09 July 2006

Stuff You Oughta Know About College Orientation

Boston Gal's Open Wallet has a post about an article in today's Boston Globe, Life-away-from-home 101. The article discusses how Boston area colleges and universities are dealing with the annual ritual that is freshman orientation.

I realize that my college experience was not the norm. I arrived at school by myself, moved in with no parental help, and was happy to be 1,200 miles away from where almost anyone else knew me. Now, the college orientation process involves as many seminars and programs for parents and families as there are for the students. My orientation was a series of placement exams, a number of social events, and a loose collection of gatherings designed to encourage "involvement." Now, placement exams are done online during the summer. The social events are all planned and sponsored, using expensive guest talent. The term "loose collection" doesn't apply anywhere anymore, because of the need to hold everyone's hand at every step along the way.

This time of year, I receive phone calls every day from parents asking how long they are "allowed" to stay. Parents can't imagine that they might leave their kids somewhere - and they will be just fine. If they're not fine, they are going to call you - on the cell phone that you bought them, with more minutes than they could reasonably speak to someone else in one month.

I recently had a conversation with one of our academic deans and he told me that he wished there was some way that we, in the Admission Office, could better evaluate a student's maturity level in the application process. This article, at least, reinforces the idea that it is not just our students who are coming to college lacking academic, physical, and emotional maturity.

We now spend so much time holding students hands that some actual education that would be beneficial during Orientation gets lost in the shuffle. It would be helpful if students were educated on the dangers of using blogs, personal web space (myspace.com/facebook.com), and photo sharing services (flickr.com, imageshack.us). Sharing personal information is OK, as long as you know with whom you are sharing your personal information. Anything posted ANYWHERE on the Internet is fair game for a search engine and could possibly end up in the hands of someone you had not intended. On the other hand, when you get called into the Dean of Students' office on an alcohol charge, don't assume that s/he hasn't seen your myspace page, or the picture you posted on facebook doing a keg stand.

The message for all students heading off to orientation this season is simple - don't be stupid. That's my advice for almost everything, but it is something that you likely won't hear at your school's formal presentations. They will cloak it in family-friendly words and cover it up with the bandage that is political correctness. Sometimes, though, you just need to get smacked in the head, without hidden messages.

So, don't be stupid.

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