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How to Prepare for College Orientation: A Parent’s Guide

Not sure what to expect at your student’s college orientation? Get our 7 tips to help parents prepare for college orientation.

Back in the dark ages when we went to college there wasn’t an orientation during the summer after high school graduation. 

I mean seriously, we’re so old that we actually hand-wrote our college essay and attached it to our fill-in-the-blank printed application.

And then we had to wait for an acceptance letter to arrive by snail mail…gasp!

Yup…those were the days!

So, when we decided on a college to attend our parents just moved us into a dormitory and we were on our own.

We both attended orientation during the few days before classes began at our respective universities.

But times they are a changing…

and things are a bit different today than they were back then. 

For our own students, they’ve either went to orientation over the course of two days and stayed in a dorm, attended a one-day session, or participated in virtual college orientations online.

So, between the two of us, we’re pretty sure we’ve completed all the different styles of college orientation.

What to Expect at College Orientation

college just ahead sign held in air in front of green trees with blue skies behind

Most colleges have parent/student orientation during the summer before heading off to school.  

You will need to register with the university and choose a date to attend that works best for your schedule.

Sending your child (because aren’t they still babies…LOL) off on their own is a big adjustment for the entire family. 

If you’re struggling with feeling not ready for this milestone in your child’s life you may want to read Anne’s post here.

College orientation helps smooth the upcoming transition for everyone. 

Students & parents attend sessions that offer advice and guidance about the university.

Over the past few years, we’ve both sent several kids to college. 

We’ve shed some tears but we’re here to tell you it will all be okay. 

Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of the college orientation experience.

Our 7 Tips to Survive College Orientation

1. Be Prepared

email open on screen of laptop

Make sure your student is reading all their emails from their new school.

When they were accepted they received an email address associated with their college.

Remind them to check it daily!

Many colleges have placement exams and other requirements that students must complete prior to attending orientation. 

You don’t want your kid to be that kid who shows up unprepared.  

2. Reserve Accommodations

outside of brick college dormitory building

If orientation includes an overnight stay this is the perfect opportunity to book yourself a nice hotel room to enjoy a night to yourself. 

Let your student stay in the dorm overnight and get their first college experience. 

This gives them time to spread their wings and start making new friends. 

3. Parent & Student Sessions

mom and son standing in front of NC State wolfpack statue

Be prepared to be separated from your student during the orientation process. 

Remember orientation isn’t really the time for family bonding. 

Knowing this ahead of time may save you a few tears…LOL.

Parent & student sessions will cover similar topics but are more geared toward each audience. 

During this time you’ll learn all about resources, meal plans, healthcare, safety on campus, etc. 

4. Class Registration

Don’t be surprised, but while you learn all the details about paying for college in your parent session, your student is registering for classes.

Yup, without you holding their hand & telling them which classes to take!  

But seriously, no need to worry!

If your student registers for classes at orientation, like our oldest sons both did, they’ll have help from an advisor to select their classes.  

Other colleges may have students pre-register for classes online at home prior to orientation.

Both of our second sets of new freshmen registered beforehand, which honestly wasn’t easy.

Students may need some help if they need to pre-register on their own.

Every school is different so be sure to read those emails and information ahead of time.

5. Get familiar with FERPA

Did you know that you won’t have access to your student’s records including their grades once they are enrolled in college?

Hello FERPA restrictions!

FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

It’s a federal law that allows parents the right to their children’s educational records.

However, when a student turns 18 or goes to college at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parent to the student.

Therefore, no matter who is paying the tuition you as a parent will not have access to their records.

This may be the perfect opportunity to have a chat with your student about expectations regarding their grades.

6. What Should You Wear to College Orientation

First and foremost…wear comfortable shoes for all your tours around campus. 

This isn’t the time for wearing those super cute wedges!

You may want to bring along a light sweater because some of the locations may have the AC cranked up high.

And it never hurts to grab an umbrella, just in case! 

7. How Can I Help My Student at Orientation

student with backwards baseball cap and backpack on walking

As hard as this may be for some of you to read…now is the time to start to let them go.

Remember this orientation experience is all about them, not you. 

Don’t let any emotions you may be feeling put a damper on their happiness. 

They may be thrilled to be on their new college campus getting ready for the next phase of their life.

Be in the moment & and be excited with them!

On the other hand, if they’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed be supportive.

Encourage your child that they can do this…they’re ready!

Remind them of all the things they’ve already accomplished in their life.

College orientation is your practice run for what’s to come when you drop them off on move-in day. 

Give them some space and independence to start their new adventure.

You’ve spent the last 18 years preparing your teen for this time in their life. 

Trust that you’ve done your job well! 

Sending you a big virtual hug!

More College Tips & Ideas

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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