While until recently it could be safely assumed that students attending New Student Orientation were coming to BGSU, that is no longer the case, say enrollment management staff. Today, students may still be “shopping” for a college right up until classes are under way.
Also, both students’ and parents’ schedules are much busier these days, and the traditional, two-day orientation has become difficult for some to manage. Many have said they wish for a more compact, one-day visit to campus.
BGSU has heard all this information and is responding by changing its orientation program. The importance of the introduction to campus cannot be underestimated, according to Dr. Edward Whipple, vice president for student affairs.
“The orientation program sets the stage for their entire college experience,” he said. “Not only is it important to get them off on the right foot, but it is also the time to ‘seal the deal,’ as it were. We must make sure we efficiently connect them to the most vital areas, such as housing, financial aid, advising and registration, while using additional means to provide them the rest of the content they need.”
The shorter orientation also will heighten the focus on giving a consistent and comprehensive introduction to BGSU for all students, he said, one that conveys the hallmarks of a Bowling Green education along with the “how-to” elements.
Online resources, opening weekend and Fall Welcome can be the avenues by which to extend our outreach activities, said Albert Colom, vice president for enrollment management. Parents can use enhanced online resources to participate in their child’s educational experience—an increasingly important aspect. All these and more are being examined and reconfigured to ensure that students’ and families’ needs are being well met and that University offices are prepared for their roles.
Though the new program is still evolving, changes will already be seen this April when the first transfer student registration session is held in cooperation with an Office of Admissions Transfer Visit Day. The changes include more transfer student sessions and Saturday sessions to better accommodate parents’ and students’ schedules.
While the orientation visit will continue to be the core event, the University will maintain a continuum of communication with students and parents, Colom said. Making contact as soon as students are admitted and having information available online will enable families to engage with BGSU earlier and in a variety of ways.
This strategy is already proving to be effective. The online housing deposit was offered to students earlier this year, and already more than 1,000 incoming students have made their initial, $200 payment. In addition, online registration for New Student Orientation opened Feb. 16, about two months earlier than previously, and as of Feb. 19, 82 students had selected and paid for their summer visit.
Having an interactive Web site where students can find the information they need and complete some requirements in advance will help strengthen their sense of connection to BGSU, Colom added. This site is under development and will go live in mid-March.
The New Student Orientation Working Group has been applying itself to the task of improving students’ transition to University life since last October and will continue to deepen and broaden its scope to encompass all aspects of this important topic.