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How Would You Design Freshman Orientation?

My friend Ben has been blogging about his first weeks as an undergraduate. In a recent post he reflected on his freshman orientation experience:

“They were largely well-run, though I think colleges could steal more from business conferences which try to facilitate networking — after all, social bonding is the goal of most of orientation, and there are ways to facilitate this beyond simple ‘two truths and a lie.'”

Ben got me thinking. Orientation is certainly too busy. Too much flash. Too many programming decisions made by professional college administrators looking to spend a flush activity budget — gorged on the torrent of new 40k tuition checks flowing through the gate.

What would I do differently? If you put in me charge of a college, I would identify two goals for orientation:

  1. Help new students construct new friend groups.
  2. Help new students figure how to handle the work.

With this in mind, my orientation would proceed as follows. For one week:

  1. In the afternoon: The students meet one-on-one and in small groups with upperclassmen who have their act together. They talk about how to get work done without going insane. Common pitfalls. How to figure out what to do with yourself.
  2. In the evening: a bunch of kegs are rolled in to each dorm. The doors are shut. The RAs look the other way. And the students have at it. No quicker way to find new friends.

How would you design freshman orientation?

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