New Cyclones set to get started as summer orientation kicks off


Cyclone aide Jaleel Chandler, top, spoke with incoming freshmen and their parents while guiding a tour of central campus during an orientation session June 1, 2016. This summer's busy season of orientation for fall freshmen will run May 29-June 27. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Summer's annual acclimation of new students to Iowa State will return next week when orientation kicks off May 29, the first of 19 two-day sessions for fall's incoming freshmen.

Through June 27, orientation will bring waves of visitors to campus, about 5,800 incoming first-year undergraduates and 9,500 guests, often parents or other family members. Each group will range from 270 to 320 students, plus guests. Separate orientations are held for transfer students (May 21 and June 29), international students (Aug. 8-17), College of Veterinary Medicine students (Aug. 15-17) and Graduate College students.

Though not mandatory, nearly 95 percent of new students are signed up for an orientation session, said Sarah Merrill, interim director of new student programs. They'll establish critical college basics, such as setting their Net-ID, acquiring an ISU Card and meeting with an adviser to register for fall classes. Tours of residence halls, the library, recreation facilities and campus overall are available, as are meetings with financial aid advisers, staff from the dean of students office, and leaders from sororities, fraternities and other programs and clubs.

But orientation also plays an important role in helping students solidify their choice to attend Iowa State, Merrill said. Some students sign up for orientation at multiple institutions, still unsure about where they'll be in the fall. About one-third of incoming students didn't take an official campus visit, she said. Orientation passes the baton from admitted to enrolled.

"Students can visualize themselves on campus -- living, learning, discovering. Their opportunities are endless," Merrill said.

Pitch in with a smile

As usual, it won't be difficult to spot orientation attendees. The students likely will be carrying red drawstring bags they receive. Family members are given beige totes. More than 240 Iowa State employees formally assisted with orientation last year, but everyone on campus can help improve the experience, Merrill said. She urged faculty and staff to look out in particular for orientation participants navigating campus alone, as those without accompanying family are more likely to be first-generation college students.

"Greeting our guests with a smile and a positive attitude exemplifies the spirit of Iowa State University. Helping a lost student find an academic building on a map or pointing out a CyRide bus location -- these are all small efforts that go a long way toward helping students succeed and start off on the path to success," she said.

CyRide will be especially important during orientation this year, due to construction in Richardson Court and on Bissell Road and Union Drive, Merrill said. The renovations that closed down the Memorial Union food court for the summer also will have an impact, as the MU is a common spot for orientation lunches. Though sessions are free, attendees are responsible for their own housing and meals.

"The good news is that this gives us an opportunity to showcase other facilities and our fantastic CyRide bus service, and provide outstanding Cyclone positive attitudes to create the type of supportive atmosphere Iowa State is all about," Merrill said.  

Flexible plans

Students and family will start their orientation process at parking lot 63 adjacent to Maple-Willow-Larch residence halls, where they will get a parking pass and proceed to registration at the Hixson-Lied Student Success Center. Students and families have many options for customizing the experience, including sessions on resources the university offers and life skills -- some specifically for parents, some for students.

The only required components are college-led meetings in the afternoon of the first day and an appointment with an academic adviser on the second day. The college meetings begin in large lecture halls in the Gerdin and Design buildings as well as Curtiss, Troxel, LeBaron and Hoover halls. During the college meetings, children entering grades 5-9 can take part in the Cy's Sibs program to keep busy. If students opt to stay on campus overnight, they'll be in Willow Hall. Family also can choose to stay in Willow.

One new element to orientation this year is the inclusion of Iowa State's principles of community as a common thread throughout the programming, Merrill said.

"We are excited to welcome our newest Cyclones and invite them to actively engage in the Iowa State community," she said.