We’re just two short weeks away from the first day of orientation for new freshmen beginning their first year at Ohio State this fall. Let’s see where we’ve been and where we’re going with orientation programs.
The history of orientation programs dates back to the early days of higher education in the United States. Harvard College, founded in 1636, was the first institution to implement a system by which experienced students helped new students in their transition to campus. Along with a personal support system, new students were introduced to certain “rites of passage”, which would likely be considered hazing today.
Toward the end of the 19th century, Harvard maintained faculty contact with students by assigning faculty members administrative responsibilities outside the classroom; one of these responsibilities was the orientation of new students. It wasn’t long before other colleges across the country became invested in the concerns specific to freshman students.
Today’s orientation programs have evolved from merely providing individualized faculty attention to focusing on myriad issues while responding to the needs of an increasingly diverse student and family population.
Orientation at Ohio State
In 1926, Ohio State enrollment had already reach 10,000 students, more than 25 percent of whom were freshmen. Freshman Week – later known as Welcome Week – started in 1927 under the leadership of President Rightmire as a way to help acquaint students with campus, to engage students in fellowship with one another, and to improve student retention. By 1947, orientation was a formalized university program.
Two-day orientation programs began at Ohio State in 1961; our schedule in 2015 is a modern version of what existed 54 years ago, including small group activities, advising and course registration, placement testing, and student identification photos. Staffs of upperclass peer leaders have varied in size – ranging from 11 to 34 undergraduate students – and represent the diverse interests and backgrounds of the university student body.
This year’s class of new students will meet their FYE Peer Leader at orientation, and these Peer Leaders will continue to engage in outreach and relationship development throughout the new students’ entire first year at Ohio State.
We look forward to welcoming our new students to Ohio State this summer!