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Why It's Important for Parents To Attend College Orientation

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Mother and daughter at college orientation party talking with female professor.

New student orientation is one event at college neither you nor your student should miss.

Parents learn valuable information at college orientation and students make much-needed connections with other students. Orientation will help your student ease into college life and help you cope as they make the move from home to independent living.

It is an exciting time for the entire family when a child goes off to college. It’s not only a transition from one phase of education to the next, but the beginning of your child’s first years away from home. This also means, in many cases, the parents’ first years with a child away or even an empty nest. Although many parents breathe a sigh of relief that the long journey to getting accepted to college is finally over, many need a little guidance on how to deal with this important next step.

New student orientation can provide some of that guidance, as well as help you understand what college life will be like for your student and what life away from home will look like.

Why does orientation matter?

Since college will play a defining role in your student’s life for the next four years, orientation offers students and parents a glimpse of the physical campus and the school culture. Knowing what to expect will help put your mind at ease. Students will meet other students, get a chance to live in a college dorm for a day or two, and learn about campus activities outside of academics.

Parents will also find orientation to be beneficial. Meeting other parents will provide a feeling of community, as well as the potential for long-lasting friendships. Meeting the administration and staff of the college will give you a chance to ask any questions and voice any concerns you might have.

What is parent orientation?

In recent years, more and more colleges and universities are offering orientation events specifically geared toward parents. Learning about rules, campus safety and the academic calendar will be of practical value for obvious reasons. With events ranging from “Meet the Dean” to model classes and seminars on “Letting Go,” parent orientations offer an in-depth understanding of today’s college experience that can’t be had from a distance.

What do you do if there is no parent orientation?

If no parent orientation event is offered, check with both the school and your student about whether it is appropriate for you to attend student orientation. When my daughter was in college, parents were allowed to attend opening events but were dismissed for a portion of the orientation, allowing students the opportunity to interact without parent involvement. You can accompany your student when asked but respect the need for independence.

While waiting, you can wander around campus, meet other parents, and ask questions of any available staff or administration. Be sure to recognize the boundaries and remember that even though the college isn’t providing a seminar on “letting go,” you still have to let go!

How do you prepare?

Think of yourself as both parent and student during orientation. Take notes, and when appropriate, ask questions. Be ready to introduce yourself to other parents and the school administration. At large universities, it can be helpful to get to know a couple of contacts personally or at least get information regarding whom to contact if you have questions. But be prepared to step back and let your student be in charge. It’s your student’s college. You will no longer be in charge. This is a good time to let your child step forward.

At the very least, your student should attend student orientation. Students who attend will enter college in the fall with more confidence and excitement, and maybe a new friend or two. New student orientation is worth the time and the money to attend.

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