In anticipation of a planned return to in-person instruction this fall, new Binghamton University students will once again be experiencing orientation online this year.

Last year’s new student orientation took place entirely over Zoom in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students participated in information sessions, getting-to-know-you games and academic advising from home. This year, most of the University’s orientation experience will remain in the online format. However, students will be given the option to attend New Student Connection Days, a supplemental program which will allow students to explore the BU campus and meet other new students in person. The dates of these New Student Connection Days will be released at a later time.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, orientation took place entirely on campus, with many events tailored both to immersing students with the on-campus experience and informing them about the University’s resources. Molly O’Brien, a sophomore double-majoring in environmental science and psychology, recalled the many activities of her new student orientation in 2019.

“I remember orientation being really chaotic but really informational,” O’Brien wrote. “We would go from sessions about where we would live the next year to academic advising to different sessions [of] 20:1. We also had the opportunity to go to a [Late Nite Binghamton] event in the [University Union] that helped us bond with each other and make new friends.”

O’Brien added that orientation offered her experiences she would have otherwise missed out on.

“I feel like orientation definitely helped mentally prepare me for my freshman year,” O’Brien wrote. “I was really nervous that I would end up embarrassing myself if I didn’t know where the dining halls were or if I didn’t know where a certain building was, but I really got to know the campus at orientation, so I wasn’t as terrified to come to campus that August.”

Alyssa Cohen, program coordinator for new student programs, said the goals of new student orientation remain the same despite COVID-19-related restrictions.

“We want students to learn about the various resources on campus, meet with academic advising to register for their fall classes, start making social connections and building their community and get excited to become a [BU] student,” Cohen wrote in an email. “We try our best to set students up for success by giving them the tools and information they will need in their first semester.“

Students will be able to sign up for one of many orientation sessions between June 16 and July 7, with each section catering to specific schools and programs. Academic advising, social events and updates about University resources will be made available online, including through email and on the myBinghamton dashboard.

According to Marissa Mazzara, an undeclared freshman who participated in the new student orientation in 2020, the virtual format for orientation was not without its limitations.

“To be honest I left the Zoom early because it was basically no help,” Mazzara wrote. “It was just basic things we could look up on the [University] website, and it wasn’t anything special.”

Mazzara also expressed she felt there was too little opportunity to connect with other students, especially in the context of many presentations about the University itself.

“I just wished that it would be more informative for freshmen and not just basic facts,” Mazzara wrote. “It didn’t really prepare me [for the college experience], I just wish it had more of a social aspect like breakout rooms and meeting more people.”

However, Cohen feels this year’s program will be more refined and filled out to best serve incoming students.

“Having completed an entire virtual summer, we have been able to take this year to plan ahead and think intentionally about what students need before starting classes,” Cohen wrote. “We’ve worked hard to fill gaps and provide the same well-rounded orientation experience that we provided in person.”