Incoming Chippewas get first impression of university as Freshman Academic Orientation continues through June

Quinn Kirby’s first impression of Central Michigan University's campus was it reminds her of a gingerbread village: most buildings looking the same, but full of opportunity.

The Grand Rapids incoming freshman attended the first day of Freshman Academic Orientation on Tuesday — one of 3,500 incoming freshmen attending orientation from now until June 16.

Orientation sessions help incoming freshmen register for the Fall 2016 classes, meet with advisers and be photographed for their campus identification cards.

“You meet cool people here. I met a girl today and people are already asking us where we know each other from,” Kirby said.

About 300 students will attend each orientation session. Student mentors guide them through the process of registration and familiarization of university policies.

Fifteen academic advisers and all department chairs also attend orientation.

“It's all very comprehensive. The academic orientation is the start of their CMU experience and we really value the idea that they traveled here to spend a quality day on campus,” said Michelle Howard, Executive Director of Academic Advising and Assistance. “This is our chance to get all the information in before they register for classes.”

Hartland freshman Madelyn-Grace Traub said she decided to attend CMU for financial reasons, but she found herself enjoying the short distance between campus locations when she visited the school.

“I like that campus isn’t that big. You can walk from one end to the other quickly and it’s really homey," she said.

Planning orientation is a year-round endeavor from January until May. Participating staff reviews previous orientations, attends orientation conferences and hosts planning discussions.

Orientation expenses total $350,000 annually.

Howard said the orientation budget is built based on the amount of students attending. Each student pays $175 in registration fees. The fee goes toward hospitality, lunch, coffee and the employment of the student mentors and informational documents.

“As anyone can imagine, this big of an event can have a significant cost,” Howard said. “Everything is associated with our orientation expense.”

Transfer Academic Orientation, which attendance is also required, runs separately from Freshman Academic Orientation. About 1,100 transfer students attended the orientations that began on April 1 and ended May 12.

“We recognize (transfer students) have been to another school, but when they're transitioning to another university, the terminology, requirements and expectations are all different,” Howard said. “With transfer students, we focus on how their credits meet our university’s requirements and what services to be aware of that may or may not have been available at (their) previous institution.”

While the response is typically positive, Howard said some transfer students ask for alternative formats.

“We’ll work with them because our greatest focus is the ability to advise and work with the student in advancing their enrollment,” Howard said.

Out-of-state students can, and often do, attend the standard orientation, Howard said, but an additional orientation is held two days before the fall semester to lessen the travel burden on out-of-state students and families.

“By that time, the student who couldn't travel that far for the one-day dates will be moved into their residence halls,” Howard said.

Howard said students “certainly have options” and attending orientation doesn't mean they are officially committed to attending CMU in the fall.

She said students who make the time commitment to attend orientation have a strong commitment to CMU, but Howard said she aware they may also be looking at several other options. However, the yield of students who attend orientation and enroll in CMU is high at about 98 percent.

“That's part of the reason we ensure students have all their questions answered, have contact information to ask additional questions following orientation," Howard said. "If summer comes and they begin to have doubts or questions, we want to make sure we are available.”