July 23, 2013 – Orillia, ON
Mitchell Sarjeant, Danielle Douglas and Annaleece Teape were among the many students who attended last week’s Fast Pass pre-orientation program at the Orillia campus of Lakehead University. The half-day session is aimed at easing new students’ transition to university life.
For most new students, leaving home and heading off to university is a milestone tinged with equal parts excitement and anxiety. To help ease what can be a difficult transition, Lakehead University opened its doors this month to welcome new students – and their families – for an advance orientation.
The unique summer program, called “Fast Pass,” is a half-day orientation with multiple information sessions and tours that allows first-year students to get a sense of their new academic home.
“This is the second year we’ve run the program and it’s been very popular,” said Simon Looker, Lakehead student affairs officer, who presented a well-attended seminar, ‘Money, Money, Money.’ “We have had a lot of students recommend Fast Pass to others, which tells you how well the program helps.”
In addition to Looker’s presentation – which went over the nuts and bolts of paying tuition, upcoming financial deadlines, government assistance programs and myriad other details – there were also seminars focused on the top ten questions new students have, life in residence, the student union and the bookstore.
New students appreciated the program, which continues to gain in popularity.
“I wanted to get a head start so that I didn’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed in September,” said Danielle Douglas, a 19-year-old from Toronto who will begin her social work program in the fall.
“I wanted to be in a smaller community and Lakehead has smaller classes, which is a better learning environment,” she said.
That was a sentiment echoed by Annaleece Teape.
“Honestly, I liked the idea of a smaller campus, away from the hustle and bustle and just the natural setting here,” said Teape, 18. “I was very attracted to Lakehead.”
She said she was impressed by the new 271-bed campus residence.
“I was not aware that the residence building was so new, but upon my arrival I discovered that the rooms were very spacious and I was very happy with it. It made me very excited about my first year living in residence,” said the Stouffville native.
She was also impressed with the practical information Fast Pass provided.
“I came so I could learn how to navigate around the campus and to have some of my questions answered,” she said. “It really helped … and now I feel comfortable about coming here in the fall.”
Oro-Medonte’s Mitchell Sarjeant, 17, said he is happy he can go to university close to home and save money by living at home while pursuing his interdisciplinary studies.
“I like the idea of being at a small university where you get to know the professors and they know you by your name,” said Sarjeant. “That really appealed to me.”
The Fast Pass program also embraced students’ families and supporters. Parents and guests were encouraged to attend the information sessions with students. And during the second half of the program, when students met with academic advisors to learn more about their programs and course selections, parents were invited to a session designed for them.
At the “Supporting Your Student” session, Jim Wylie, one of Lakehead Orillia’s personal counsellors, led a discussion about how parents can be involved, and talked about on-campus services, supporting independence and various other issues. In addition, a panel of parents talked about their own students’ experience, what worked and pitfalls to avoid.
“I think, as parents, it’s a time to recognize that you did a good job of getting them here and now it’s their time to shine,” said panelist Carol Deimling, a parent of two university graduates. “My kids told me to tell you to encourage your children to get involved with athletic and other extra-curricular activities. That’s the best way to meet new people.”
Wylie stressed that the adjustment to university life is one the entire family makes.
“You go from a time when they are kids, when you are totally responsible for their every need 24 hours a day to a time when they are moving away and moving toward independence,” he said. “It’s an adjustment for all families and we are here to help you with that adjustment.”
Many parents were thankful for the support.
“I think we all feel a lot more comfortable about the coming year now,” said Laura Deschamps who, along with husband Paul, participated in the events with their son, Mitchell. “I think it’s a good idea to have the opportunity to come, to see the residence where he will live, to meet some of his professors … I’m glad we came.”
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