By Susan Green
Parents and first-year students often find the transition from high school to college stressful, but for different reasons.
It's difficult for parents to let go even though they've been preparing for this moment for the past 18 years. And students can be overwhelmed by the reality of actually going to college. They worry about fitting in, getting along with their roommates and wonder whether they'll be able to do the work.
Ohio University's Precollege Program is the first of a three-part orientation process designed to familiarize incoming students with campus and to address critical issues important to their academic success.
Every day, 250 students and their parents arrive on campus for the daylong program, beginning in late July and ending in early August.
The sessions get underway with a welcome and overview of the program from David Descutner, dean of University College and Rick Linn, director of orientation. Sam Crowl, Trustee Professor of English, presents an entertaining "History of Ohio University."
Although registration is the immediate goal, Precollege also introduces students to the broader intellectual life and expectations of the University -- its academic policies, the code of conduct, learning initiatives and available resources. Students take placement exams and meet with faculty and student advisers from their respective colleges. Along the way, they're encouraged to consider the strategies they'll use in order to become successful students.
Tucked into their information packets, "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" by Barbara Ehrenreich, is this year's selection for the common reading project. The book looks at the lives of the working poor.
Established three years ago, the common reading project is a way to introduce incoming students to shared learning experiences and to begin sharpening their critical thinking skills. During orientation, students participate in small group discussions on the common reading led by faculty and staff. Parents are encouraged to read and discuss the book with their sons and daughters, too.
"The common reading is a really good way to get back into the scheme of things after having the summer off," says first-year student Sarah Klinger, who plans to study criminology.
Associate Dean of Students Patti McSteen, says another important element of this year's Precollege Program is AlcoholEDU for College. The online, interactive alcohol education course is science-based and incorporates personalized feedback that helps students make decisions about drinking. Customized by sex and drinking patterns, the course encourages students to explore factors that influence their drinking decisions, including media, family and culture, social situations and advertising. Incoming students are required to take the course before classes begin in September.
After dinner, Dean of Students Terry Hogan enthusiastically opens the evening session, "Expectations and Opportunities," with a familiar game. Microphone in hand, maneuvering in front of the more than 500 assembled parents and students, Hogan begins, "Bobcat says -- how many of you have performed in play?"
He continues for a few minutes covering a variety of topics. It's an effective icebreaker and Hogan uses it to illustrate the range of experiences each person brings to the Class of 2008 and the importance of learning through diversity.
Next on the evening's agenda -- a video of students talking about their experiences at Ohio University. It's a neat segue into a serious discussion about personal responsibility and the realities of adjusting to college life, such as student engagement in learning, relationships with family, friends and roommates, roller coaster emotions and where to go if you need help.
"I really liked the video about college life," Elyse Raley says. "The students were honest, they said what they thought."
Both Klinger and Raley agree that Precollege is a long day chock-full of information and Klinger calls it, "a real eye-opener."
Raley, who plans to study retail merchandising says, "It's a complete change from high school, there are more expectations. But the small group discussions within my college were very helpful. My adviser made a point to speak with everyone individually and helped us with our class schedules. The transition to college will be a bit easier."
After completing the Precollege Program, Klinger, Raley and the rest of the Class of 2008 will continue transitioning into life at Ohio University with Opening Week Orientation, Sept. 2-6, and fall quarter's Extended Orientation.
Susan Green is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.