Monday, August 3, 2015

New orientation sessions provide insights for those serving as students’ support network

While ultimately rewarding, beginning the college experience can be a challenging endeavor. Fortunately, it is usually a journey that no student walks alone, and having a good support system is invaluable. In that spirit, this summer the Chillicothe Campus has added a session for support persons to the orientation program for new students.

While the students are meeting with academic advisors to select classes for the fall semester, their parents, spouses, siblings or other individuals meet with Chillicothe Campus staff members to discuss their role in their students’ college success.

“We recognize many of our incoming students are first-generation college students, which can initially put them at a disadvantage since they may not know how to navigate a higher-education setting,” Coordinator of Student Support Martha Tanedo said. “We talk with the students themselves at orientation and during follow up meetings about the college experience and what it involves in terms of commitment.”

“However, it is important that the students’ supporters also have an understanding of college expectations so they are better able to fill their roles as key support people. If the students know they have someone in their corner to help them when times are rough and who understands why college is a priority, it makes for a better college experience and positions the students for success.”

Many OU-C students are juggling academic demands with job and family responsibilities, creating an extra burden on the students and those close to them.

“We want to make sure the support persons are aware that their students are going to be busy, both in the classroom and doing homework, and that if they can occasionally lend a hand to help with some of those other duties, it is very helpful,” Tanedo said.

The focus is on practical advice to help the students and their supporters.

“Starting college can be intimidating, even for those who are somewhat familiar through family experiences, but even more so for a student who has no family member from whom to learn. We try as best we can to make sure both students and their supporters are aware of resources on campus that are available them, especially if they are struggling. By involving the support persons, they can help to reinforce the messages we share with the students,” Tanedo said.

Much of the orientation discussion centers on relevant insights such as adult accountability, the importance of regular class attendance, time-management and study plans, completing the FAFSA form annually and understanding the types of loans that are available.

“The advice is beneficial to both traditional and non-traditional students,” Tanedo said. “Students right out of high school may not realize the extra time and effort that need to be invested in studying in order to thrive in college. The non-traditional students who have been out of the classroom for some time often benefit from a better understanding of college expectations.”

In all of the efforts, the focus remains on utilizing the orientation sessions to make that first step in the college journey a successful one.

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