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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

June 4, 2009

ISU Card

ISU Card program assistant Breanna McCubbin (seated) processes an ID photo for incoming student Holly Countryman as part of Orientation activities earlier this week.Photo by Bob Elbert.

Summer Orientation: Assuring the right fit

by Anne Krapfl

A vast team, led by ISU's orientation program staff, welcomes more than 4,000 freshman and 300 transfer students to campus this month for the first 30 hours of their university years. Over the course of a day and a half, new students learn their way around campus, receive e-mail accounts and ID cards, meet their advisers to register for fall classes, and get answers to all those nagging questions about life at a public university.

So, who's here and what's on their minds? Inside put these questions to Liz Kurt, director of new student programs.

Is participating in an orientation mandatory at Iowa State?
Orientation is not mandatory, but about 94 percent of incoming freshmen do attend. Most of them come from Iowa or the contiguous states, but freshmen from as far as California, New York and Puerto Rico are visiting this month.

Are all the students attending Orientation absolutely coming to Iowa State?
All freshman students attending orientation have paid their acceptance fee, which would indicate they plan to attend Iowa State. Like most schools, we typically experience a "summer melt" -- students who attend Orientation and then decide not to come in the fall. It could be that a student had a bad experience during Orientation. Or, it might be that after spending two days here, he or she realizes Iowa State is not the right fit.

So students are still shopping for the right fit two months before classes start?
We hear more and more each summer about students attending orientations at multiple schools, but there is no data to indicate how many students actually do this. If students attend multiple orientations, they probably also have multiple housing contracts and class schedules. But yes, we are still promoting and selling Iowa State University during Orientation. So it's important that students and families feel welcome in June.

What are the most common questions you hear from students during Orientation?

  • Can I see my residence hall room? (Unfortunately, with renovations, upgrades and summer camps, this is not possible.) But housing and dining are important to new students.
  • Our Cyclone Aides get lots of questions about ISU's social life and their class experiences
  • Some others: What are the professors like? Is it cold here in the winter? What happens if I don't like my roommate? How and when do I buy books?

What are the most common questions you hear from parents during Orientation?

  • Where will (my student) eat?
  • Where do residence hall students do their laundry?
  • How do students get around campus?
  • Tell me again where (my student) will eat

Generally, the questions hone in on their son's or daughter's daily living needs and how Iowa State will take care of all the things the family has been doing for them the past 17-18 years.

We also get lots of questions about parking for student vehicles, campus safety and the student health center.

From your perspective, what's the most important outcome you seek from Orientation (for example, getting fall classes set, meeting other freshmen, becoming familiar with the campus)?
All of these are important, but we also need to make them feel welcome and show them we are interested in seeing all new students succeed here. We want every student and family to have all their questions answered before they leave Orientation. We offer information in different platforms -- such as the resource fair -- to make this happen.

Is there a misperception about Iowa State or maybe college in general you find yourselves trying to disprove at Orientation?
I think some of our new students and family members -- particularly those who have attended orientations elsewhere -- feel they will not receive the personal touch at Iowa State University. But, in fact, many times they share with us that we provide the personal touch and feel of a small school. Our university community helps create a small-school, small-town atmosphere through great customer service and genuine care for our new students and visitors.

They said . . .

Some departing remarks from Orientation guests:

  • Iowa State should provide golf carts for every person at Orientation
  • Orientation should be longer than two days -- it's difficult to get everything done in two days
  • Orientation is too long! We were bored
  • The walking campus tour should not include walking
  • Do I actually have to attend class when I get here?