When you have the opportunity to go through a parent orientation program this summer, there are some key ways to make the most of this gateway experience:

Prepare questions: Think about what you really want to know, not just what you should find out. Interested in how students can apply their learning in practical settings? Ask about internships, jobs and co-op opportunities. Want to know whom your student can turn to if they're having learning difficulties? Ask the question. Thinking ahead will help you determine what's truly important to you and your student.

Don't be shy: Sitting back and listening to presenters and panels makes good sense. However, if you have additional questions, don't hesitate to ask. Whether it's in a group setting or one-on-one after a presentation, your concerns deserve attention.

Listen and take notes: Jot some notes as various presenters bombard you with information. That way, you can read through them when you get home and clear your head. It's easy to say, "I'll remember that point or that contact info" yet the sheer volume of information you are offered during orientation makes remembering everything from memory very difficult.

Get to know other parents: Orientation is an excellent time to mix and mingle with others who are going through the same thing that you are. Develop informal support structures and compare notes with other parents and family members.

Give your student some space: This is their first campus experience as a matriculated student so it's important that they learn to navigate on their own. Give them space to meet people, to ask questions and take charge of their college life. Starting off with a dose of self-responsibility during orientation will set a positive tone for the rest of their time on campus.

Take tours: It may be hot and you may be tired. Yet nothing beats seeing something with your own eyes. So, consider taking tours that are offered. You'll get to see academic buildings, residence halls, community spaces and much more. Then, when your student starts talking about these places during the semester, you'll be able to accurately picture their surroundings.

Keep yourself healthy: Orientation sessions often happen on some of the hottest days of the year. Drink water, stay cool and pace yourself.

Have paperwork in place. Work with your student to make sure that you're bringing all the required paperwork to campus for orientation. Go through a checklist ahead of time so that you both feel prepared to dive into orientation without worry.

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