At BC, Summer Orientation Is Not Just for Students Anymore

At BC, Summer Orientation Is Not Just for Students Anymore

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

It is a familiar summer ritual: Incoming freshmen arrive for their orientation at Boston College, chauffered by parents who help their children unload their luggage and settle into the residence halls, then head off into the sunset.

But nowadays, there's a difference: not all the parents leave.

For the past six years, the University has offered parents and guardians their very own orientation program, running concurrently with the three-day student sessions held on campus during June, July and August.

Undergraduate Government of Boston College President Alvin Barnett, '01 (right), chats with a group of incoming freshmen during a recent orientation session. Parents of new students also can get their own introduction to Boston College, and a llittle advice on how they and their child can survive freshman year. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

University administrators say the program helps parents to become more familiar with the workings of Boston College and its expectations for its students, and to gain an understanding of the Ignatian vision guiding the University.

But administrators say another purpose of the orientation session, for both students and parents, is to support the adjustment process that is inevitable when a son or daughter leaves home to start college - a process both parent and student must undergo.

The result is an orientation far different than what parents remember from their college days.

"Basically, the orientation I got when I went to college was that I got dropped off and was left to my own devices," said Robert Fox of Lake Forest, Ill., whose daughter, Sarah, will be attending BC this fall. "I really appreciate all that they do here. It's very informative and makes it much easier on us."

"What we're trying to do is build a partnership with parents so that they can be a part of their son or daughter's experiences at Boston College," said Rev. Joseph Marchese, who directs BC's First Year Experience program. The orientation session is not mandatory, he adds, but increasing numbers of parents - who must arrange for accommodations off-campus - are attending.

One of the program's major goals, he explained, is to reassure parents that their children will be cared for when they arrive as freshmen in September.

"We have to show them that we are in the process of creating human beings with Catholic Jesuit values. It means a lot to them to hear that," said Fr. Marchese.

Because the needs of the parents and students differ, the two orientation sessions run independent of each other. While their sons and daughters are introduced to the many facets of college life by student volunteers, parents meet with other upperclassmen, faculty, administrators, and parents of current students.

At one orientation event earlier this month, a panel of BC undergraduates shared with parents their memories of the transition to college life, describing the full range of emotions a student can experience in his or her first year away from home and family.

As eager as they were to grow up and move on in their freshman year, students said they also recalled feeling insecure about being away from those they loved and adapting to a new lifestyle. Parents, they said, can make the situation easier by showing a little understanding - and some restraint.

"There's no such thing as an easy transition," said Ryan McCarthy '03, a student panelist from Wayland, to a packed auditorium in Devlin Hall.

"You are their base. They still need you - but that does not mean you have to call them every day," he joked.

"I thought that the student panel was extremely helpful," said Watertown, Conn. resident Karen Hosking who attended an orientation session with her husband, Bill.

"We feared that our son would go from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a huge sea," she said. "Now we see that almost every student goes through that."


Return to July 20 menu

Return to Chronicle home page