Freshman orientation left me decidedly disoriented. I was not required to attend freshman orientation, but I wanted to take advantage of anything that would help me prepare for college. Instead of learning the finer points of the first year, it was more like the Barnum and Bailey Circus. I was part of the large mass of people moving from one place to another, hurrying to see the next attraction. The welcome speech was unremarkable. A lot of information, but nothing new. It was a rehash of everything freshmen already knew. The professor and senior student leading the presentation explained that in college, a student must learn to study, manage classes and partying. There was a general overview of what professors expect from student, as well as numerous warnings that you are on your own now, you are not in high school anymore. They touched briefly on what to tell, or not tell, your parents about college. The bulk of the presentation focused on cell phone courtesy and making sure you do not post embarrassing photos on Facebook that future employers might see. I waited in the packed auditorium for someone, anyone, to talk about all the new and exciting things we would learn about. I thought I would hear about new milestones and research we, as college students, would be privy to. There had to be discoveries and improved procedures in learning for us to look forward to. But not once was there excitement over learning. Was I expecting too much?
The true test of an informative speech can be determined by audience reaction. My first session at Freshman Orientation was all about Study Strategies and Success in College. A great title, but not much else. The upperclass student speaker sported a superior attitude that effectively had the audience thinking of anything except what she was saying. I saw my future classmates texting, watching the clock, eyes glazed over as they tried to stay awake and not listen to her “been-there-done-that’ stories. We are freshmen. We have not been there, nor have we done that. Your stories are not relevant to us yet, and that attitude turns us off. I listened patiently, waiting for at least one practical way to study or achieve success, but the only advice she offered was to sit in the front of the class to get good grades. Hmmm….if it were that easy, wouldn’t everyone get straight A’s? The professor stood beside the student speaker, smiling and nodding her head, reminding me of a bobble-head doll I saw in the bookstore. Neither of them mentioned that freshmen would be able to learn about so many different subjects. No talk of cutting edge discoveries or new ways of thinking. I may be expecting too much.
Age is not an issue, until you make it the issue. My second session was not much better than the first. The minute I walked through the door, the professor came to me and personally showed me to a seat, remarking that the university welcomed non-traditional students. I know he thought he was being kind, but his actions caused every head in close proximity to turn and stare at me. I wanted to be a freshman college student, like everyone else, not an anomaly. And I may be old, but I am capable of finding my own seat…all by myself. I spent the next forty minutes thinking about the fact that I have been labeled a non-traditional student. I can not remember what that orientation session was about.
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I do not know who coined that phrase, but they deserve credit for the hope those particular words provide. Orientation left a lot to be desired. Our university could do better. The focus for the individual sessions must be on higher learning. That is what we are there for. New ways of critical thinking and achievement have to be highlighted in order to inspire students. The information that was presented at our Freshman Orientation can be distributed effectively through print materials. New discoveries, what there is to learn, and what can be learned at the college must be the main point of any orientation session. While it is important for new students to understand basic concepts of higher learning, it is most important to foster a desire to know more. To enable students to learn the lessons in class and apply those lessons to a greater good. Am I expecting too much? Absolutely not!
I have pencils, notebooks, a new bookbag, and a burning desire to learn everything. I can’t wait for the first day of school!