With the help of new virtual counseling sessions, an incoming first-year student in Hong Kong can talk face-to-face to an orientation counselor at UCLA this summer without ever leaving home.
UCLA has modified the structure and scheduling of its existing orientation program to accommodate its largest-ever group of international students. A new orientation session has been created in September, and the virtual counseling sessions will reach out to international students before they arrive, said Roxanne Neal, director of New Student and Transition Programs.
Students normally meet with counselors during their orientation session for an academic advising meeting. But those from other continents are unlikely to come in the middle of the summer for financial reasons, Neal said.
To avoid forcing those students to wait until September to choose classes, New Student and Transition Programs will be offering virtual counseling sessions online throughout the summer.
These sessions involve having trained orientation counselors communicate with students through the Internet before orientation. They will discuss degree planning, class choices and other academic issues.
Since this is the first year of virtual sessions, the appointment schedule, enrollment protocols and other materials are still being finalized, Neal said.
The new method is being implemented in conjunction with the creation of Session 112 for international and out-of-state students. The session, which will take place Sept. 12-14, is designed to reduce travel time for students and allow them to go almost directly from orientation into move-in.
“We knew that there was an additional population of students being admitted, and we may want to put two in the future because it was pretty popular for students who wanted to move in,” Neal said.
While the session was initially created for 250 to 300 students, unanticipated demand has raised this cap by 100. California residents can attend the session only if they are unable to attend any other session, Neal said.
International students still have the option to attend any orientation and then stay on campus for the rest of the summer.
“We want to allow them any possible combination (of) any dates that would not put them in a financial burden,” Neal said.
In addition, the new orientation session will be modified to cater to the international population while maintaining an identical structure to the other sessions. Topics that will not receive as much attention in a general orientation, such as Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center requirements or student visas, will be covered, said Shantel Daniels, a student coordinator for New Student and Transition Programs.
When students arrive at orientation and meet with their counselors, instead of a new academic meeting, their counselor will go over the previous online meeting, double checking if the student has any remaining issues or wants to change classes.
Eena Singh, a third-year anthropology student, will be returning for her second year as an orientation counselor. While working the final orientation session will be optional for orientation counselors, Singh said she will most likely return for that final session.
“I think that our staff is very well prepared (to guide international students),” Singh said. “By that time, our staff will be really experienced. It’s definitely a new addition, … and everybody is looking forward to it.”