New student orientation today goes far beyond the traditional three-day campus visit during the summer.
Its an ongoing process of keeping in touch, beginning at the time the student is admitted and continuing through the students first term on campus, says Pamela T. Horne, director of orientation and the Campus Information Center.
How do you keep in touch with 17-year-olds who are busy with senior plays, senior trips and finding summer jobs, and who may not want to admiteven to themselvesthat their high school careers are ending?
Postcards. The Office of Orientation sends large maize and blue postcards, a different one each month, from January of the students senior year in high school through December of the freshman year, first to their homes and then to their campus addresses.
Conveying bursts of information that are timed appropriately for the next step in the students enrollment or orientation process, the postcards fit the communication style of a generation that grew up with MTV, Horne says.
For example, the first card, titled Welcome, features short informative paragraphs on admissions, financial aid, housing and summer orientation, along with phone numbers to call for more information.
The second postcard, Academics, talks about classes, libraries and museums, research opportunities, special academic programs such as the Residential College, and campus computing.
Topics in subsequent months include student finances at the U-M, information for the parents of freshmen, health issues, career and academic decision-making, and co-curricular and service learning opportunities.
Written in a friendly, conversational tone, the postcards also try to prepare students for some of the social adjustments they are likely to face, including returning home for vacations.
The Office of Orientation recently created a new set of seven postcards geared to the information needs of transfer students. The first will be mailed later this month, according to Molly M. Nicholson, student services assistant who developed the cards.
Horne says her office has received positive feedback about the postcards from students and parents during summer orientation and through telephone surveys of new students.
In part, the postcards are a response to previous surveys of admitted first-year students who had expressed disappointment that they had not heard more from the University after they were admitted.
The postcards, which are sent bulk rate, are an inexpensive way to communicate, says Horne, who credits Printing Services with helping design the attractive cards while keeping printing costs down. Because the cards are not in an envelope, there is a good chance that parents also will see and read them.
All of the material can be found in larger University publications, Horne says, but the postcard provides a handy format for highlighting information that is important to students.