Ball State freshman orientation staff share summer 2021 changes

<p>Ty Garrison and Haylie McCracken, 2015 Ball State alumni, browse the bookstore in the Arts and Journalism Building June 2, 2021. Orientation guests eat in the Atrium during their lunch break and can buy university apparel in the bookstore. <strong>Grace McCormick, DN</strong></p>

Ty Garrison and Haylie McCracken, 2015 Ball State alumni, browse the bookstore in the Arts and Journalism Building June 2, 2021. Orientation guests eat in the Atrium during their lunch break and can buy university apparel in the bookstore. Grace McCormick, DN

Learn more about summer 2021 in-person orientation

Ball State incoming freshmen were given the option of in-person or virtual orientation for summer 2021. Both programs cost the same amount of money, paid for through the $150 matriculation fee billed to freshmen in the fall semester.

Students who chose in-person orientation will come to campus for a one-day program they selected through the admitted student portal. Orientation check-in begins at 7:30 a.m. and programming runs through 5 p.m. 

Students will be given a $10 meal card for in-person orientation to use at the open dining halls. Family members should bring their own money for lunch.

In-person attendees will have the option of staying in Studebaker East Residence Hall on the nights before or after their scheduled orientation for a fee of $25 per student per night or $50 per room per night for family members.

For more information on orientation programming, visit Ball State’s orientation website.

Sources: Samantha Ray, Emma Trent and Ball State orientation website

Every weekday from the beginning of June through mid-July, Ball State’s campus will again see groups of people sporting cardinal red drawstring bags filled with information on campus offices and resources, as freshman orientation welcomes new students in person this summer.

Freshmen were given the option of doing an in-person or fully virtual orientation. Samantha Ray, associate director of admissions and orientation, said most freshmen chose the in-person option and will visit campus for one day, with the option of staying overnight in Studebaker East Residence Hall. Typically, orientation is spread out over two days, but was shortened this year to abide by smaller capacity sizes in buildings and ensure each new student completes orientation before July 17.

Each campus office that usually presents during orientation — including Housing and Residence Life, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, Dining Services and Academic Advising — will do in-person presentations for on-campus attendees and record videos for students completing orientation online. Ray said additional campus activities that don’t usually present at orientation were also given the option to record a video this year.

“Mostly everything was conserved,” Ray said. “It was just put into different time frames and shorter presentations that still cover all the essential content that students and families need to know, but in a way that’s not an hour-long session.”

Students attending orientation on campus are allowed to bring up to three guests with them. Family members who go to orientation with their students will watch the same presentations in the morning and separate on their lunch break, Ray said. Then, students will hear from clubs, activities and campus resources in the afternoon and visit an academic advisor for a one-on-one appointment to schedule their classes.

Family members will have the option of attending a campus walking tour, scheduling a one-on-one financial aid consultation or participating in a tour of downtown Muncie after their lunch break during the parent-and-family programming in the afternoon. Virtual programming also includes tours and one-on-one financial aid appointments.

Students who chose to complete online orientation, Ray said, will watch videos from campus offices and schedule a virtual academic advising appointment to schedule their fall 2021 classes. 

“Since [the COVID-19 pandemic] started last March, we’ve pivoted and changed to a completely virtual orientation up to this point,” she said. “I think we’ve pretty much streamlined and figured out an efficient way to pull those items together and not creating everything from scratch.”

To encourage online orientation students to engage with the campus community, Ray said the Office of Undergraduate Admissions launched a new Instagram account this year, @bsuorientation, for current students to give incoming freshmen advice and answer questions sent in by Instagram users.

“For those people who are only doing online orientation, [Instagram is] a good way to see what’s happening on campus, some ways to hear from current students at Ball State and engage with them through that platform,” she said.

Emma Trent, senior Spanish and telecommunications major and student orientation coordinator, said she is happy to welcome freshmen to campus after completely virtual programming last summer.

“Having virtual orientation could not be more of a 180 from working our traditional program,” she said via email. “During virtual orientation, we communicated with students through an app and had to find ways to engage with them digitally. I was so impressed with the creativity everyone used during our online program, but overall, it was much harder to keep students engaged.”

Trent said in-person orientation has a rigid schedule and more opportunities for orientation leaders to bond with one another, and for students to meet new friends and familiarize themselves with campus.

“That being said, both of these programs are great ways to get ready to come to campus full-time and a student's decision to choose online orientation for any reason is fully supported and respected by the in-person staff,” she said.

Trent said students and families will spread out in Emens Auditorium for the morning programming, rather than the traditional use of Pruis Hall for presentations.

With about 150 students on campus each day, up to 450 people could be in Emens if each student brings three guests. Each in-person orientation group has 10 students.

“My hope is that these new freshmen leave orientation feeling excited and prepared to come to Ball State, and that they realize how welcoming our community truly is,” she said. “From my first tour here, I felt a sense of community and my goal is to share that sense with everyone that comes through our program.”

Ray echoed Trent’s sentiment and said the option of in-person orientation will offer some incoming freshman an opportunity to see campus for the first time.

“In previous years, people may have visited multiple times over and over again and continued to fall in love with our campus,” she said. “I think this is going to be a critical moment [and] students are finally going to start to feel like, ‘This is real, this is happening. I’m coming to Ball State, this feels like home [and] this feels like the place I’m supposed to be this fall.’”

Ray said she doesn’t think incoming freshmen last year experienced the same excitement for campus that new freshmen have the opportunity for this summer.

“Nothing replaces being able to step foot on campus and interact with people,” she said. “We really hope that the opportunity to do that will make people more comfortable come move-in time and Welcome Week. This is just getting them one more step ahead in that transition process.”

Contact Grace McCormick with comments at grmccormick@bsu.edu or on Twitter @graceMc564.

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