Most colleges hold orientation sessions for incoming students – whether a day long event or an overnight during the summer, or an event held a few days before the semester starts in the fall. However, many colleges now also offer orientations for the parents of those college students. This may be a day long event or even an overnight event. If your child’s college conducts an orientation for parents, you should definitely take advantage of it if possible.
Holding a special orientation for parents is recognition on the part of many colleges of the importance of your continued role in your student’s education. Colleges hold these orientation sessions to help you learn more about how you can most productively help your student, and to help you learn more about the place where your son or daughter will be spending so much time.
Reasons why you should attend Parent Orientation
There are several important reasons to attend the Parent Orientation session offered by your child’s school.
- You will learn important information. Topics covered may include financial aid, technology and computer needs, student life, health services, campus safety, housing, meal plans, academic requirements, campus resources, and many more. You will come away more knowledgeable and reassured because of what you know.
- You will meet key college contacts. Many of the presenters at an orientation will be the key people you will need to know or to whom you will need to direct your student. They may include representatives from the Parent Relations Office if the school has one. Put a face to the name, chat with the individual, ask a key question.
- You will meet other parents. This is an ideal opportunity to connect with some other parents of incoming first year students. Share stories and information, make connections and new friends. You will see these parents again at Family or Parent Weekends, college events, and finally at Commencement.
- You will get a sense of the place where your student will be spending time. Orientation sessions are usually held on campus, and often have parents move to different buildings for different sessions. You may eat a meal in the dining hall. If the orientation is an overnight event, you may even stay in a residence hall. This is a good opportunity to imagine your child on this campus.
- You will have more information for conversations with your student. The more you know about the questions to ask your student, and the more information you have, the more productive your conversations can be.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will send an important message to your student that you are interested in her education and that you want to be involved in what she will be doing for the next few years. Your presence sends her an important, and lasting, message.
What to expect at Parent Orientation
Each school will run its Parent Orientation differently, but there may be some common things to expect.
- Expect to register ahead of time. Running orientation sessions – for students and for parents – takes a lot of organization. College officials need to prepare materials, meals, and traffic control. Walk-ins will probably not be turned away, but they do make things difficult for everyone involved.
- Expect to be given a lot of information. You will have a lot to absorb. Try to take in as much as you can, but know that it may take some time to process it all. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed.
- Expect to have your orientation session separately from your student. Parents and students need different information, presented in a different fashion. Most schools separate parents and students. Once you arrive and register, you may not see your student again until it is time to leave.
- Expect to have an opportunity to ask questions. Q&A sessions may happen formally, or they may be handled informally on a one-to-one basis. But even at very large schools, you should have an opportunity to ask questions. Make a list ahead of time of questions or concerns that are important to you.
Although attendance at orientation sessions is often mandatory for students, it may not be required for parents. But try to attend if you can. It is worth whatever effort you need to make. Take a day off from work if necessary, be willing to travel and maybe stay overnight. You’ll be better informed, and you’ll be sending an important message to your college bound student.