FTCAP evolves this summer into two-day New Student Orientation

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- There’s a new office on campus, revamping the way first-year students prepare for their Penn State careers. The Office of Student Orientation and Transition Programs, led by director Dan Murphy, is implementing a new two-day orientation called “New Student Orientation” to begin in summer 2013. It will replace the daylong First-Year Testing, Consulting, and Advising Program (FTCAP).

Murphy, who joined Penn State after leading first-year experience initiatives at Indiana University - Bloomington, said the change, something that had been in the works for quite a few years, was based partially on student feedback of FTCAP.

“Students wanted a chance to make a connection with other students. We were routinely getting comments saying they wish they had an opportunity to meet more people and make more connections,” Murphy said. “With the overnight program we can provide social opportunities in addition to letting them sleep in the residence halls and eat in the dining halls.”

Besides giving students an opportunity to socialize with each other, the expansion gives presenters more time to address the wide variety of topics covered at FTCAP. More time can be spent attending sessions about living on campus and commuter life, student aid and using eLion; visiting the Resource Fair that showcases support services and resources for Penn Staters; and going to college meetings for advising and course registration. Students also will have time to talk in smaller groups about transitional issues from high school, including personal responsibility, diversity, alcohol use and abuse, resources for sexual assault prevention and academic support, undergraduate research opportunities, study abroad options and more.

Penn State Reads, a program designed around a common book, also will be introduced at the New Student Orientation. Students will read the chosen book given to them during their summer visit, to complete before the start of the semester. Once on campus, they will participate in small discussion groups in their living communities, and also attend larger group activities, which might include a keynote lecture, guest speakers or musical performances.

While some universities believe a one-day orientation program is a good practice and others think the two-day format is better, Murphy said the reality is the best practice for orientation comes down to the culture of each school. At Penn State, the assessment data from previous years pointed out that student, staff and faculty thought a two-day timetable would be more beneficial. Penn State researched other first-year programs and found those lasting two days was the best fit. Murphy said this model is the one most widely used within the Big Ten.

The office also will add student jobs to the new program. Murphy and his office will choose 32 orientation leaders to facilitate small-group discussions and lead first-year students through some of the other activities.

The two-day structure will not add additional costs to students. Parents and family members wishing to stay in residence halls can do so, but will pay a fee. All new students will be expected to stay on campus for the two-day program but parents are welcome to find local lodging off-campus or at home, if they live nearby.

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Last Updated January 22, 2013