Fall semester New Student Orientations will be online this summer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of First Year Experience Programs announced in an email to incoming freshmen Tuesday.
New Student Orientation is meant to give incoming IU students a better understanding of what to expect when they arrive at IU. The orientation is typically a day-and-a-half-long event with informational presentations, class scheduling and campus tours. Students have the option to stay the night in on-campus housing and meet other new students.
Incoming students will still make an orientation reservation, which will be made for the day they go through advising for classes, but some of the elements of orientation such as various presentations may be stretched out over the summer instead of condensed into a day and a half, said Melanie Payne, Director of First Year Experience Programs.
“We’re doing everything we can to give them as normal of an experience as possible because this isn’t normal,” she said.
Advisers are already meeting with current students through virtual meetings, so Payne is hopeful that any problems will be worked out by the time incoming students have advising appointments.
The office is still coming up with ideas about how to create online versions of orientation events. So far, Payne said, they are planning to do this through virtual tours, online chats and recordings of the presentations.
“We will replicate as much as we can replicate,” Payne said.
The office still hopes to show the IU orientation musical, "Welcome to College," which is a collection of situations college students might find themselves in. Payne said it touches on diversity, bystander intervention, consequences of alcohol and drugs, safety, sexual assault and consent.
The office had planned on making some changes to the musical by adding a more significant mental health portion, Payne said. A script and songwriting team has been selected, but as of now she said there is no director or cast and they can’t start rehearsals.
“We intend to keep those messages even if it’s not in musical format,” Payne said.
Jake Morse, an incoming Kelley School of Business freshman from New Jersey, said he wanted to come to New Student Orientation to meet new friends and get accustomed to the campus before classes start in the fall. He said he’s disappointed about orientations needing to be online because it’s part of the college experience.
“It’s like a rite of passage,” Morse said.
Current freshman Lucy Lippman said she was nervous about coming to such a big school because her high school only had about 70 people in each grade. She said her orientation was reassuring because it allowed her to make new friends so she already knew people when she moved in.
“The best thing was knowing that I had some people to connect with at such a big school,” Lippman said.
She said doing things like seeing places on campus to play frisbee and eating pizza from Pizza X at orientation made coming to college feel more real. She also said she enjoyed watching the orientation musical and participating in the “I’m a Hoosier because” icebreaker game.
She said she can see how parts of orientation may be easier online. When she was at her orientation she had to attend group advising even though she knew she had tested out of some of the basic level classes, so she thinks scheduling could be more personal online.
Lippman thought they could do breakout Zoom sessions to help the new students meet their classmates. She said she thinks not being able to meet new people would be the most difficult part of having orientation online.