GERs. Credit hours. CLPs. B.A. or B.S. For most Furman students, these acronyms are an everyday part of academic life.
But for incoming freshmen, it can seem like people are speaking a different language.
That’s where Summer Orientation comes in.
“The biggest reason we do summer orientation is to prepare our incoming students for academic life at Furman,” said Jessica Berkey, associate director for student activities. “We can advise them in person and connect them with various faculty, staff members, and students so they can make a successful transition into college.”
For the past two years, Furman has offered a hybrid approach to preparing students for college life—Summer Orientation and Fall Orientation. Summer Orientation focuses on the nuts and bolts of class selection and academic life, giving students the freedom to focus on the social aspect of college life during Fall Orientation.
To begin that process, the Class of 2017 was given the option to attend one of five two-day sessions for Summer Orientation. During the program, they learned how to register for classes, met faculty members, and were given an opportunity to ask questions about life at Furman. The session has is quickly become popular with new students. Last year, 75 percent of the freshman class attended Summer Orientation. This year, that number jumped to 82 percent.
“When I came to Summer Orientation, I really looked up to the orientation staff leaders because they were the first upperclassmen I got to meet,” said Laura Heath ‘16 (Sandy Springs, Ga.) “They really made a difference because I could ask questions I couldn’t get from a pamphlet or tour.”
Not only do the orientation group leaders answer incoming students’ questions, they also help them get to know each other and start building a social network. At the beginning of the day the students are separated into groups of 10 to 12 students. Throughout the event the students spend most of their time in their small groups, which means by the end of the day they’ve already made a connection with others in their class.
After spending the morning getting to know each other and playing icebreaker games, the groups are paired with a faculty advisor. Their advisors explains how many classes a student should be taking, what classes are popular for meeting general education requirements, and how to transition into college.
By the end of the faculty sessions, students felt more comfortable with Furman’s expectations.
“It’s a lot of information to take in, but it’s good to be able to ask questions and understand what you’re getting into,” said Emma Waters ‘17 (Greenwood, S.C.) “It has definitely helped.
While the Class of 2017 was gaining valuable insight into Furman’s academic programs, their parents were getting their own introduction to campus life. Each year, the school hosts Family Orientation to complement Summer Orientation. At Family Orientation, parents and other family members are given an opportunity to learn about the university where their student will be attending for the next four years.
John Beckford, Furman’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, informed them that their students were entering a community where they would be well taken care of.
“Dean Beckford’s session made me feel better,” said Dennis Easley, who attended with his daughter India ‘17 (Greenwood, S.C.). “He said the staff are approachable and won’t just brush you off. They’ll get you to the right people.”
Another way orientation helped alleviate some of the stress is by letting both students and their parents know what kinds of resources the school has to help them succeed.
At the end of one session, students and parents gathered at the Trone Student Center for a resource fair. Families wandered from table to table meeting the staff members who will support their student’s academic, social, and personal success over the next four years. They left with less anxiety.
“To just drop him off on that day in August is going to be a lot less stressful having been here and done the summer orientation,” said Karen Hone, who attended with her son Matthew ‘17 (Oklahoma City, Okla).
By the end of orientation, students felt confident and excited about coming to Furman.
“It has definitely shown me what life’s going to be like,” said Ellison Cleghorn ‘17 (Charlotte, N.C.).