Why is Student Orientation Important?
“It's our first chance to help students feel like this is a place they can call home.”
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
August is a busy month for Coordinator of Student Orientation Sarah Erdman. New students are making one of the biggest transitions of their lives by leaving home and starting life as college students.
Higher education has influenced Sarah from day one, literally. Because her father was the resident director when Sarah was born, she spent her first few years of life living on a college campus. Sarah discovered her love for student development when she served as a resident assistant during her undergraduate years at JBU.
“I became really passionate about the college years and what takes place in those years. As a student, there is such a transition from home to full adulthood. It's a big four years. We need to be intentional in helping students figure out their identity and discover who they are as individuals.”
According to Sarah, student orientation serves students in three essential areas:
- Physical transition. Moving to a completely different place without the safety net of having family nearby can cause great anxiety for students. That’s why Sarah and her student orientation team work to provide students with information about things like the physical locations of different student services and what they can expect from dorm life.
- Social interaction. The first few weeks of college is an essential time for new students to meet people and make friends. The social aspect of university life allows students to feel like they belong. “They leave orientation feeling like ‘this is home’ or ‘this is not home’,” said Sarah, “It's our first chance to help students feel like this is a place they can call home.”
- Academic preparation. Of course, the main reason students attend college is to learn and earn a degree. According to Sarah, orientation helps students with the first steps toward academic success. “We focus a lot on advising, registration, and spending intentional time with the faculty.”
In addition to her experience as a resident assistant and resident director, Sarah’s education has given her the tools she needs to coordinate a successful orientation program that will fulfill these three purposes. Sarah graduated with her master’s in higher education from JBU in 2010.
“A higher education degree helps you see the administrative side and understand the inner workings of a university,” said Sarah. “Orientation is a very large program, so thinking strategically about how to take an objective and design a program to meet that need—I think my degree definitely assisted me in that.”
Sarah says she also appreciated the integration of faith in the classroom at JBU and its emphasis on a student’s academic, spiritual, and social stages of development. She was pleased to experience a variety of courses in addition to her higher education-specific courses, including Building Teams and Leading Change.
To those who are thinking about getting into higher education, Sarah says, “there are so many different opportunities in higher education. There are a lot of options outside of just teaching. Student development is definitely a growing area, and the field needs passionate, qualified people.”