After accepting the position of Assistant Director of Student Activities two years ago, I was immediately trained and introduced to the world of organizing Bay State College’s First Year Experience, our first year student orientation. Coming from a more traditional background, I was familiar with multiple orientations throughout the summer months, but here, we do things a bit differently to cater to our student’s unique backgrounds.
After learning more about our students non-traditional backgrounds, we require that all incoming first year students attend our FYE, which is a few days before classes start. Over the last couple of years, we have run with the trial and error method – realizing that not everything we were familiar with as professionals worked well for our incoming student population.
After cutting our First Year Experience from three days, to two days, we were ready to try something a bit different this year. The Department of Student Affairs teased the idea of having orientation in one day, and one day only. While there was some push back from other departments; how will we fit all the required material into one day for all of our students? Will students feel overwhelmed with one long day? Our main concern regarding any of our orientation events is how to keep our students actively engaged from the moment they are accepted to the college.
With not having the typical structure of multiple orientations through the summer, overnight experiences, or volunteer programs for first year students, we turned our direction to technology. Students today are glued to their social media accounts and ever-changing technology products. Our number one goal was to highlight all of the benefits of attending Bay State College through videos that would be released weekly to their online college portal. Each week was a new theme – introductions from their program advisors, highlights of the different offices around campus, and an overview of the common reader program and assignments that accompany the book. Here are a few examples from our program:
1. Highlight what is unique about your campus. With an urban campus, Bay State College was blessed with beautiful brownstones as residence halls and academic buildings. We created virtual tours for all of buildings to be released once students were accepted.
2. Give students live tutorials. Having a large commuter population, not all students are able to come out and visit the campus. If students are going to be utilizing an online portal, record live tutorial videos so students do not have as many questions. Review where students can access their mail, submit homework assignments, and access a student events calendar.
3. Have students develop a relationship with their advisors. Once a student is accepted in Bay State College, each Program Chair for the different majors sent out personalized letters to each student. This year, we had all of our Program Chairs record specialized videos for their students. These videos highlighted their course load, student highlights, internship opportunities, and a more personal way of getting to know their advisors.
Implementing these new ideas were a huge success for us this year. Students felt better connected to the college from the moment they were accepted. There is only so much you can email a student, and best prepare them for their time at college, but allowing our students to put a face to a name really helped progress the students along. After the first couple of weeks, students would approach me instead of trying to email me, because they had already “met” me through the introduction videos. It allowed faculty and staff members to showcase their personalities, show off student spaces, and put a twist on traditional orientation.
From the moment our students are accepted, to the last moment they cross that stage at graduation, we want them to feel connected and that their time here was a positive one. By breaking down some barriers, our students will have access to their videos throughout their entire time at college; they will always have the resources they need right at their fingertips.
This post is part of our #AfterOrientation series, which focuses on what various institutions do when the buzz and bustle of orientation dies down. We will learn about programs, events, and initiatives that continue the support and excitement for the new students as they start their higher education adventure. For more information, check out the intro post by Juhi Bhatt. Be sure to read the other posts in this series too!