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I Remember When…
I remember when my younger daughter was attending UF Orientation. This was my second go-around, yet, I was still wildly excited for her. She had tagged along us when she was only 13 years old and we laughed about how bored she was, sitting all day in the Reitz Union, fidgeting and playing with her phone. Fast forward 4 years (which flew by) and she was the incoming Gator. Even as a gator grad myself and the mom of another gator grad, I still found going to orientation along with my student invaluable.
So Many Choices
When it comes to attending the breakout sessions, let your student choose which ones to attend. Mine wanted to go to the one about study abroad. Since her sister did not study abroad, her choice gave me a heads-up that this was something she was serious about pursuing during her time at UF. Her choices also gave me the chance to watch her navigate orientation on her own while I provided a safety net for help when she asked for it. (Our big consultation came when it was time to register for classes). And, honestly, it was our last time to spend quality time together before Summer B started and her college life began.
As familiar as I was with UF from her sister’s experience, much — including orientation — had changed since then. The first is that UF has an app, UF GatorWay, which you should download. On that app, you will find all of the sessions, PDFs of all the information on the slides from those sessions, a map of the campus, and anything and everything you need to know about your student’s first year.
Listen attentively at your sessions — you can because there’s no need to take notes. (Remember, the PDF’s are on the app). Yes, there will be a lot of information and it can be very overwhelming. Your students are new to this process, too. Everyone is both excited and nervous to be or have a new Gator, but do as much as you can. Go on the tour of the campus. Eat dinner with your student at Fresh Food Company (your first introduction to campus dining). Let your students lead the way. They will have their first experience being assigned to share a room in the dorm with someone they do not know. There are special participation events planned just for this and each incoming class.
The most stressful part of orientation comes as they register for their classes for the summer/fall. This is when they will turn to you for problem-solving help, especially if they get locked out of a class or don’t get the exact schedule they envisioned. Plenty of UF staffers are on hand to give you both assistance. And there is always drop/add week — the first week of each semester — where they can make any final changes to their schedule. One of the most important things to remember (and skills to learn) is how to maneuver through the online scheduling that allows them to adjust their schedule all the way through the end of that drop/add week. Make it a point to have someone explain those ins and outs while you’re there at Preview.
We do understand that there are many reasons a parent cannot make it orientation, including the expense, their work schedule, their family obligations to younger siblings, and so on. Don’t worry — much of the information is available online (and our website). Your student will download the GatorWay app and all of the slides from orientation will be on there in PDF form. It will help for you to review those together before orientation, so they are prepped for their visit and you are prepped for their questions.
Other Orientation Suggestions:
Meal Plan – It is during this orientation that you will register for a meal plan. Make sure to read our Meal Plan blog before you go to orientation.
Registering Vehicles – If you decide that your student is bringing a car or scooter, I recommend that you register online or visit the transportation and parking office while on campus. You can order a decal online after April 1st. We strongly recommend doing this as early as possible. If you wait until move-in time, prepare for very long lines. You can order your decal by clicking here.
Banking – UF’s official banking partner is Wells Fargo. You can open a checking account with no monthly service fee when the account is linked to your student’s Gator 1 Card. My older daughter loses more drivers’ licenses and IDs than anyone I know, so we did not link her card. But we did for my younger daughter. A really valuable feature of linking the account is that it will also be linked to any Florida Pre-paid and Bright Futures disbursements and other financial aid overages. While we did open an unlinked Wells Fargo account to keep a separate accounting of all of my older daughter’s education expenses, we wouldn’t feel the need now. There are plenty of online paying apps available and my younger daughter pays almost everything with either a debit card or Venmo. If you DO want link the Gator 1 card to a bank, it will have to be with Wells Fargo, UF’s banking partner.
How to Dress – Spring-into-Summer in Gainesville is not only hot, it is extremely humid. And you can pretty much be guaranteed rain at some point. That means dress casually and wear good walking shoes. Be sure to bring an umbrella and an extra layer, as it can get quite cool in the Reitz Union. (As weird as it sounds, I always carry a large, lightweight scarf compactly folded in my bag. IMHO, Florida air conditioning bears a distinct resemblance to Snow Miser.) Don’t forget your sunglasses, a hat, and some sunblock. This is standard garb for Floridians–another orientation lesson!
What to Bring — Your student will want to bring comfortable clothes, shoes, and sleeping clothes, a pillow, sheet, and blanket, a bath towel and shower shoes (flops), a jacket or sweater and umbrella of their own, and — of course — their toiletries. Many of the girls bring duffles to hold all of their belongings, and yes, they’ll be able to drop them off so they aren’t carrying them all day. At their request, I bought my daughters Vera Bradley duffles because that’s what college girls use. They both still use their duffles regularly, for weekend trips or trips home.
Finally — and OF COURSE — head over to the campus bookstore or an area retail store and start stocking up on Gator apparel! You are about to spend your student’s next four years growing to love the University of Florida and being a Gator family. To get a head start, you can read our Gameday attire for some great tips on Gator wear for parents.
For incoming freshmen, UF holds mandatory orientation starting in May and going through July. The incoming freshmen that are starting Summer B 2020 will attend virtual orientation sometime between May and June. Those starting in the fall will register for orientation in June and July. PACE students have a one-day orientation held on various dates in May through July.
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