Before College: Is Orientation Worth the Cost?

College costs students pay before classes begin can be shocking — including and especially expenses for attending summer orientation. Freshmen-to-be and incoming transfers often ask, “Is orientation worth the cost of attending it?”

As with so many questions about higher learning, the answer is absolutely definite and crystal clear . . . it depends!

It depends on the costs you’ll incur. Your orientation “budget” should include travel to and from your college or university’s campus, your orientation registration fee, and lodging and meal expenses. Also, don’t forget any wages lost by you and the parent(s) accompanying you to orientation.

Orientation sessions are usually in June or July — the middle of summer travel season. They’re typically two to four days long, although they can last a week. The result? Orientation spending can add up to several hundreds or thousands of dollars — especially at cash-strapped schools that are just looking to generate extra revenues from their students.

It also depends on the opportunities orientation presents you. The National Student Loan Clearinghouse reports that, “Of all students who started college in fall 2015, 73.4 percent persisted at any college in fall 2016, while 61.1 percent were retained at their starting institution.” So orientation is increasingly being called upon to help improve these percentages.

The University of Connecticut at Storrs’ orientation program notes research showing “that students who feel a connection to their new school and other students during orientation are more likely to persist and graduate.” It’s director asserts that “orientation can be an effective way to engage new students, acclimate them to campus, and acquaint them with resources and services that will allow them to hit the ground running — and ultimately graduate.”

So carefully check your school’s orientation schedule. Look for a balance of sessions designed to engage you with your fellow students, acclimate you to your campus, and brief you about campus services. If these are lacking and there are too many parties, receptions or “spirit-building” sessions, orientation may not be worth the money you’d spend on it.

However, one activity can make all the difference. It’s the opportunity to register for fall classes. If your school’s summer orientation program offers this, attend the earliest session possible to reduce your chances of being shut out of classes you need. Otherwise, you may have to wait until just before fall classes begin to register, when you’ll be limited to whatever classes are left — unless your institution offers opportunities to register online from home during the summer. Contact your school’s orientation office to ask about this if necessary.

Finally, it depends on what you put into orientation should you attend it — but hey, that applies to everything you do in college!

Need to control your college costs with sacrificing the quality of your education? Contact College Affordability Solutions for free consultations during which you’ll get the benefit of 44 years helping students and their families develop strategies on this and similar issues.

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