Sept. 23, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 1

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    New Students Office eases first-years’ transition

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    The College’s 65th annual orientation began last week when all 1,017 members of the Class of 2003 gathered to form the numbers “03” for their official class photo.

    The University’s New Students Office, an organization committed to smoothing the transition from high school to college, orchestrated the photo and is responsible for the 12-day introduction to new teachers, new ideas and new friends.

    “Chicago is going to be our new students’ home for the next four years,” said Rebecca Snyder, Director of the New Students Office. “We help them adjust to their new environment and take best advantage of the resources in their new home.”

    Snyder said students will concentrate on academic testing during orientation, but her army of five staff members, 40 student leaders and more than 250 student orientation aides will round out the experience by introducing first-year students to other aspects of college life.

    “Our office is a central location for new students and parents who have questions but don’t know where to get answers,” said Snyder, whose office receives more than 50 calls a day. “We help them get answers and help familiarize them with how the College works.” And that process does not end with orientation.

    Snyder will continue contact with first-year students through “Chicago Life” discussions, a series of conversations held throughout orientation and the beginning of Fall Quarter. Students will meet in small groups of 30 with an upper-class student who offers candid views on his or her own college experience at Chicago.

    Most of the conversations take place during orientation to help students focus on all aspects of college as early as possible, from enjoying dorm life to planning a career. Other discussions will focus on making smart choices to live healthfully and happily in Chicago; course registration advice; socially responsible behavior––a post-performance discussion of Sex and Respect: Let’s Give ’em Something to Talk About, performed by students; the challenges of academic writing; and a campus resources scavenger hunt.

    “We don’t want our students to think they get 12 days of information, and then, ‘good luck, they’re on their own,’” Snyder said. “The first Chicago Life discussions will allow students to connect with one another right away, and they will also allow us to check in on students’ progress, both academically and socially, later in the year.”

    In addition to Chicago Life discussions, orientation includes traditional group events. Dennis Hutchinson, Master of the New Collegiate Division, delivered the annual Aims of Education Address Sunday, Sept. 19, in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. First-years also spent an evening of exploration at the Museum of Science and Industry, which was reserved for Chicago’s first-year students.

    “Orientation is 12 days of organized chaos. There is so much to do on this campus, and we want new students to have a chance to see as much as they can,” Snyder said. “Our goal is twofold––that all new students receive the information they need to feel ready for the start of the academic year and that they know our office is here to help them throughout the year with any new questions or needs that may arise. In the end though, orientation should also be a lot of fun.”

    Chicago’s freshmen arrived on campus with excellent academic credentials. An overwhelming majority (78 percent) earned combined SAT scores between 1300 and 1600. Of the students who were ranked by their high schools, 95 percent graduated in the top one-fifth of their classes. Most of these students attended public high schools (57 percent), two-fifths went to private schools (40 percent) and a small minority attended foreign schools (3 percent).

    The class also represents 48 states. Forty percent hail from the Midwest, 18 percent from the Mid-Atlantic states, 11 percent from New England, 11 percent from the West, 9 percent from the South and 6 percent from the Southwest.

    International students comprise the remaining 5 percent and will come from as far as Bangladesh.