Orientations provide head start for freshmen


Classes don't start until September, but throughout the summer incoming MCLA students traveled to campus for a head start on their college career during one of four overnight, two-day orientation sessions.

In addition to learning about financial aid, participating in placement testing and signing up for classes, the students immediately become involved and engaged with MCLA, according to Celia Norcross, director of student development.

"It gets a few required pieces completed. For example, they get to register for courses. This is very important because they go away feeling that they are a student at MCLA when they have a schedule," Norcross said. "But mostly, the program is designed to get them integrated into campus early, and also so they might make a connection with us."

The orientation program isn't just for students: There's plenty for their parents to learn and do, as well. While students undergo placement testing for math, English and writing, parents attend informational sessions such as those on the community, opportunities for students, laptop technologies and campus connections.

Students - who stay in MCLA's residence halls while their parents spend the night at local accommodations - are involved sessions similar to those their parents attend. They also have the opportunity to learn about athletics, student life and more. And, they engage in skits on the topics of being homesick, alcohol abuse prevention, clubs and organizations, to name a few.

But perhaps the most important resource can be found in the program's 10 student orientation leaders, who are available to answer any questions the incoming freshmen might have.

"They are important because they're the ones who make the connections with the students. It's really important for students to get their viewpoints and to integrate with other students that have already been there and done that," Norcross said.

Prior to the orientation sessions, student orientation leaders go through weeks of training when they meet with different departments and in different areas on campus.

"I think it means a lot more to the students to get an answer from a student orientation leader, instead of from me," Norcross said. "They offer a level of comfort. Whatever the question is, it's based on their experience, as well as on information we've given them. It's definitely a crucial part. I couldn't manage without them."

Ashton Darrett '11, of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been an orientation leader for the past three years. He recalls his own orientation as an incoming student in 2007. 

"It was helpful to me because it eased my nerves and gave me a glimpse of what college life is like," he explained. "Being able to look back and place you back in the mindset of incoming freshmen is what enables the orientation leaders to help others. We were all there at one point in life so we know what they are going through and it helps." 

He encourages all MCLA students to be orientation leaders.

"It's an enriching experience," Darrett said. "You learn a lot about yourself by helping others. I have gained a great deal of interpersonal and public relations experience. It also teaches you methods of group coordination, as well as how to think under pressure, because things don't always go as planned. Orientation leaders also get to know faculty members and staff on a level more than that of a student-teacher relationship. It is this kind of relationship that births internships and mentoring."