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Orientation Programs

Although there is no one proper way to conduct an Honors orientation program, orientations should reflect the goals and culture of the individual program and school. Ideally, they should also feature, draw on, or be inspired by the specific learning goals of the Honors program or Honors college. Since research shows that students typically decide within the first six weeks of their college education if they “belong” at a school, a good orientation not only smooths the transition from high school to college but can also help retain the college’s most talented students.

Honors orientations can either precede standard orientation or be folded into those institution-wide activities. Employing experienced Honors students as major participants in an Honors orientation can result in an enjoyable, relevant, meaningful experience for incoming students. Peer driven orientations-rather than administrator/instructor driven-open up opportunities for ice-breaker activities, creative thinking, and development of leadership skills. They also provide the experienced students a way to contribute to the program and offer freshmen models of successful Honors students.

Many different types of orientation activities exist, but the best approaches usually mix hands-on, active exercises with information-delivery sessions. Many orientation activities are intended to foster a sense of community among the incoming students. These activities might include a summer letter sent to freshmen from their Honors peer mentors; a common reading experience, perhaps with discussions led by peers; an informational meeting with students and parents; a sample class with Honors instructors that highlights Honors learning strategies; a scavenger hunt that allows first-year students to get to know the campus better; a writing assessment tied to the common reading; and casual meals and informal activities with new classmates.

Many orientation programs also have separate activities for parents. These might involve presentations by Honors faculty, a question and answer session with the Honors director and several current Honors students (or veteran Honors program parents), informal meetings with campus administrators, and a tour of your town or city led by a knowledgeable staff member or student.

Orientation for transfer students is somewhat more complicated, but a separate one attending to the specific needs and backgrounds of those students can be worthwhile, as well.

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National Collegiate Honors Council
1100 Neihardt Residence Center
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
540 North 16th St.
Lincoln, Nebraska
68588-0627

Tel: 402-472-9150
Fax: 402-472-9152

Email: nchc@unl.edu

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To support and enhance the community of educational institutions, professionals, and students who participate in collegiate Honors education around the world.