New student orientation comes in a hybrid package for 2021

While her team achieved nearly 100% participation with virtual orientation last summer, new student programs director Sarah Merrill is excited to offer a day on campus to students and families this year. Granted, it's an optional piece of orientation, but it's a step in the right direction, she said.

"For those who want to put their feet in the grass, get inside academic buildings, meet each other, talk with a Cyclone Aide -- they'll have that option," she said. "There still are a lot of students deciding if they'll attend Iowa State, so we're hoping this on-campus experience will be an enhancement for them to feel confident and excited about their decision to be a Cyclone."

Online orientation

The required part of new student orientation, four to eight hours of virtual modules -- depending on one's pace and academic program -- will prepare them to arrive at Iowa State in August, Merrill said. New students will complete these at home and learn about topics as varied as Iowa State's Principles of Community, financial aid and academic support services available to them.

For transfer students, who typically need to get into upper division courses, online orientation opened April 1; fall freshmen will receive an email May 24 inviting them to get started. An orientation portal for students' families offers content unique to them.

"I'm very grateful for our partnerships with academic departments and offices that prepared content, whether it's for virtual orientation or on-site orientation," Merrill said.

When students have completed the online piece, which includes a deep dive into their academic major, they're eligible to schedule an appointment with their academic advisor to register for fall classes. Those one-on-one appointments will remain virtual for 2021. They start April 12 for transfer students and June 2 for freshmen, Merrill said.

OnCyte orientation

Merrill said her team anticipates welcoming about 55% of this fall's freshman class to "oncyte" orientation, scheduled weekdays June 4-July 2 and on two Sundays: June 13 and 27. If there's demand, Merrill said they will add sessions up to July 16.

Cyclones Care protocols will be in place for orientation visitors to campus, Merrill said. Up to 140 new students accompanied by up to two guests each will be welcomed to campus daily.

"Many of these students didn't have a typical senior year, including college visits or college planning sessions. For many, this will be the first time to physically come to campus," Merrill said. "I encourage our campus community to roll out that Cardinal carpet for these students and families who choose to come to campus. They really desire to know more about our Iowa State University culture."

Looking to August: Destination Iowa State

Destination Iowa State, a three-day acclimation period for new students, is scheduled for Aug. 19-21.

"We are on board with President Wintersteen's goal of that being a very robust, on-campus experience," Merrill said. "We'll follow all the health and safety guidelines the university has in place at that time, but we are looking forward to bringing students together in community."