UWaterloo new student transition program changes

Monday, February 23, 2015

Background on UWaterloo new student transition

  • In 2011, Student Life 101 (SL 101) moved from a one-day event in July to a two-day, experiential overnight program (including a one day parent program)
  • SL101 has been offered to incoming students in this two-day format since 2011 (offered approximately six times throughout the summer months)
  • SL101 was designed to provide students with the opportunity to experience student life before they arrive on campus in September
  • SL101 was based on best practices research that indicates early exposure may be the number one way to determine student readiness and preparedness and, students are more likely to succeed when they know what to expect
  • SL 101 was intended to be a cost recovery program however; it has proved to be a resource-intensive program
    • In 2013, 831 students and 582 family members attended
    • In 2014, 299 students and 232 family members attended
  • Students who did attend SL101 shared positive feedback via program surveys

Changes to UWaterloo new student transition

  • Given the trend in declining attendance for SL101, the program will not be offered in the two-day, overnight format in 2015
  • The SSO is working very closely with each Faculty to facilitate conversations about how we can best prepare our students before they arrive in September, in ways that are targeted and in line with strategies and initiatives already in place
  • Some Faculties will focus on hosting a day in the summer that offers similar programming to SL101, but with Faculty-specific content
  • Some Faculties will focus on streamlining communications to ensure their students are receiving targeted information

Key components to all UWaterloo new student transition programs

  • Early exposure to the University and services provided (the number one way to determine student readiness and preparedness for their first year)
  • ‘Just enough, just in time’ communications strategies
  • The inclusion of parents and family members
  • Multiple approaches: new student communications, on-campus activities and visits

Frequently asked questions

How can my faculty/unit be involved?

We hope to continue our conversations with campus partners about what opportunities exist for you, as well as your thoughts on what students need during their transition. If we haven’t reached out to you yet, but you would like to talk please, let us know.

What are we doing for incoming first-year students during the summer of 2015? Can students still visit campus in the summer?

We know that students are more likely to be successful when they know what to expect, so visiting campus is an important part of their transition. Campus tours are offered throughout the summer months and we hope to continue to work with staff in the Visitors Centre to understand more about incoming students who take a tour and what they expect.

But visitng campus is only one way students can get to know about us. We will continue to engage them in other ways throughout the summer, including:

  • Video content created for incoming first-year students. We know students like to absorb information in small, bite-sized chunks. We’ll be working with many of our campus partners to determine what key pieces of information are best communicated via video. Topics include: how to use Student Portal, Quest, Learn and UWaterloo email.
  • A coordinated social media approach, thanks to the introduction of Hootsuite Enterprise
  • Exploring further opportunities for the creation of online resources

What are we doing for international students?

International Student Life 101 will continue to be offered to our international students from September 2nd – September 4th, 2015. Its name will change to International Student Orientation and we are enhancing this program to ensure it meets the needs of this student population. We anticipate that attendance to this program will continue to grow as our international student population continues to increase.

What are we doing for parents/families?

We know that parents and families continue to play a role in student success. For the Faculties that are hosting a Faculty day, we will work to provide parent and family programming that complements the student programming. Parents and families are also included in communication strategies, including a parent newsletter and video content, coordinated by the SSO.

What’s next?

As plans for summer 2015 continue to take shape we look forward to continuing the conversation around our key messages for incoming students. ‘The just enough, just in time’ model continues to be a key priority for us and we strive to keep this at the forefront of all initiatives.

We will continue to communicate with the broader campus community as information and plans are finalized.


Heather Westmorland
Associate Director, Student Transition and Learning Services
ext. 39183