Across the nation, college freshmen will remotely complete their incoming orientation online due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to university websites.
As increasing cases of the coronavirus in the United States became a concern for college students, parents and faculty, university officials decided to transition to virtual learning. They also asked employees to work from home, postponed on-campus events and found new ways to welcome the incoming freshman class. Florida universities – such as Florida State University and the University of Florida – are among those who are requiring their new students to complete orientation online.
Freshman orientation is often the first event a freshman attends in college. Incoming students would have had the opportunity to meet other students, their orientation guide and advisors, and be able to familiarize themselves with the campus. Students traveling to attend university believe they will face social disadvantages before beginning their collegiate career due to events being moved online.
Isabella Silar, a South Florida resident, will be moving to Georgia to attend Georgia Tech. She had hoped to attend orientation physically rather than virtually.
“I definitely feel the experience of interacting with future classmates would have been very beneficial,” said Silar. “I think it would have made me more comfortable with the environment at my future school, which would have eventually allowed me to approach my academics with more confidence.”
Kyomi Cabral is a college freshman moving to Miami to attend Florida International University in August. She believes attending an online orientation impacted her ability to socialize with future classmates.
“I feel unprepared because I was not able to meet anyone new. I feel as though my first few days on campus will be pretty lonely,” said Cabral.
Cabral said her online orientation was difficult to attend because of the early time. She thanked her orientation leaders, known at FIU as Peer Advisors, for making the online orientation more enjoyable.
“My favorite part was the Peer Advisors who made it more interactive and personal compared to the presentation of information we received at the beginning,” said Cabral.
Freshmen are the main group to be impacted by online orientations, but advisors and mentors are feeling the disconnect too. Marcio Lau said being an online Peer Advisor has definitely been a different experience, but still one he and his teammates are excited about.
“Although orientation is now through Zoom, it’s still the same goal: prepare, inform and hype up the incoming new students,” said Lau.
Lau said he noticed a difference in student engagement in the online sessions. Many more students had questions about class selection and scheduling advisor appointments rather than questions about the campus or student life.
“What many of the Peer Advisors experience are questions that, most of the time, academic advisors can respond to that we can’t,” said Lau. “I feel like if these orientations were conducted on campus like usual, we would receive more diverse questions about the university.”
The balance between academics and fun during freshman orientation usually shows incoming students a more complete picture of what their new school has to offer.
“The orientation at my school specifically is highly talked about. I think it was very disappointing that I will never be able to experience it,” said Silar.