College Orientation is Over, So Now What?

Satisfaction check box shutterstock_145132672.jpgIs your current orientation program designed to build successful students as well as help them find a happy balance on campus?

There are multiple types of orientation programs used at colleges and universities… according to a recent survey by NODA, the Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention in Higher Education, 29% of respondents offered some form of extended orientation. [1] This is an emerging trend in recent years, and here’s why.

Incoming students are often required to take part in orientation, which usually lasts a few days during summer or at the beginning of the school year. The purpose is to help new students adjust to campus life and meet fellow classmates. Between the icebreakers, community building events, formal talks and group sessions, many messages are repeated such as the campus culture, staying safe and academic success. Talk about information overload!

While playing silly games and sharing interesting facts about yourself is well intended, many students may walk away feeling overwhelmed from so much happening so quickly. After the intensity of orientation these students may be left wondering “So, now what?”

As may be the case with your institution, orientation concludes right before students need this resource the most. If the goal of orientation is to help students adjust to college life and to give them a sense of belonging, then this adjustment extends beyond move-in day or the first week of class. The transition to college is tricky and a student’s initial experiences are a critical part of their education.

While the reality of the first year sinks in, loneliness often poses the greatest challenge to student welfare, which is common for many but may not be openly talked about beyond orientation. This sadness can lead to risky behaviors and is often a contributing factor to dropping out of an institution. In these moments, orientation is crucial. That’s where extended orientation comes into play to help not only with student satisfaction, but student retention as well.

Extended orientations can span weeks, months, or even the entire year in the form of classes and ongoing programs, to help students persist through these challenges. “We see great success with extended orientations,” says Joyce Hall, executive director of NODA. [1]

Amherst College is one institution that has successfully adopted extended orientation to help their students better adapt academically and socially. Professor Austin Sarat, who created the program, says, “My view is that this is the right thing to do because it’s a way of providing a set of resources and contacts to communicate to them [the students] that we care about their personal development in addition to caring about their academic development.” [2]

Many colleges and universities have instituted similar programs to help ease the transition to college life. How has your institution found success with reaching new students?




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