Cal Poly’s orientation events, Week of Welcome (WOW) and Soar, will be mandatory for incoming freshmen and transfer students starting in 2015.
According to Director of New Student and Transition Programs Andrene Kaiwi-Lenting, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong’s wish to increase a residential campus model was one of the reasons orientation was made mandatory.
The residential campus model includes having every first-year student living on campus and participating in orientation. A campus-wide committee made up of student leaders, faculty and administration from each academic college was formed to directly respond to this part of Armstrong’s vision.
Their solution? Make orientation mandatory.
The school is making accommodations for students who are concerned with the cost or schedule conflicts with the event dates. Kaiwi-Lenting has been involved with these efforts.
“The commitment is to make it all accessible because it’s a really great set of programs to participate in,” Lenting said. “It’s less about being mandatory and more about, ‘This is what you’ve been missing out on and let’s make sure you don’t miss out any more.’”
One of the efforts to ease worry about cost is to provide financial aid for the programs.
In the past, depending on when a student registers for the programs, WOW would cost between $175 and $205 and Soar between $100 and $150. The university has not concluded on a fee for this year but is working on making it as nominal as possible.
The financial aid offered to participants of these orientation programs had not been fully taken advantage of, possibly because the qualifications for financial aid have been limiting, according to Kaiwi-Lenting.
This year, Cal Poly plans to make the financial aid criteria less restrictive and open to more students.
“Most students didn’t know about the financial aid. So we’re fixing that,” Lenting said. “Again, the message of the president is, ‘Everyone should do it. Make it accessible.’”
Considering most students attend WOW, the time conflict is more pertinent for Soar. After researching reasons for non-attendance, the committee found that students might not have attended Soar because there were not enough offered dates and weekend sessions were not available.
To fix this, Soar will offer more sessions, including weekends. For those who still cannot attend Soar, an alternative may be offered. According to Kaiwi-Lenting, those students may be offered the alternative to attend Soar on move-in day. If that doesn’t work, the student will have orientation in a different way, but that is still in the works.
“At the end of this process, we may learn that the WOW way and Soar way of doing things may not be the end-all-be-all way, but orientation is still necessary,” Lenting said.
Last year, approximately 63 percent of incoming students participated in Soar and a little less than 90 percent participated in WOW, according to Kaiwi-Lenting.
Some students felt that while orientation programs gave them the opportunity to make friends and have fun, Soar and WOW provided redundant information.
“I looked over the activities of Soar and WOW and thought Soar was pretty redundant,” Brennan Ronald, a parks recreation and tourism junior, said. “The cost of Soar hindered my chances of attending it. I didn’t want to pay for the redundant activities in Soar.”
The two programs serve different purposes, Kaiwi-Lenting said.
“WOW really gives students the key flavor of what it’s like to live here, and Soar gives students the key resources they need before they get here,” Kaiwi-Lenting said.