Should Parents Attend College Orientation?

in Parent Advice
April 22nd, 2019

By Liz Yokubison, writer, author and mother of Alex, ENG‘21

I’m not sure why, but many parents/guardians do not attend their student’s college orientation. While it is admittedly an added expense to travel to the university that your child will be attending in the fall, it is worth it in so many ways. As parents of twins, my husband and I carved out time, the summer before our kids started college, to attend both of their orientations. And boy, are we glad we did.

How It Works

Each university has its own approach to orientation, which is the first step in a vital rite of passage. Sure, there are similarities, like larger than life videos that kick off each orientation and make even the most skeptical family members swoon at all the possibilities awaiting their kids in this next chapter of their lives.

Some institutions, like Boston University, separate the students from their guardians immediately at check-in to give the kids a chance to become fully immersed in the experience. This means no texting, calling or stalking your soon-to-be college freshman on Facebook or Instagram for the next 24 hours. And that’s exactly the way it should be.

Don’t worry, there are plenty of activities for parents/guardians that are value-added. But the best thing mom or dad can do is let their child go for this short period of time. It helps them make friends, connect with their orientation leaders, register for classes on their own, as they will be for the next four years, and get an up-close and personal perspective of the place that will be their home-away-from-home in just a few short months.

Why Family Members Should Attend

While students have a jam-packed schedule of activities at orientation, parents have their own breakout sessions which are just important. Topics range from campus safety to presentations divided by major, so parents can understand the types of classes and course load their student will be taking freshman year. Parents and guardians are also educated about meal plans, which is super helpful since options abound, along with tuition and housing costs and financial aid.

Experience Campus Life

At both schools, we were able to have lunch in one of the dining halls. This gave us the chance to envision where our son or daughter would be eating and we were amazed at the variety of food stations and how dietary restrictions were accommodated. It also gives you a chance to watch from afar as current students socialize. Which is priceless.

Easing the Transition

Best of all, by attending college orientation family members get the chance to interact with the faculty and staff at the school their child will be attending. Not only does this provide a glimpse into the culture of the university, but it also relieves the anxiety that some parents/guardians have in sending their child away to school. The university personnel involved in orientation are there with the explicit intent of educating you, the parent, on how to help your child adjust to this major life transition. We learned the importance of not visiting your student during the first month of school to give your child the chance to fully integrate into campus life. Some universities even have a policy of not allowing any overnight visitors (such as friends or siblings from home) during the first month of school to further ease the transition.

Explore Their Environment

Another benefit of parents participating in college orientations is the chance to get to know the city where your child will be living for the next four years. Even though the students’ schedules are filled to the brim, universities give parents/guardians some downtime which is great for exploring local coffee shops, restaurants, and points of interest. Since your student will spend the night of orientation in the dorms, while you stay in a hotel off-campus*, use this opportunity to savor the local food scene, which in Boston usually means lobster, or at the very least, fresh seafood. Other notable locations to visit include Fenway, home of the Red Sox, the BU bookstore and the Boston Common which is just a short ride on the T from campus and also gives you the experience of public transportation which will be your student’s lifeline to the city.

While at first glance, college orientation seems to be all about the kids, there are so many important elements for parents and guardians. And I wouldn’t have missed the chance to get a glimpse into my kids’ new life. Which made letting them go in the fall just a little bit easier.

*On-campus accommodations are available at Boston University.