From student ID and mailbox key distribution to getting to know your hallmates and the campus community, orientation is a big deal. At William & Mary, Orientation is how we integrate our new students into the greater William & Mary community. Rather than offering orientation weekends or programs throughout the summer when faculty, staff, and other students are not on campus, all new students move onto William & Mary’s campus five days before classes begin and they spend those five days learning about William & Mary and the people who inhabit it. There are sessions on everything from financial aid to pre-professional advising to healthy living. There is a student activities fair, a late-night party at the Rec Center, and an ice cream social for 1400 new students at the Alumni House. There are socials where various residents of one hall meet residents of another through Train Wreck or dinner outings or trips to Baskin Robbins. Basically, we keep students so busy and excited that they do not have time to be homesick. Once Orientation ends, they have met so many people and become familiar with so many campus resources that they are not nearly as homesick as they would have been without Orientation.
What’s even cooler is that orientation at William & Mary is primarily student run. The Dean of Students Office which oversees Orientation hires 10-15 Orientation Area Directors (all current undergraduate students). Those OADs – as they are called – help select the over 200 Orientation Aids (OA)s who are also all undergraduate students. Together, the OADs and their OA staffs help our 1400 new students and families move in, get settled, and acclimate to the College. OAs are also entirely volunteer and they have to audition for the role. We have hundreds of students compete to volunteer for what is a 24/7 job for about 10 days. And while the yellow t-shirts they get are lovely, the true reward is helping their fellow students become a part of the Tribe. As a former OA I can affirm that this position is one of the most highly regarded, the most revered, and the most satisfying student positions on campus.
So while you’re composing a list of questions to ask during college visits, ask about the orientation program. A great journey begins with that first step and William & Mary’s Orientation program leaves mighty impressive footprints.