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Tips for a Successful Orientation

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By: Madison White, Uloop

Orientation days are often a mixed bag of emotions — some parts of fun and exciting, but other parts drone on and on. As the first day of your student’s true college experience, orientation day is very important.

Even though the day may be about them, if you’ve chosen to go along, there are things you can do as well to ensure orientation success. Many of these tips will not only help you get through this often exhausting day but help your student as well.

1. Be prepared for a long day

Your student may be an exception, but the many college students I know dread the mandatory orientation. Of course, there are benefits to orientations: they’re necessary, there’s free food, and you can meet new people. Outside of these things, though, doing anything that’s generic and especially long won’t be too enthralling.

So prepare yourself for a long day of sitting, walking, and waiting around. Be sure to anticipate the weather beforehand. If your orientation is in the summer months — and it’s likely that it will be — you should be dressed as such. It is also advisable that you bring along some water and snacks because even though lunch comes around eventually, those mid-morning hours can feel even longer if you’re starving.

Besides these things, just be prepared in general to receive lots of information. Bringing a bag might be a good start along with a pen and paper.

2. Do your research, but not too much

You and your student have probably already done a good deal of research on your selected university if they’re going to be attending. It’s a good idea to know enough about the school to know what you should be doing on that day. Find out where to park, what the parking restrictions are, and where you’ll be meeting to ensure orientation day success. However, keep in mind that student orientations are geared toward giving you as much information on the school as possible.

If you’ve accumulated everything there is to know about the university already, then you’re going to be incredibly bored the entire day. Let the facilitators surprise you by talking about their new library or special student center.

3. Bring other entertainment

Also, keep in mind that an orientation’s primary focus will be on your student and not on you. While they may have anticipated parents coming, don’t expect that you’ll be involved in every step of the process. Many of the activities will be student-centric as well as many of the presentations.

You’re probably going to find yourself sitting and waiting on your student for some large amounts of time. In this case, it’s best to bring along something small that you can do in the meantime. This could be reading a book or updating your phone calendar. Whatever it is, bring something so that your time isn’t completely wasted while waiting around.

4. Come with questions

As a parent, this may be your fourth or your first orientation. Whichever it is, you’re still likely to have some questions about the confusing college process. As stated earlier, it’s a good idea to have some sense of the university before coming to orientation. This way, you can start thinking about things that already seem tricky or confusing for yourself or your student.

If you have questions ahead of time, you’re going to find that it’s a lot easier to get them answered on orientation day than it will be trying to track down the right person during an emergency. Even if your orientation directors can’t answer all your questions, they’ll likely be able to give you the information or location of someone who can. This maximizes the time it’ll take to get the answers you need and minimize potential issues later on.

5. Above all, stay positive

Despite the efforts of many great orientation directors, there are often parts that are unfortunately long and boring regardless. If you haven’t really prepared for the demands of an orientation day, your mood will likely sour as the day goes on. Your negative mood will almost certainly impact the mood of your student who is probably equally nervous and exhausted.

Remember, this is their first real experience with their new university. Whatever happens on orientation day will set the stage for how the rest of their university experience will go. Try and remember to stay positive throughout the day and be a source of support for your student who is beginning a new and exciting step in their life.

Orientation days can’t be undervalued in their importance to university life. As your student begins to make connections with other students, professors, and staff, know that this is only the beginning of what will be a great journey. Don’t forget that you still are and will continue to be a large part of their life.

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