Today was my orientation for my return to college. As a transfer student with a significant number of credits I was eligible to do online orientation, but the fee was $100 either way so I made the 45 minute trek to campus so I could take advantage of the “free” food and tote bag and being able to ask questions in person.
As background, I have 6.5 years of college experience over two attempts, during which I was mostly a theatre major with a brief span as an English major in the middle. I’m not going back to complete either of those, but instead switching over to psychology. This semester I have two courses – Abnormal Psychology, which has one on-campus lecture per week plus online content, and Personality Psychology, which is all online and only takes place in the second half of the semester.
My alarm went off at 6 am after only 4 hours of restless sleep. Insomnia is starting to be a problem again, and the nervous excitement about today did not help with falling asleep. I drove to campus for the first time (mom drove me to my advising appointment a week ago) and arrived way too early. After sitting around for about half an hour catching Pokémon I was able to go to check-in and receive my lanyard with a name tag and my tote bag with a pen and folder full of information. During the check-in period we were also expected to grab a bagel or muffin and coffee and go get our ID photos taken.
We all gathered in the ballroom for a brief introduction to campus and the student orientation ambassadors who would be leading us in later sessions. Then there were three breakout sessions during each of which we had to choose between several different topics to attend.
First I went to a session on receiving credit for prior learning. The statistics course I need for my major and the biology course (basically high school health) I need for general education both have tests I can take to earn credit for the course. If I buy the textbooks and study on my own, then pay the exam fees I will save about $1,000 on each course. I also have to get credit for an advanced writing course for which there is a portfolio option and given my time as an English major I should be able to pull together enough material for that. It’s a little more challenging than taking a test, but still much better than having to endure the course and write even more papers.
Next I attended a session on student organizations. We took a survey on the computer about our interests and in about a week they will e-mail us each a list of the top 5 organizations that match our interests. Based on the survey questions I do not think they will suggest the organizations that I am actually interested in (Psychology Club, Psi Chi, and NAMI On Campus). After the survey they gave us a brief overview of the types of organizations available and showed us how to log on to a website to find all the options and a calendar of events.
My final breakout session was about tutoring services. They have both on-campus and online tutoring, a writing center, a success skills center, and supplemental instruction (basically a group tutoring session). We are allowed 45-minute appointments up to twice a week per center per course. What I found interesting was the fact that 50% of students who use the tutoring services already have a GPA over 3.0 and 25% have a GPA over 3.5.
After the breakout sessions we went to the student union food court for lunch (I had Papa John’s pizza) and had the opportunity to stop and pick up brochures at various booths in the campus resource fair. I have information from Campus Recreation (I’m interested in the aquatic center and rock climbing wall); Health, Counseling and Student Wellness; Career Development; Learning Assistance Programs; Information Technology; Campus Dining; Disability Services; and the library. I specifically asked if part-time students received the same free services as full-time students and they do.
We returned to the ballroom to be divided up into groups by college where we learned about the degree requirements, then came back together to learn about paying our tuition and fees. We divided into groups again to traipse across campus to another building and use computer labs where they walked us through logging into several of the different accounts such as webmail and the one for student organizations.
Everyone met back up in the ballroom again to learn about student success services, many of which I already had information on from earlier sessions and the campus resource fair. We split up into groups again and cycled through three more sessions: a campus tour, 1:1 appointments, and a student panel. The tour was brief and we only went inside a few of the buildings.
When we got back to the student union I stopped in to talk to a financial aid adviser. I had filled in a form incorrectly and although I mailed a corrected version the website still indicated that I had not completed it, thus I have not been offered any financial aid yet. The adviser said my corrected form had not been received yet, so she had me fill it out again.
The 1:1 appointments consisted of random employees (mine was an admissions recruiter) going over a checklist of topics to make sure we’d learned about them. She asked me if I’d made any connections on campus and other than my advisor I hadn’t, so she wrote her own name, e-mail, and phone number down for me to contact with questions. Other than that she said I seemed very prepared. I did comment that the orientation left me feeling overwhelmed and I wondered how new high school graduates do it. (Mom’s answer via text was “They are dumb and cocky.”)
The student panel only consisted of two students and the few of us who showed up from my group didn’t have any more questions so they sent us off to fill out an evaluation of the orientation experience. After that we picked up our ID cards and were free to leave. In all, I was on campus about 10 hours.
We were released right into rush hour traffic and merging onto the interstate was a little scary, but I’ve learned to manage my driving anxiety with a few DBT skills: Observe Breathing, Encouragement (the E from IMPROVE), and One-Mindfully. I made it back to my home state in one piece and celebrated my lack of panic attack by trying out the new pretzel chicken rings at White Castle.
Classes start in three weeks. I’ve already started reading my Abnormal Psychology textbook and aside from chapter two, which contains a large amount of vocabulary relating to parts of the brain, I feel pretty confident about the material.