For the first time in Ohio University history, incoming freshmen have been touring campus and completing Bobcat Student Orientation online only.

In order to fight the spread of COVID-19, OU, like many other universities, has switched the typical in-person freshmen orientation experience to an online format. OU has acted very quickly to make the new orientation experience go as smoothly as possible during the unforeseen circumstances of the pandemic.

Ava Da Re, a senior orientation leader studying painting and drawing, said the normal BSO programs have been greatly condensed as a result of orientation moving online.

“After all, we are cutting out the walking around campus, the physical immersion of the surroundings and the free-time liberties students usually get during their orientation offline,” Da Re said. “I’ll admit, even as a college representative, that the mystery of how this has all worked with what I see as impressive smoothness has gone far above my head.”

Da Re said the check-in process, academic essentials, the Becoming a Bobcat presentation, the scheduling of appointments and “Late Nights” socials are all online. All of the different segments that make up BSO are happening simultaneously and in unique ways. The process of appointment scheduling and academic essentials may vary by college.

“It can be chaotic at times, but I think for the most part, it’s been nearly seamless in its implementation,” Da Re said. “Vincent Prior and the FYrST office have done — in my opinion — an excellent job at crafting the overall atmosphere of this new orientation experience.”

Da Re said although she is impressed with how smoothly online orientation has gone, she misses the face-to-face interaction with incoming students and their guests. Her favorite part of in-person orientation is the scheduling process because it is like a puzzle that she helps students customize and build.

“I never thought that I would miss sweating something fierce in my thick work polo while working parking lot duty in the morning, but here we are,” Da Re said. 

Da Re said although the in-person experience is more enjoyable and personable, she knows it is for the best to have BSO online this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19, since families come from many different places.

Jacey Stephen, an incoming freshman studying business marketing, said it was more difficult to focus on the abundance of information she was ingesting at home than it would be in person. She said the bulk of the process included listening to lengthy sessions followed by 30-minute breaks, and it ended with class scheduling.

“It was just really hard to focus and definitely not the same as actually being there,” Stephen said.

Without in-person orientation, students are not able to physically meet their learning community leaders or any of their future classmates. However, with the fluctuating number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., the virtual option is the only option that OU felt would keep everyone safe.