New Student Orientation replaces summer orientation weekend, receives mixed reviews

The 2018-19 school year kicked off with a brand new student orientation program. Spanning the course of five days, the new program gives students the chance to immerse themselves in the Tulane experience before classes begin.

The new mandatory program, which took place from Aug. 22-26, replaces the two-day summer orientation weekend. As a result of the new orientation schedule, the EXPLORE program, which allowed freshmen to participate in pre-orientation experiences, have also been discontinued for the time being.

According to Director of Admission Jeff Schiffman, the EXPLORE program may not be gone forever.

“Personally, I see tremendous value in the program and am one of EXPLORE’s biggest fans,” Schiffman said. “I would like to see a more inclusive and accessible EXPLORE program reemerge next fall that allows all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, to attend.”

Despite the loss of the EXPLORE program, Schiffman said he thought this year’s orientation went well and gave students a smooth transition. Some first-year students expressed similar approval of the program, including freshman Alec Horton.

“I like the fact that they bring every freshman in, right before class,” Horton said. “It helps us to not forget stuff over the course of summer, and then we get here and freak out again because none of us were paying attention at orientation.”

Sophomore Wave Leader Laurel Kessler said having the information fresh in their minds helps the incoming class to adjust to their surroundings.

“It’s a good adjustment period,” Kessler said. “When I went, it was during the summer and wasn’t as accessible. This is more impactful. If I would have had this, I would’ve been more comfortable. I really like the fact that this has changed this year.”

One notable change to this year’s orientation is that class scheduling does not take place during the program. This aspect of the process has now been shifted into a new program CAST: Cultivating Academic Success at Tulane.

CAST is an optional, one-day event in June focused on planning the students’ first semesters with the academic advisors. This program eliminates the students’ previous tunnel-vision focus on classes and allows for the incoming class to direct their attention to crucial information regarding their first year, according to Tyler Welch, sophomore Resident Advisor in Sharp Hall.

“I think that because scheduling is not a focus, and that they can get it done during CAST, that it allows orientation to truly just settle into student life on campus rather than solely academics,” Welch said.

The additional days allow students to receive more information than they would have with the previous program, however, there are still drawbacks with the added three days, according to Welch.  

“I think the days have been long, and the long days have been back to back,” Welch said. “And so it’s just required a lot of personal stamina on everybody and has really worn people out.”

Several freshmen expressed similar views. According to Welch, the long hours may have been a way to limit high-risk drinking and homesickness among freshmen during New Student Orientation.

“It’s to keep people from going out and drinking, but I think also they’re trying to keep people engaged, so that they’re not thinking about not being at home,” Welch said.

Even though the new orientation program accommodates the whole freshman class, students from different dorms had little chance to intermingle, according to Horton.

“I think we could have spent time making connections, maybe mixing groups,” Horton said. “I haven’t talked to a single person from Sharp or Monroe or any other residence hall, just because we’ve always been moving from one thing to the next with very little time in between to do anything we want to do.”

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