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Helping Parents Help Their First-Year Students Prepare for University Life


More Cultural Diversity, Less Stigmas Affecting New Student Orientation Program at Trent University

Wednesday, August 13, 2008, Peterborough

As Trent University gears up to host its final New Student Orientation and Advising (NSOA) program of the summer on August 14 and 15, the emphasis on preparing parents as much as students for the transition ahead is proving to be a good investment.

“Parents are more involved in their students' lives than ever before,” said Meri Kim Oliver, Trent’s Senior Director of Student Affairs, who noted that 81 percent of Canadian parents surveyed in 2006 indicated that they are more involved in their students' lives than their parents were in their lives during the same time period of life. “Also, results from the National Survey of Student Engagement indicate that students who say their parents are involved in their university careers are the same students who indicate the highest levels of satisfaction with their university experiences and that they engage more deeply in learning.”

NSOA is a one-day, on-campus program that Trent runs throughout the summer to prepare new students for their first year at university. While students are busy registering for courses and meeting with academic advisors, parents attend their own orientation session to address their particular needs and expectations, a unique feature of Trent’s program.

Ms. Oliver explained that it makes sense to partner with parents and to engage them in becoming effective coaches for their students. Trent does this during NSOA by providing parents with the information that will help them to ask the questions that will get students problem solving effectively or will direct the students to appropriate resources.

Ms. Oliver says most parents are quick to take advantage of these opportunities. “Parents more readily identify special circumstances that their students are dealing with, particularly health issues. There seems to be less of a stigma attached to acknowledging student needs and a strong interest in learning about resources for the students to ensure their success.”

Since the program began five years ago, NSOA has adapted to meet the needs of Canada’s rapidly changing demographics. “We are seeing more diversity in the student population and consequently, parents who are relatively new to Canada often have very different expectations of campus life than parents familiar with the Canadian campus environment,” said Ms. Oliver. At Trent, more than 50 percent of its students come from the GTA.

“Parent feedback about the content of the sessions is very positive,” said Ms. Oliver when asked how parents respond to having their own orientation session. “The two and half hours session covers a range of topics that describe student life on campus in 2008, how students talk about that life, and what parents can expect to hear or not hear from their students. Many express their appreciation of being told the good parts and the realities of campus life, and hearing what Trent is doing to respond. They are pleased to learn what they can do to assist in their university-bound kids in positive ways. Almost every session a parent will comment favourably in comparison to programs they have attended on other campuses.”

Parents also benefit from Trent’s strength as a more intimate learning environment. “The size of group that comes to orientation is dramatically different from other campuses where several hundred students and their parents will be on campus for the orientation,” said Ms. Oliver. So far, more than 850 students and parents have taken part, with another 300 expected for the final sessions on August 14 and 15.

More details about NSOA are available on www.trentu.ca/newstudentorientation.


For further information, or to arrange an interview with Meri Kim Oliver, Senior Director, of Student Affairs, please contact:

Brittany Cadence
Communications Officer
Trent University
Tel: (705) 748-1011, ext. 6185