What post-secondary school orientation will look like

Toronto's colleges seem more welcoming to new and first-year students than universities this unusual semester

Orientation has always been a big part of the experience for students entering universities and colleges. It’s where you meet new people, get mentored by more senior students and, well, orient yourself around campus. But what happens when most of your classes are being presented virtually? I decided to look at the orientation policies of Toronto’s colleges and universities.

Centennial College

If you were feeling anxious about starting post-secondary school this year, the upbeat and sincere YouTube message from Centennial College’s president, Craig Stephenson, will definitely inspire you. “Physical distancing doesn’t mean that you can’t be social,” he says. “Far from it. Please, think about getting involved. Initiate relationships with each other. Reach out if you need a listening ear, or just want to chat. And if you see fellow students struggling, please make a point to reach out to them and encourage them to connect. Because it’s the human connection that will, above all else, sustain and support us all during these times.”

Furthermore, the college’s orientation page – about services available to students, student-only mixers and more – is clear and informative.

George Brown College

George Brown’s orientation activities begin this week, and everything’s outlined in a clear, well-organized list. There’s accessible info on everything from having students with disabilities get a jump start on their year to introducing the Black Student Success Network. There are even fun events like an Instagram scavenger hunt and Bucket List Challenge to get your year off to a terrific start.

Humber College

Like the city’s other colleges, Humber’s orientation program is clear and well-organized. It includes a hub of pre-recorded video workshops and tips on navigating the website, as well as Meet Your Faculty sessions where you will get to meet your instructors and fellow students in preparation for the first week of classes. In addition, the first month of school will offer interactive social media contests to further get to know the school’s community and win some prizes while you’re at it.

OCAD University

“The Campus Life office, your OCAD Student Union, and other university services and departments have planned a variety of virtual activities, workshops, and socials for you!” reads the message on OCAD U’s Orientation page. “Programming – though remote – is comprised of fun, inviting and informative options, designed to share knowledge and help build virtual community and connection.”

Included is face2face2020: virtual exhibition, in which new and first-year students create a self-portrait to show others who they are. Now that’s cool.

Ryerson University

Ryerson’s orientation message is a tad confusing. “All events thus far have been planned to take place online. This may change based on updated health and safety guidelines,” reads the site. But then in answer to a FAQ “Do I need to bring anything to participate in Orientation Week events,” it states, “For events happening in Person: Appropriate clothing for the weather and event • Sunscreen • A water bottle • Identification” etc. So… which is it, Rye?

University of Toronto

“We are planning to welcome new students in many ways and provide support to help them make a successful transition to their studies at U of T,” reads a message on U of T’s FAQ page. “We know how critical orientation and transition programming is to student success and we will be reaching out to new students wherever their location. We’re offering online programming for international and domestic students who can’t be at on-campus events. We will also follow public health guidelines to ensure safety for all in-person engagement.”

York University

“It’s time to start meeting other incoming students and learn about information you will need to have a successful first year,” reads York’s orientation message, which includes links to a series of #York101 videos.

“These sessions are run by upper year students and designed to help you answer all of those questions you may not have thought of but definitely need to know. From tips on how to get involved outside the classroom as well as how to get good grades inside the classroom to what to do about your finances, all this and more will be covered at York 101.”

See more info about orientation and studies at Toronto’s colleges and universities here.


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