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College Orientation

•College Orientation: What’s It All About?•

Colleges are big on first impressions. They work hard to show you who they are on admissions campus tours, info sessions and at accepted student events, and the fun continues in a big way — during freshman orientation. But what is orientation and should you and your student care? The short answer is an emphatic yes!

We know you’ve got other questions, like we did when our kids were college freshmen. What goes on at orientation? Do parents attend? Do colleges require kids to go? If given a choice to attend various orientation weekends over the summer, is it better to go early or later?  Is there an extra cost for attending orientation?

Truth is, the answers are different from school to school.  Here’s what you need to know and consider:

1. Orientation is one of the most important events your child will attend prior to beginning school in the fall.  It is a time when freshmen learn about the campus, academic offerings and college activities, take necessary placement exams, connect with advisors and register for classes.  Some colleges offer departmental seminars so students can meet professors and learn more about the various schools or majors within the college.  It is also a time for students to meet and spend time with other students.

2. Some schools hold several orientations over the summer, which need to be signed up for in advance, and other schools hold orientation for all students right after move-in day.  If your student has a choice on when to attend orientation, consider this: Assuming orientation includes registering for classes, you may want to opt for one of the earlier summer orientations to get a spot in courses that typically fill up fast.  (Only downside is for those of you who need to fly across the country to get to school – you may want to choose an orientation closest to move-in day.)

3. Many schools include parents in orientation activities and even offer a program just for parents while their kids are busy meeting with an advisor, choosing classes, getting familiar with the campus, and meeting new friends.  Even if you are included, don’t expect to spend much time with your child during orientation.  Parent programs typically focus on making parents feel more comfortable with where their child will be spending the next four years and helping parents cope with letting go.  If your child’s school reserves orientation for students only, don’t fret.  During Parents/Family Weekend, typically held in the fall, parents are invited to attend lectures and demonstrations, meet faculty, and get information on various programs the school offers.

4. If orientation is held during a weekend over the summer, some schools do charge a fee for students to stay and eat on campus.  There may also be a program fee or an additional fee for family members to attend to offset the cost of facilities and providing refreshments.  And of course, if the school is far from home, don’t forget to build in travel and, possibly, hotel costs when you are budgeting.

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Even if your kid’s college does not require that they attend orientation, we encourage you to send them anyway. Orientation really is a must for helping students feel comfortable, excited and ready for all that lies ahead.  If your child is simply unable to attend, they will likely need to make special arrangements to meet with an advisor or take placement tests once they get to campus if that is typically done during orientation.


For additional KnowsyTips, click here.

And, as always… visit the college’s website for specific details about orientation.

Want to know more? Take a look at these articles:

College orientation is emphasized more than ever – even involving some parents by Bonnie Miller Rubin, Chicago Tribune

College Orientation Tips (from




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