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College Orientation Basics: How to structure a new student orientation
Authored by: Becky Boyd, Liz Largent, and Susan Rondeau
college environments are often diverse and dynamic places. The American
Association of Community Colleges estimates that there are over
6.6 million credit students enrolled in the 1,195 community colleges
across the nation. The average age of these community college students
is 29. Seventeen percent are single parents, over half are employed
full-time, and almost 40 percent are first-generation college students.
Indeed, community college students enter higher education with unique
needs and complex, hectic lives. Thus, outreach initiatives, such
as new student orientation programs, are critical to maximizing
these students’ opportunities for success.
the student population in community colleges continues to change
and grow, the economic resources available to these schools continue
to shrink. Therefore, planning and implementation of an orientation
program becomes an enormous challenge.
outline is provided as a starting point for those charged with developing
or revising an orientation program. Answering these questions will
set parameters within which a successful student orientation program
can be built.
Assess the institutional view. Ask the following questions:
is the orientation program on the institution’s list of priorities?
- How will an orientation
program fit within the mission of the college?
- Has a mission
statement already been written for the orientation program?
- What is the recent
history of orientation at the college?
- Has a new directive
been given regarding orientation?
is the main purpose or goal for the new (or revised) orientation
- Does the program
seek to welcome students to the institution?
- Is a goal to
provide a foundation for retention?
- Is a goal to
register as many students as possible in an efficient group setting?
- Are students
to be offered an understandable introduction to the academic community?
resources is the institution willing to allocate for orientation?
- What funds are
available to achieve the purpose of the orientation?
- Is there an available
grant that could supplement the program?
- Who are the human
resources on hand that can assist?
- What types of
services and facilities will be given to orientation?
- Are there certain
items that will be made available to the students?
Consult the experts.
do students want and need from an orientation program?
- What specific
academic issues are of the greatest concern for entering students?
has CAS (Council for the Advancement of Standards for Higher Education)
established for orientation programs?
- How do the national
standards and guidelines for orientation programs coincide with
the institutional view for the program?
NODA (National Orientation Directors Association) publications are
available to assist with the task?
- How do the latest
trends and issues in orientation impact the institution’s purpose?
. Build the program. Using what was learned from the institutional assessment and consultations
with experts, put the program together.
How will orientations be scheduled?
many orientations will be run?
- How large will the sessions be?
long will they be?
what calendar period will they run?
What topic areas will be addressed?
college personnel will students meet during the program?
will the academic structure, requirements, and policies be presented?
will students learn about campus services, activities, and events?
will students register for classes and take care of business matters?
What formats will be used?
different orientations be developed to serve different populations?
some orientations scheduled to be longer/shorter than others?
the program be offered online?
the format be adapted to small groups or one-on-one?
following are examples of how orientations were developed in two
community colleges: Oklahoma
City Community College and Johnson County Community College
City Community College
Founded in 1972,Oklahoma City Community College is a single-campus, urban community college with an annual enrollment of approximately 20,000 students. Students may choose from 44 university
parallel degree programs, 46 applied associate degree programs,
and 21 certificate programs.
the years new student orientation has taken on a number of formats
and names. Prior to the most recent enhancements, new student orientation
was a single-day event the Saturday prior to both the fall and spring
semesters. Students could formally “enroll” or sign up for the event
at the point of registration, but all new students were invited
via mailings. The format of new student orientation varied slightly
from year to year, but generally included an opening speaker and
small group sessions on topics such as study skills and financial
a result of a consulting visit targeting the initiation of programs
to improve retention, new student orientation was targeted as an
area for enhancement. A committee of student services staff and
faculty members was formed to plan changes to new student orientation.
In planning, this committee took three primary steps:
- Current research
on best practices for new student orientation was reviewed and
- Current institutional
practices were systematically analyzed in terms of what the committee
felt was and was not working.
staffing, potential alternative formats for new student orientation
and other related issues were also discussed.
needs were assessed. New students were asked to complete a survey
asking them what information was most important one month prior
to classes beginning, and what was most critical the Saturday before
classes began. Calls were also made to students who began one semester
prior to ask what they wish they had known prior to beginning their
first semester. It is important to note that demographic data was
collected with the surveys and no significant difference was found
among the various student cohorts in term of their needs.
New Program’s Structure
New Student Orientation at OCCC is now a one-time 2 ½ hour session.
