America’s Best Colleges 2008. Washington Univ. of St. Louis Campus Tour.

6 Questions to Ask at Freshman Orientation

Learn what parents and students should ask at summer orientations.

America’s Best Colleges 2008. Washington Univ. of St. Louis Campus Tour.
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This summer, college students all across the country will be attending various orientations at the schools they'll be attending in the fall. Many eager parents will be attending those same orientations alongside their children.

Summer orientations provide a wealth of information, but you can get even more out of them if you arrive prepared with questions to ask the school professionals that you'll meet.

[Learn how to make a smooth transition to college.]

JULIE:

Attending freshman orientation with your child can feel a little like going back to school yourself. Lindsey's school, the University of Kanas, even presented parents with a large, three-ring binder upon arrival at orientation.

Once at orientation, the information starts coming fast and furious, and you may arrive back home to discover that you didn't get the answer to the one pressing question that you had going in. Preparing a list of questions beforehand and making sure each one gets answered—either in a session you attend or by you seeking out the right person to ask—will make sure that your orientation is a good one.

[Find out how to prepare for moving into college.]

Here are a few questions I suggest:

1. How can I see my student's grades? Students are legally adults and, therefore, the school will be communicating with them, and not you. That often comes as a surprise to parents who are footing the bill.

However, your student can probably give you permission to see their grades, talk to the bursar's office about finances, etc. If that's an arrangement you want to have, you'll need to find out your school's process and complete it with your child.

2. What types of insurance does the student health center accept? Colleges and universities are no different from other healthcare providers. You'll need to find out if your health insurance is accepted by them and what the process is for copayments, filing a claim, etc.

Be sure to go over all of this with your child before he or she leaves for school. College often represents the first time students are in charge of their own healthcare, which can make it especially confusing for them.

3. How are housing and tuition payments made? If you are a first-time college parent, you may be wondering when tuition and housing payments are due and whether or not there are payment plans available. If you still have those questions at the time of orientation, this is a great time to find out the details.

[Get tips on paying for college.]

LINDSEY:

This year I was hired as an orientation assistant at my school, which means I've spent the last two weeks learning everything there is to know about KU, advising, and the orientation process.

Far from clarifying my questions, this training has shown me just how complicated the orientation and enrollment process can be, and how important it is to be prepared when going in.

Some students will fly through the day with ease, but others will need extra help along the way. Here are some of the most important questions I'd ask your orientation staff:

4. Can I tour my residence hall? During official college visits, oftentimes only one residence hall—the most recently renovated, usually—will be open for housing tours. During orientation, however, many residence halls may be open for tours, which will allow you to see exactly what kind of room, bathroom, and other spaces you'll be living in this fall.

5. How do I sign up for or indicate interest in a specific club or organization? At KU orientation, we give students a list of many clubs and organizations and allow them to check which groups they're interested in. This way the leaders of these groups receive their contact information and can start reaching out to interested students regarding application processes, meeting times, etc.

Whether your school does it this way or some other way, use the excitement of orientation to get involved even before you set foot on campus.

6. How do I follow up with my adviser if I have questions down the road? Chances are you'll remember another question after orientation and want to contact who was advising you during that day. Make sure to get the contact information of the advisers who are helping you with your course selection. That way, if you get home and forget why you enrolled in certain courses, you can follow up with that person.