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Going to Orientation: What You Should Know

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By: Elana Goodwin, Uloop

While college orientation is mostly about the incoming students, it is also a time for your family to learn more about the university and to get a feel for the place your student will be going for the next four years.

It is increasingly common for parents and families to come with their soon-to-be freshman students for orientation before the fall semester starts. So whether or not your student actually wants you to come to orientation with them, here’s what you should know as a parent about college orientation.

You’re invited

Colleges know that the transition from high school to college is a big one for both students and their parents, which is why orientation is so important. Schools know that parents will want to come with their students to orientation and they encourage it and plan activities for parents to do and events to attend during orientation.

Both you and your student will learn more about the campus, various school traditions, classes, scheduling, and clubs, in addition to getting the chance to meet and connect with other parents and students respectively.

You won’t be joined at the hip

If your student is worried that you are going to be going to all the different orientation events with them and do not want you to come to orientation because of this, you can assure them that you will not be tagging along.

Universities split up parents and their kids for much of the orientation, having parents attend different informational sessions and do different things than their students. This gives incoming students the chance to meet new people without Mom and Dad hanging around and start being independent as they explore the campus and learn more about the school they will soon be attending.

Come prepared

Since you and your student will be separated for most of the orientation day or weekend, you will want to come prepared with something to take notes on and questions you want to ask. Do not assume your student will ask the questions you have as they may not want to ask certain questions in front of other students or may not have thought of the questions you did. Being apart from your student will enable you to ask all the questions you want without worrying you may embarrass your student.

As a parent, you will likely want assurances about safety, so do some research before you go to orientation about the kinds of safety features the university offers so you will be able to ask more poignant questions that are not already answered on their website.

In sessions with other parents, many of you will probably have the same questions or concerns so do not hesitate to ask things you are apprehensive about. Additionally, questions about health services, academic tutoring, campus jobs, move-in day, etc., are all good things to ask about that many other parents will want to know as well.

If you are going to be filling out paperwork or meeting with the financial aid office during orientation, make sure you are prepared and bring whatever documentation you and your student might need to have with you.

Join the club

Before orientation is over, make sure you sign up to be notified by the school’s emergency alert system if there’s something happening on campus, as well as join or follow whatever social media groups or email lists the school has as resources for parents.

Knowing that your student is going to be attending the college for at least the next four years, you’ll want to leave the orientation with all the information you can as well as numbers you can call in different situations if need be and a way to stay connected and kept up to date on things happening on campus.

Let your student lead

For the parts of the orientation process that you and your student are together, it is important to take a step back and let your student lead. Your student will be starting school and becoming more independent and orientation is the perfect opportunity for them to start making their own choices and being responsible in preparation for when they are at the school on a more permanent basis in the fall.

Encourage them to ask questions themselves and be a more silent support when you are both in the same orientation activity or tour. During many school orientations, incoming freshmen will choose their fall courses with academic advisors’ assistance and you should allow your student to make scheduling decision for themselves as they’ll be the ones attending the classes and need to start being more self-sufficient.

College orientation is the first step to your student going off on their own and is geared toward incoming students though it’s not meant just for students. Keep these facts in mind when your student’s orientation is coming up and you both will get more out of the orientation sessions and start really looking forward to and feeling good about your kid starting school in the fall.

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