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Not your average summer job
Precollege prepares students, advisers for the future

April 30, 2007
By Laura Yates

It's not a job, it's an experience.

This is the advice Director of Orientation Programs Richard Linn gives his Precollege Orientation student advisers.

Each summer, more than 4,000 admitted, incoming students become familiar with Ohio University at day-and-a-half Precollege sessions. Helping make that happen are 45 dedicated student advisers, who for four weeks share their knowledge and love for Ohio University with new students and their parents. Advisers become close friends and experts on all things Ohio University -- and learn a lot about themselves.

The Precollege program, administered through University College, is intended to help students and their families transition into college. It provides a complete overview of the first-year experience, while taking care of all administrative details so that students are primed for a successful first year.

During the sessions learn about university academics, resources and events, and register for fall classes. Sessions for parents address their questions and familiarize them with Ohio University.

The program relies on student advisers to welcome freshmen with a bang by helping them schedule classes and guiding them through the activity packed days. Advisers, trained spring quarter in a two-and-a-half-hour weekly class, are equipped to respond to most any question or concern.

"We learn everything from extracurricular activities to academics," says Josh Harbert, who is in his third year with the program and is one of several team leaders among the advisers.

An afternoon tour across campus provides time for questions, which tend to cover things like Ohio University's alcohol policy, academic expectations and typical weekend activities, says junior Matt Barnes, who will be a second year adviser this summer.

"When I first started, I thought it was going to be the same thing every day, like Groundhog Day. But every day is different. Some days you'll have a group that is really quiet and studious, and then your next group might have one joker who will liven up the entire group," he says.

The advisers' 14-hour day ends at Baker Center, where they sing karaoke, play games and hang out with students until at about 10 p.m., when the tired students head off to bed.

These long days are hard, and Precollege advisers must play a double role as a resource and a role model to the incoming freshmen.

"Parents look at these student advisers as, 'this is what I want my student to be,'" Linn says, explaining that students hoping to become advisers go through a rigorous application process beginning in January that includes references and two interview sessions.

"The most difficult part is keeping the same amount of energy every single day," Barnes says. "But you have to keep that energy level up because each group deserves it."

Advisers, who get $1,600 and room and board, say the exhaustion is well worth the effort for the personal benefits they get in exchange.

"This experience has single handedly changed my life," says Athena Smith, a Precollege graduate assistant who works year-round with the program, preparing for the summer program, interviewing adviser candidates and training advisers.

Smith, an Ohio University 2006 art education alum pursuing a master's of education in college student personnel, has worked with Precollege for five years, the first four spent as an adviser.

"I actually changed my field of study because of Precollege. I have learned more about myself than I ever thought was possible. I am more confident, socially competent and have gained numerous skills in public speaking, leadership and autonomy," Smith says.

Graduate student Brittany Buxton, who worked with the program for two years, also attributes the influence of being an adviser to changing her major. For her though, the lasting friendships among advisers stand out.

"It is hard not to get close. Those of us involved in the program actually refer to it as our PC family, and we truly are," she said.

Laura Yates is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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