Why You Should Attend a College Family Orientation

Gathering information about family college orientation

Most colleges hold orientation sessions for incoming students – whether a day long event, an overnight during the summer, or an event held a few days before the semester starts in the fall.  However, many colleges also offer Fall or spring family orientations.

If you’re debating whether you should attend one, checkout our log below:

Reasons why you should attend Parent Orientation:

  • Learn about campus resources.  Topics covered may include financial aid, technology and computer needs, student life, health services, campus safety, housing, meal plans, academic requirements, and campus resources.
  • 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.  Put a face to the name, chat with the individual, ask a key question.
  • Meet other parents.  Connect with other parents of incoming first year students, share stories and information, and make connections and new friends. You will see these parents again at Family or Parent Weekends, college events, and at Commencement.
  • Get a sense of what your students life will be like.  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.
  • Gain communication advice.  The more you know about the questions to ask your student, the more productive your college conversations can be.
  • Your student sees you are still active in their life. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will send a message to your student that you are interested in her education and want to be involved.

What to expect at Parent Orientation

Each school run its Parent Orientation differently, but there are common themes:

  • Register in advance.  Running orientation sessions – for students and for parents – takes a lot of organization.  College officials need to prepare materials, meals, and traffic control.
  • Have coffee first. 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.  Take good notes.
  • Your student won’t be there. 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.
  • Ask questions.  Q&A sessions may happen formally, or they may be handled informally on a one-to-one basis.    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.

(Photo: Chase McAlpine)