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I Remember When…
I remember when my daughter was attending UF Orientation a few years ago. This was my second go-around yet I was still wildly excited for her. She had attended when her sister was accepted and she was only 13 years old. We laughed about how bored she was sitting all day in the Reitz Union fidgeting and playing with her phone. Flash forward 4 years (which flew by) and now she is graduating. As both a gator grad myself and the mom of two gator grads, going to orientation with your student has a lot of benefits.
For one, when it comes to attending the breakout sessions, she wanted to go to Study Abroad. Since her sister did not study abroad, this at least gave me an idea of what she wanted to do during her time at UF. It gave me the chance to watch her navigate orientation on her own but help her when she asked for help (which she did when it came to registering for classes). And it was going to be our last time to spend quality time together before Summer B started.
I was familiar with UF since her sister went there but, even so, orientation changed since then. UF has an app, UF Gator Way) which you should download. On that app, you will find all of the sessions, PDF’s of all the information on the slides they show you, a map of the campus and anything and everything you need to know about your student’s first year.
Listen attentively; no need to take notes (remember, the PDF’s are on the app). It can be very overwhelming. Go on the tour of the campus. Eat dinner with your student at Fresh Food Company (your first introduction to campus dining); let your student lead the way on deciding what breakout sessions they want to attend. They are new to this process too and are probably excited to be a Gator but also nervous. They will have their first experience being assigned to share a room in the dorm with someone they do not know. They will participate in events just for this incoming class.
The most stressful part of orientation is when they are registering for their classes for the summer/fall. Many will turn to you for help, especially if they get locked out of a class or they do not get the exact schedule (no class before 11 a.m. – those early classes are brutal). There is plenty of UF staff to give you assistance. And there is always drop/add where they can change their schedule during the first week of the semester (also known as syllabus week as they recognize students will be adding their class or dropping so they do not delve too much into assignments).
Finally, there are many reasons a parent cannot make orientation including the expense, they work, they have younger siblings to care for, no matter the reason. Do not 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.
Some other suggestions:
Meal Plan – It is during this orientation that you will register for a meal plan. Make sure to read our Meal Plan blog.
Registering Vehicles – I would recommend that if you decide your student is bringing a car or scooter, register online or head over to the transportation and parking office. You can order a decal online after April 1st (We strongly recommend doing this). If you wait until the 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, ID’s than anyone I know so we did not link her card. You will also be able to link any Bright Futures disbursements and other financial aid overages. We opened up a Wells Fargo account to keep track of all of her education expenses separately and because we did not have online paying apps like what is available now. If she were starting college now, I would not feel the need to open a separate account. She pays most everything with either a debit card or Venmo. If you are wanting to link the Gator 1 card to a bank, it will have to be Wells Fargo, UF’s banking partner.
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. You can also read our Gameday attire for parents to see some great Gator wear.
How to Dress – It is extremely humid in Gainesville and can be rainy so dress casually and wear good walking shoes. Bring an umbrella and an extra layer as it can get cool in the Reitz Union. Don’t forget your sunglasses, perhaps a hat (did we mention how hot it can get); some sunblock does not hurt either.
What to Bring – Your student will want to bring comfortable clothes, a pillow and blanket, a bath towel and shower shoes, a jacket or sweater and, of course, their toiletries. Many of the girls bring duffles to hold all of their belongings. I remember getting my daughters a Vera Bradley duffle because that’s what college girls use. They still use it to this day for weekend trips or trips home when they do not need to bring a suitcase.
For incoming freshman, UF holds a mandatory orientation starting in May and going through July. The incoming freshmen that are starting Summer B 2019, will attend orientation sometime between May and June 2019; those starting in the fall will register for orientation in June and July 2019. PACE students have a one-day orientation held on various dates in May through July.