5 Reasons College Parent Orientation is Beneficial

Taking two days off from work to sit in on 2 full-day Parent Orientation sessions at Santa Clara University sounded like a nightmare to me at first. Yet with only 1 hour of sleep and the biggest Disneyland hangover known to man, I survived and I learned a lot.

Sure, parents in the 70s, 80s and 90s dropped their kids off on the dorm curb with boxes of crap and waved goodbye from the station wagon. There were no parent orientations. They wrote a check or forced their kids to get loans and that was it. Times have changed. Campus shootings, campus rapes, health concerns, rising costs of education and the conversion to fully electronic everything has made it so that this orientation for parents is actually a pretty cool thing. No one - not the parents and not the students - can plead ignorance if they've sat in on the sessions.

I can think of at least 5 reasons college parent orientation is beneficial.

 Snapchatting during orientation #BadParent

Snapchatting during orientation #BadParent

  • Money. I'm not rich and college is expensive. My daughter worked very hard to earn the scholarships she has right now and we want to be sure we are maximizing funds without applying for student loans. The financial aid and bursar's presentations were extremely informative. The first thing I learned about was FERPA. You can look it up for details, but basically it's a law that protects students privacy, which in turn makes it impossible for the school to release ANY financial or academic information to any third party (that's me). Topics covered in detail:
    • FERPA and how to work around it
    • Bill due dates
    • Payment options
    • Tuition and fees
    • How to become an authorized account user
    • How to use the website to pay the bills, add money onto their student cards, etc.
 She's excited to be attending SCU

She's excited to be attending SCU

  • Student Services. The university wants parents to know that there are a variety of services available to help students succeed. Sometimes students are afraid to ask for help, are unsure they can afford medical assistance or just don't know where to go or who to talk to. That's where the student services team comes in and gives parents all the information they've also shared with students. While a lot of this information can be found online, it was awesome to hear a presentation where everything from "how much is a flu shot" to "is there tutoring for disabled students" was answered. Some of the topics discussed at length:
    • Counseling & Psychological Services - students can see a counselor for free up to six times per year
    • Health Insurance - if you don't want the $2K student insurance bill added to your account - you'd better sign a waiver!
    • Access Card - what your student can and can't buy with this card, how to load it up, plus tax-free shopping options
    • Career Services - your student should have a LinkedIn account stat - they help with this and much more
    • Alumni - the Force is strong with the Alumni networking at SCU
    • Academic counseling - making sure your kid is out of college in 4 years or less
    • Pharmacy and clinic hours, plus who is in charge when the doctor is off-duty
 The famed SCU roses

The famed SCU roses

  • Campus & Dorm Life. Yes, I have a taken a campus tour, but at the time I had no idea where my daughter would be living. During parent orientation I was able to tour her newly assigned hall and meet her new roommate. Roommates are actually assigned in late August, but because she met someone she clicked with during her orientation, they were able to select each other as roommates. That's the perk of student orientation. I met her new friends and their parents, plus I learned about topics that were important to me:
    • Campus security
    • Campus jobs
    • Food - SCU offers locally sourced food
    • Sustainable living
 Campus gardens are gorgeous

Campus gardens are gorgeous

  • Drinking, Drugs & Sexual Assault. Yup they went there. The school was very transparent about what happens when kids who never drink come to college and party the first 3 weeks. They don't know their limits and bad things can happen. My two cents: Parents of gents, please tell your sons that rape is not acceptable. Apparently the parents of young men have failed at this. Parents of gals, please tell your daughters to not drink heavily (or at all), or drink to be cool or drink to blackout. Also to not accept open containers from anyone. The school's tips:
    • Talk to your students early and often about responsible drinking
    • Make sure students understand the no tolerance policy on campus
    • Check-in on your students often...see how things are going. Often drinking and drug use goes hand-in-hand with stress and homesickness
    • Report assault - do not hide it
    • If you see it, report it - even if it didn't happen to you
 Mission Santa Clara De Asis

Mission Santa Clara De Asis

  • See first-hand how your student is handing the transition and sit in on a class. My favorite part of parent orientation are the few moments when my daughter and I got back together to discuss what we had learned. I could tell when she was stressed or overwhelmed and it gave me a good indication of how well she will advocate for herself as an adult student. I was impressed with how she handled her first class schedule conflict. I know she will be fine. Additionally I was able to sit in on a class of my choice and be a student for an hour. That was awesome! The professor was fantastic and engaging. To be honest, I am envious it's not me going to SCU in the fall.

Bottom line: if your child's university is offering a parent orientation and you can make it fit into your schedule - go. It's beneficial if done well, and SCU really did this well.