A good new student orientation program will introduce students to both their specific college’s community and the wider world of college. Often in an overzealous effort to insure that students are happy with their choice of college, orientation programs go overboard with what Professor Robert Talbert calls “goofy group games.” However, this is not the best approach. The best orientation program will be enjoyable for the students, but it will also teach them skills and attitudes that will start them on the road to a successful college experience.
The Importance of Academics
The orientation program should emphasize the importance of academics. Students must be made to realize that while they are in college, their college work should be given the highest priority.
One of the greatest difficulties for many students is learning how to manage their time. Without a parent to wake them in the morning or to nag them to keep up with assignments, too many new students let things go and become overwhelmed when papers come due and tests must be taken. Time management needn’t be an involved or complex process. Teaching students to simply keep a daily “to do” list can be enough, if the students can be convinced of the value of doing it every day.
Expectations In a College Community
Orientation programs typically cover the rules and regulations that govern campus life, but it’s important to consider those rules from the “official” rulebook in a wider context of campus culture. The rulebook may say no loud music in the dorms after nine o’clock, but a campus dedicated to creating a community of learners will want it understood that irreverently disturbing others at any time is always considered inappropriate.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Beyond the formal rules about drinking, drugs and the like, students should be reminded of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To be at your best academically, it’s necessary to get adequate sleep and to eat a healthy diet. Students who impulsively opt for a sugary low-nutrition breakfast are not doing themselves any favors. Mom’s not there to say “eat your vegetables,” so spending at least some time on nutrition, exercise, and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, should be included in the orientation program.
Helping the Family Adjust
Colleges typically plan at least an information session with parents as part of
the orientation program, if only to distract the parents on the day they are leaving their child on campus. Some colleges go further and offer a day or two of programs for parents. Ashley College in Kentucky offers what it calls “Kids College” which involves a day and a half of programs for younger siblings. This program not only helps family adjust to the older child leaving for college, it is also a recruiting tool as the college gets contact information for the younger siblings.