parent orientations offer an in-depth understanding of today’s college experience that can’t be had from a distance.

From GreatCollegeAdvice.com, see Signing up and Preparing for your Orientation Program, by Cara Ray:

Once you arrive at your orientation, make sure the STUDENT is taking the lead.  This is your first step into finding your place on campus. The faculty and staff on campus expect that you will be making decisions, not your parents. Carving your own way starts right now!

Cappex College Insider offers a list of what to expect and tips on how to best take advantage, in What to Expect at College Orientation:

Expect: Logistical tasks such as getting your student ID card, creating a school email (if you haven’t already), and registering for classes.

Tip: If you have the option, try to attend an orientation session earlier in the summer. Since you’ll be registering for classes before the late summer orientation students, it is more likely that you’ll get the courses you really want. Register for the number of credit hours your school recommends for freshmen. You can always drop a course if you get to school and the course load is too heavy.

From the US News blog, Twice the Advice, 6 Tips for Parents at College Orientation

2. Learn what resources are available for parents: Many parents—especially when the first child is leaving for college—have to get used to letting their child do the communicating with the school. There are often legal reasons for this, but it’s good for the growing up process as well.

That doesn’t mean parents are without a voice, however. During orientation you should learn when and how you can communicate with the school. If you don’t hear that information, ask.

Here’s what we saw and learned:

1. Parents asked questions we may not yet have considered.

Room for books, laptop, and keyboard?

  • Is using an illegal ID an honor code offense?
  • Will a bike (laptop, dorm room, etc.) be safe from theft?
  • What time should we arrive on Move-In Day?

2.  Parents asked questions we don’t really care about.

  • How many washing machines in ___ dorm?
  • How long will it take to get a triple room (assigned due to over-booking) de-tripled?

3.  Excellent administrators handled all questions professionally and thoroughly. This, in fact, was one of the most rewarding reasons for us to attend orientation:  the organization of the two-day event, the presentations and responses from administrators, the good humor and evident intelligence, the discussions of curriculum options and extra-curricular choices — all these reinforced our good feeling about Pete’s college choice.

4.  Administrators talked about what to expect and made specific requests of parents before our children go to college.

  • Talk with them about time management. Their time in high school was highly structured. College will require a huge adjustment to working within non-structured schedules. Teach them how to use unstructured time.
  • Discuss how to respond to problems. What steps have you taken? Have you talked to the RA? Have you talked to the Dean of Students?
  • High school typically requires black & white answers. College requires more thought in grey areas, critical analysis, tough thinking. Anticipate some confusion and frustration while making that developmental change.
  • Students will sign a roommate agreement form when they arrive, but many areas of possible discord can be talked through themselves, especially an agreed-upon policy on locking the door, overnight guests (and frequency), using each other’s things.
  • Have your child sign up for text alerts. They need to opt-in.
  • Make sure they thoroughly understand three terms:  effective consent, sexual misconduct, incapacitation.
  • Have them repeat, “Don’t drink what you didn’t make or open yourself.”

Orientation coupons

5.  The dining hall food was fine. Sure, Pete will tire of it at some point, but the food choices were excellent. But perhaps Pete wishes we hadn’t tried it out? The coupon reads:

A reminder: parents eat free when they visit during the 2012/13 academic year (beginning 8/24/12) at our residential dining rooms. (Two parents per student meal swipe, per visit. We regret that other family members are not eligible for this promotion.)

Just kidding, Pete. Four weeks from today, big guy.

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Filed under At College

4 responses to “What we learned at college orientation (and why we’re glad we went)

  1. Kim Connolly

    Nice post, Jane.

  2. Pingback: College Moving-In Week: the packing list. | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

  3. Pingback: Squirrel Alert - Do It Yourself College Rankings

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