Parents, don’t skip (orientation) class!

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Last week I attended two college orientation experiences—the first one as a mom of a rising freshman and the second sitting on a panel of “seasoned” parents and college experts, offering advice to parents of incoming first year students.

Why both, you ask?

Well, the truth is I am a mom of an incoming freshman at one university and I am also a parent of a college senior at another. And in spite of my extensive research and experience in the topic of preparing to launch students, I learned useful information at both sessions.

Orientation is a valuable component of a successful high school-to-college transition. If you have the option to attend a parent orientation session, GO! While parent sessions are usually not mandatory, they are well worth your time.

You’ll learn more about the place your student will call home for the next four years. You’ll meet administrators, key staff members and other parents. You’ll learn about all aspects of student life, such as: financial aid, housing, safety, wellness, co-curricular activities and academics.

Not sure what to expect? 

Expect to preregister. Orientation sessions require a lot of organization on the part of the university. In order to prepare materials, meals, housing (if included), and staffing, they require you to register in advance. Don’t be surprised if you’re charged a fee to attend. Insider tip: Register early, as certain dates fill faster than others.

Expect to ask questions. Ahead of time, make a list of questions or concerns that are important to you. If they are not answered during your sessions (though they likely will be), you can ask them during a Q&A session or one-on-one meeting.

Expect to be overwhelmed. You may feel like you’re trying to drink from a fire hose! You will receive a lot of information in a short amount of time. Take in as much as you can, but know it may take some time to process it all. Insider tip: Bring a notebook and pen. Take notes for later.

Expect to connect. You will meet other parents and students embarking on the same journey you are. You will also meet the administrators and staff who will be your student’s support system throughout the upcoming years. Insider tip: Take advantage of meet and greets. Your paths may cross again.

For more information on a successful launch and for guidance throughout the freshman year, pick up your copy of  Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage

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