Sessions run throughout the two months prior to each new semester
at various times and days. Each session hosts approximately 20 students.
Students enroll in NSO 0500 as
a non-credit, no-cost course at the time of advisement and registration.
The program remains voluntary. Approximately 55% of all in-coming
students attend a new student orientation session. A full-time professional
staff member was hired to oversee the program, as were two part-time
peer leaders. The new staff is housed in the Student Life Office.
The sessions are presented by these three staff members using a
slide show, video clips, and interactive activities. Topics reviewed
during the session are built directly from the results of the student
surveys and include: faculty academic expectations, success tips
from current students, parking, financial aid, payments, student
e-mail, time management, study skills, note-taking, selecting a
major, campus resources, on-line services and a general campus tour.
addition, the Saturday event prior to the first day of classes has
been maintained as a celebration event. The event, now called Opening
Day, is a come and go for students and their families throughout
the afternoon. Student service offices are open and all new students
are invited via a postcard to participate. Academic divisions each
have tables for student questions, a computer lab is opened to help
students get acquainted with their on-line courses, and faculty
and staff are available to help students find their individual classes.
Additionally, a 45 minute family orientation session is held during
Opening Day and is lead by the College President and the Vice-President
for Enrollment and Student Services. Again, the event structure
was built directly from student feedback on the surveys.
each new student orientation session a survey is administered that
asks the students to rate their knowledge of the various topics
covered prior to and following the session. This data is used to
enhance the presentation.
addition, all students who attend a new student orientation session
are tracked in terms of their GPA, persistence and retention. Enhancements
to new student orientation were implemented in the summer of 2006
and, although there have been slight variations in the data, generally
students who attend a new student orientation session show an approximately
six percent higher persistence rate than those who do not attend.
County Community College
in a Success Center Environment: Hourly Orientation
The Success Center at Johnson
County Community College (JCCC) is an integrative one-stop center
which includes the Counseling Center, Career Services, Access Services, Financial Aid, Admissions, Registration,and the Testing Center. Collaboratively,
services are provided for over 18,000 students in a suburban setting
with 56 degree programs, 108 certificate programs, and over 200
transfer programs for regional colleges and universities.
the past 39 years, orientation at JCCC has evolved and gone in many
different directions. Originally, orientation was provided individually
by the counselors as the student ‘walked in’ the door, then JCCC
moved to the use of pre-advising student development assistants
who provided individual orientations. Next we had an organized ½
day session for students called the Orient Express which included
orientation and registration in the summer.
the JCCC Success Center opened orientation became sessions offered two times a day, with an on-line
orientation option. Currently, we offer orientation hourly, with
an online orientation option.
2004, we decided that we needed to research alternative types of
orientation programs. The system in place was a twice daily (and 3:00) sessions
which averaged 30 – 35 students a month. Additionally, students
could access JCCC’s online orientation. In spite of both offerings,
a majority of students did not attend sessions or do the online
orientation. We knew there had to be a better way to reach our students.
We also knew that the financial situation at the college was not
going to accommodate new staff, facilities, or resources.
the Success Center is integrated
with all Student Services departments, we created an orientation
task force to brainstorm options. In consideration of our millennial
student body, whose main mode of operating seems to be ‘in the moment
with an instant response,’ we decided to offer orientations sessions
every hour in the Success Center. We set-up
a conference room to accommodate up to 12 students, updated our
online orientation to use both Internet and PowerPoint within the
sessions, and trained our Success Center staff and student workers
to present the program.
current hourly system was implemented July 2005, with an immediate
300% increase in student attendance. We now average 1200 students
per month in the heavy summer registration periods, and over 300
a month during the rest of the year. Student evaluations have been
very positive, with the ‘small group’ and the ‘individual assistance”
indicated almost unanimously.
know we have improved our system, but we also know that we are still
not reaching many students who could benefit from an early interaction
with JCCC. We have recently initiated a new orientation task force
to consider creating a mandatory orientation system based upon student
authors encourage you to contact them if you have questions or need
Former Director of Student Development
Johnson County Community College
Dean of Student Development
Oklahoma CityCommunity College
Pima Community College
American Association of Community Colleges
Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in
National Orientation Directors Association
this resource using APA style as:
B., Largent, L. & Rondeau, S. (2008). Community
College Orientation Basics: How to structure a new student orientation
from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising
Resources Web site http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/90/article.aspx