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In-person orientation returns to Ohio State for first time since 2019

Academic advisers help students, parents navigate first steps of college experience

Mary Leist said the excitement about in-person orientations returning to The Ohio State University is palpable on her team.

Mary Leist“One of my staff did a little jig in my office doorway the other day because they were so excited,” said Leist, director of academic advising in the College of Engineering. “I just love feeling the students’ energy back here. It feeds us.”

Leist is one of many staff members hard at work during summer orientation programs, which are in-person for the first time since 2019.

At the core of orientation is connection, said Jenny Osborn, associate director of First Year Experience, the university office supporting students’ first year on campus. Students and their families should leave an orientation program feeling a part of the Ohio State community.

Orientations were held virtually, in small groups, after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Osborn said that the virtual option worked well enough but often left parents without the obvious signs that their student was beginning to feel at home on campus.

Jenny Osborn“It wasn’t the same as watching your student come in feeling like they were not going to meet anybody and then, by the time you meet back up with them later in the afternoon, they are already connected with a student,” she said.

In-person connections help students feel more prepared when they arrive on campus in the fall, as well. Fisher College of Business offers individual academic advising sessions during its orientation. Students work with an adviser to schedule their first classes and determine which credits from high school may transfer to Ohio State.

“It can be intimidating sometimes,” said Hannah Bushman, a senior academic adviser at Fisher. “This is why you came to Ohio State. It’s awesome that there are 100 different history classes to choose from. [We] help them break that down and make decisions. One on one, we can validate: ‘This is going to be a great schedule for you.’”

Challenges from the pandemic linger. A rise in mental health concerns led to the College of Engineering offering a mental health and wellness session for parents.

“We talk about what mental wellness is,” Leist said. “When do we need to start paying attention to things? Why do students have challenges that they may not have had before, what are ways that parents and families can support their student, how does Ohio State support their student, and when do we reach for outside support?”

Engineering is similar to veterinary medicine, nursing and medicine, with a need to focus on wellness and positive mental health, Leist said. And so, it is important to be responsive to the needs of the college’s population.

Hannah BushmanFirst-generation college students also receive some individual attention during orientation. At the Fisher College of Business, one in five incoming students is the first in their family to go to college. These students are placed in a cohort experience. Students then have a built-in community of peers with similar backgrounds so they can support one another. They also receive additional mentoring from advisers on topics like time management, study strategies and office hours.

“It is very supportive,” Bushman said. “Those advisers work with that population so they will be with those students through graduation.”

It is programming like this that makes students and their families happy they chose Ohio State, Osborn said. Every year, she speaks to parents who worry about the size of the university and every year, they leave excited for their students.

“We see in our evaluations a family that said, ‘I wasn’t ready to send my kid off to Ohio State because it felt too big, it felt too impersonal. But now that we’ve spent two days on campus, that feels different. I feel like you’re going to take care of my baby,’” she said. “It’s wonderful.”

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