online orientation
Online orientation may be more accessible, but does it truly allow students to get familiar with their university before the semester starts? Source: Michael loccisano/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Online orientation is set to be the new normal at US and Canadian universities for the summer and fall semesters. Moving forward, more universities around the world are anticipated to follow suit in this manner to welcome students while adhering to pandemic guidelines.

If you are one of these students, here’s an idea of what online orientation will look like in 2020, according to what we know so far.

Online orientation: What to expect

Orientation is an exciting time for new students, and universities recognise that many aspects are challenging to recreate online.

Boston University held its summer orientation online across four sessions throughout June, with a fifth planned for transfer students in July. In the words of its Director of Orientation Shiney James, “Orientation is now not just a session, but a variety of experiences over the summer.”

online orientation

Whether it’s UCLA (pictured) or Yale, international students will likely get their first look at the campus online. Source: Robyn Beck/AFP

This variety of virtual experiences may include live presentations, informational videos, virtual tours and interactive components such as Zoom calls with academic advisors.

Over at Yale University, all pre-orientation programmes are tentatively moved online until its administration confirms plans for the fall semester. According to First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trips Program Director Priscilla Leavitt, “All the Ivy Leagues have decided to have orientations online or cancelled altogether.”

Students to engage virtually for now

Students at Iowa State University (ISU) go through “several hours worth of orientation modules at their own speed,” until June 26.

Certain institutions still intend to carry out in-person orientation activities closer to the start of the semester.

For example, ISU students may still get to experience the Destination Iowa State transitioning programme in August, where they will be connected with experienced students.

Sarah Merrill, director of new student programs at ISU’s Office of Admissions, added, “We hope online orientation continues to be a resource — students will have access to the information throughout their first semester.”

Flexible opportunities for international students

As most of these online sessions will be recorded, international students may access them at a time that is convenient for them.

online orientation

Worried about making friends? Ask your university how you can meet other new students during online orientation. Source: Yana Paskova/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

That’s how incoming students like Meha Mukherjee, who is heading to UCLA from the United Arab Emirates, are able to follow these sessions. She would not have been able to attend an in-person orientation, but now, Meha can follow sessions despite her 11-hour time difference with her university in California.

On top of that, UCLA’s New Student and Transition Programs is connecting students with advisors in one-on-one live sessions. Next, it wants to create opportunities for students to bond over Zoom.

Do orientation fees still apply?

At Boston University, students are charged the same fees for online orientation as they would be for the traditional experience.

Universities are unlikely to offer discounts for the virtual experience. Most have had to realign their resources in a short period of time, even offering additional sessions for family at a separate fee.

Before you sign up for a virtual orientation programme, weigh all your options and university offerings against the fees. All things considered, these sessions offer a chance to prepare yourself for the fall semester remotely; you may even make a few new friends online before embarking on your study abroad journey.

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