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Friday, May 7, 2021

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A new SDSU student and her mother check in for orientation.

Fresh Faces Arrive

The summer’s first orientation program for new students begins Saturday, July 21.
By Sharon Penny

An influx of newcomers will arrive on the Mesa this week – learning about general education and graduation requirements, hearing what it means to be a responsible Aztec citizen, exploring campus and learning as much as they can about what being an Aztec is all about.

The first New Student Orientation program begins on Saturday, July 21 and programs will continue for incoming freshmen, transfers and parents throughout July and August.

"These programs ensure
first-year success for our
incoming students and their families."

The Office of New Student and Parent Programs anticipates more than 7,000 students and 4,700 parents will participate in this year’s orientation programs.

Program philosophy

“Orientation is more than a one-day program for each student,” said Vice President for Student Affairs James R. Kitchen. “It is the first day of the most critical year in a student’s life. Each incoming student gets off to the right start by what they learn at orientation. And the concurrent parent orientation educates parents on how they can help to ensure that their students succeed and graduate in a timely manner.”

Associate Vice President Eric Rivera elaborated on the philosophy of why orientation is so important.

“It’s the first encounter our incoming students have in transitioning to SDSU,” he said. “Summer orientation is a truly collaborative program with Academic Affairs, and as such, its focus is on academics.  

“When school begins, academic support is continued to be provided through living/learning communities and tutoring programs, whereas Welcome Week and Aztec Nights provide a student life orientation with the goal of building community and connecting students to the university. These are not one-day programs, but rather multiple programs throughout the year to ensure the first-year success of all of our incoming students and their families.”

Benefits of participating

Janet Castro, the director of New Student and Parent Programs, said students who attend orientation do have a more successful first year than students who don’t attend -- they have higher GPAs, are less likely to be on academic probation and are more likely to continue their education.

“We’ve been tracking the academic achievement of students who attend orientation for years,” she said. “Not only are they better prepared because of orientation, but they are more successful throughout their academic career.”

She also said that students who bring parents to attend the concurrent parent orientation do even better than students who come alone.

“The data is consistent year after year in that parental involvement really pays off,” she said. “Parents are better informed when they attend, and they automatically become members of the Aztec Parents Association. Their students tend to achieve higher GPAs and are more successful than the student who comes alone.”

New this year

Castro’s office works each year to improve the student experience at orientation. This year, for the first time, students will actually register for their fall classes during orientation.

“This is an exciting development, and we’re seeing a larger percentage of students, especially transfers, signing up for orientation. I believe the onsite registration is the reason for that.”

Another new feature will be “real-time” check-in via iPads. This will allow a more seamless, accurate and electronic source of check-in for students.

Ambassadors help smooth transition

One aspect that makes orientation successful each year is the involvement of the SDSU Ambassadors, who are the official student representatives, tour guides and orientation leaders of San Diego State University. Supervised by Castro, this student organization is devoted to helping both prospective and new students make a smooth transition to university life.

More than 65 “Ambos,” as they are known, will work orientation over the summer. This volunteer organization is comprised of a diverse group of students who are also involved in many other activities, including fraternities and sororities, Associated Students’ boards and committees, residential life positions, honors councils, cultural organizations and recreational groups.

Faculty and staff on campus will notice the large numbers of incoming students and families descending on campus in the coming weeks.

“I encourage all faculty and staff to warmly welcome all these new Aztecs to SDSU,” said Castro.