At the start of every summer, Ohio University prepares for a new freshman class after saying goodbye to its seniors, eager to meet fresh faces before school starts back up again in August. As part of this preparation period, the university welcomes incoming students through Bobcat Student Orientation, or BSO.
BSO is a day-and-a-half-long program for incoming students to learn more about the university, as well as their major and class offerings. Additionally, BSO staff integrate activities for freshmen to learn more about one another, establishing new friendships before the first day of the semester.
Vincent Prior, the director of undergraduate orientation programs, said that BSO is updating its program based on last year's successful turnout, wanting the experience to be even better for students than before. Part of last year's success was due to the escape room activity BSO added to its itinerary, now planning to bring it back this year, as well as more social programming.
"One of the things we added last summer was we did some more intentional late night programming, some social programming for students," Prior said. "Some of my favorite memories from last summer were in those same spaces, but with our staff. While they're interacting with students, or students are interacting with each other, us being able to also interact with the team."
Outside of activities, Prior also says incoming students can expect breakout sessions, allowing them to choose what topics they would like to learn more about on campus.
"It's an opportunity for students and their guests to choose what content they hear at orientation, and that's where we're able to hone in on your personal experience," Prior said. "It's not just a one size fits all, everyone gets all the content. It's here's a time in the day where you get to strategically pick what you hear based on the things that you're interested in or what needs you have."
Students are required to stay overnight in the dormitories on campus, getting a taste of campus life during the summer while interacting with others from all over the U.S.
Ceci Rockwell, the orientation coordinator for student programs, says that new students should also prepare to meet many new people, emphasizing the importance of making connections early on in their college careers.
"One thing that they should expect is that you're going to meet tons of new people," Rockwell said. "They're going to get to get to know their advisors and really have a conversation about what it means to be a Bobcat."
Past orientation leaders also gave their insight on how students can prepare for the program, encouraging them to stay open-minded and positive throughout. Jacob Portem, a junior studying nursing, says that this will allow the program to go smoother for new students.
"A lot of times students will see different things and they just don't really want to do it," Portem said. "I think they should just be very open minded and try to expect the best because I think that's really what we're trying to do and really trying to get them ready for their fall semester."
Portem also says that orientation leaders naturally are very energetic, giving this advice to students who may be initially intimidated by the program. He also said that meeting new people can feel overwhelming, but making friends is worth it in the end.
Now that BSO staff have been waiting since January to welcome new students, Prior and Rockwell are excited to get to know the incoming students this summer, wanting to support freshmen from different backgrounds.
"If I'm a first generation college student, there's something for me there," Prior said. "If I am a legacy student and my family has come to Ohio before, how do I engage differently? There's a couple of different populations that we try to support, and a lot of our program is designed around that."
Looking back on her BSO experience, which led her to become an orientation leader, Rockwell hopes to continue making memories with students this summer. So far, one of her favorite memories has been connecting with students in her major.
"Some of my favorite memories are getting to meet new students," Rockwell said. "When working my first year on the team, I worked with the College of Health Sciences and Profession which is my major specific college, and I got to meet so many of my students that I later on have had class with and became friends with. Getting to see them grow is one memory that I really enjoy."
Portem says his favorite memories include ones beyond BSO, enjoying seeing his students thrive within their first year of college.
"I think probably my favorite memory really wasn't during the summer," Portem said. "It was actually seeing all the students that I helped advise that I worked with over the summer later in the fall of their first semester and seeing them talk to me, which I think was really great."
Overall, Bobcat Student Orientation provides many opportunities for freshman year to adjust before jumping headfirst into a new school setting. Prior says that these opportunities are what students will take away the most from the experience.
"I think it's the opportunity to connect, opportunity to learn resources, getting your first semester schedule and then being able to identify what you need as a student and getting that out of the program," Prior said.