Colleges pushing freshman orientation in new directions

Schools see orientation as an opportunity to address special concerns and foster persistence
By: | August 22, 2019
Orientation at Hamilton College includes a travel experience such as bike trips, sometimes with President David Wippman, pictured above.

The college orientation season is fully underway, with some schools offering special attention to mental health, first-gen and minority students, and even parents.

At Coe College in Iowa, the orientation schedule included sessions led by the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health, reports ABC television station KCRG. Students were informed about resources at the school for helping them cope with common mental health issues. The college says about 25 percent of their students will go through a mental health crisis while on campus, the station reported.

Meanwhile, many incoming students of color and first-generation college students at Western Kentucky University participated in the Cynthia & George Nichols III ISEC Academy, which works to guide students in personal development, academia and campus involvement, reports NBC television station WNKY.

“It’s an attempt to level the playing field for students of color here at a predominantly white institution. It’s not really special treatment; it’s just providing additional opportunities that these students may need, that all students need,” Dr. Martha Sales, Executive Director at ISEC, told the station.

And some schools are even holding special orientation sessions just for parents of incoming college freshmen, reports Inside Higher Ed. Murray State University, also in Kentucky, set up a panel of parents of current students to answer questions and provide helpful information to the parents of incoming freshmen. Parents’ biggest concern is typically safety, Inside Higher Ed wrote.


Read: How 5 schools use orientation to improve engagement and persistence


Institutions find that switching the focus of orientation to fostering campus connections boosts student engagement, and research links student connectedness to retention, UB reported last year

Students with a positive, creative orientation are more likely to report a positive overall student life experience, while those who didn’t like orientation were more likely to report a grade of C or lower in their classes.