Not Your Father's Freshman Orientation - Or Is It?
The Greentree Gazette
July 2008

By Jonathan Liebman

Colleges and universities have injected freshmen orientations with a dose of sophistication that encompasses everything from high-tech administrative processing to touchy-feely group bonding.

Perhaps due to rising gas prices, many schools have introduced online orientation "tours," that provide students with a taste of the ever-present distance learning delivery methods they're certain to encounter during their college careers. With interactive map software students can locate classrooms and buildings. Online orientations also provide a wealth of information on curricula, schedules, administrative policies, tuition and fees, financial aid, housing and food services, advising and counseling, student life, "tips for success" and much more.

But despite the cost savings and convenience of online orientation (and for most international students it's the only option), many students and parents say it's no substitute for actually being at the school in person and meeting people face to face. Now institutions are reaching out to parents as well.

"Ten years ago, freshman orientation used to be exclusively for students transitioning from high school to college," says Steven Roy Goodman, an educational consultant and admissions strategist with TopColleges.com. "Now, orientations are also designed to help parents adapt to a new phase of their lives as well."

At today's orientations, students and parents are together only for certain portions of the program, after which they attend separate sessions directed specifically to each group. Such is the case at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Working in small groups in a relaxed atmosphere, Ohio Wesleyan students in the StART (Student, Advising, Registration and Testing) program meet with faculty, staff and other students, where the basics of registration, language placement exams and selecting majors are all covered, as well as insights into note taking, essay tests and term papers.

According to Cole Hatcher, associate director of media & community relations at OWU, "The goal is for students to leave campus knowing their fall semester schedules and armed with helpful resources for when they begin classes. They also have time to relax and get to know other incoming students during these special summer sessions." While all this is going on, their parents are learning about academic life at the university and what they have to look forward to as their babies take that rite of passage from home life to campus life.

Goodman recognizes the benefits of this approach. "Many parents have been intensely focused for the past 18 years on raising their children," he says. "Universities have found that parents benefit when they are able to examine their changing family dynamics in a supportive, well-designed orientation that involves other parents."

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