College orientation is the first taste of what life will be like for your student in just a few months. For students and their parents alike, it’s an exciting and important time – often required by the university. While you will part ways with your student early on in the orientation, you each will learn about the school’s traditions, expectations, academics, athletics, financial aid, residential life and social life.
Most importantly, orientation is a time for students to break away from their parents and meet new people. For multiple-day orientations, students should stay on campus, away from their parents. Encourage your student to attend social activities during orientation, eat meals with friends and explore the campus.
Students may also take placement tests and register for classes at orientation. Help your student prepare by making a list of priority classes, having questions ready for an academic advisor and bringing pencils and a calculator for testing.
While your student is off experiencing college life, you can expect the following from your orientation:
Paying tuition might be the last thing on your student’s mind and the first thing on yours. Most orientations will have a session about scholarships, financial aid, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and what your student essentially gets for the cost of attending the school. Take notes and bring handouts home with you.
Paying tuition can be a strain both on parents and students. Orientation is a good time to think about budgeting – both for you and your student. If your student doesn’t attend a session on finances, make sure to talk to him/her about it later, so everyone is in the loop.
If you haven’t already paid a deposit, expect to do so at orientation, in order for your student to register for classes. Most universities have direct deposits online as an option for paying, which might prove to be most convenient for you.
Attend parent Q&A sessions or panel discussions. Even if you don’t have specific questions to ask faculty or staff, other parents might raise good questions that you could benefit from hearing. If this is your first child going to college, don’t be afraid to speak up – even if it seems trivial. Chances are, other people are wondering the same things.
Meet and greet sessions can be a more informal way to talk to current students, professors, advisors, and resident life staff. There’s no one better to ask than a current student for where the best book store is to buy textbooks, where to get the tastiest burger or what meal plan worked best their freshman year.
Technology will play a critical role in your student’s academic achievement. A technology session will detail the internet network on campus; recommended hardware, operating systems and additional software; and a move-in checklist for residence halls. Students often receive discounts on purchases at local stores or through the school, so attending this session could save you hundreds of dollars.
Speaking of technology, professors hate it when cell phones go off during class, and it’s just as abhorrent if it happens during orientation. Make sure your phone doesn’t ring and you’re not busy texting your student instead of listening during the sessions. Set a good example!
Once your student is out of the house, it’s hard to insure he/she is staying healthy. However, you can help your student make it a priority. Attending a wellness session will generally inform you on everything from the clinic to vaccinations to health insurance to gaining the “Freshman 15.” Most universities have a fitness center, intramural sports and activities to keep students active.
Hopefully the university will address topics such as underage and binge drinking, drug use and safe sex. Your student should attend a session on these, but make sure you keep the communication lines open as well, during orientation and after.
If the university is in another city or state, take some time to explore. Chances are you’ll be back, for parents’ weekend, to attend Homecoming or other festivities or to help move your student out of dorms. Find a convenient hotel and important stores for move-in day: Target; Wal-Mart; and Bed, Bath & Beyond are life savers for last-minute items. Head to the local Chamber of Commerce and get information about local restaurants, businesses and events.
Campus comes to life during orientation. Enjoy sharing the experience with your student, but also allow him/her the freedom to start this new journey without you. You can find your own support among other parents and staff members who are there to address your concerns.
Before you say farewell to the campus after orientation, make sure you have all handouts and contact information you need. You’ll be back soon – move-in day is just around the corner!