By Stephen Lee, September 6 2018 —
This fall semester will look different for returning students due to one significant change to the academic calendar. This year, the University of Calgary condensed Orientation Week into only two days. The change may seem inconsequential, or perhaps even unwelcome with the earlier start of the term, but a shortened Orientation Week benefits all students. This year, there is now a reading break from Nov. 11–17.
Shortening Orientation Week to only two days has advantages. Instead of drowning in a quagmire of assignments, midterms, labs and lectures, students now have a whole week in November to devote to studying and completing assignments. In most science classes, labs are still scheduled during the same week of a course’s midterm. This makes studying difficult, as students must study for an exam worth 30 per cent or more of their final grade while also scrambling to complete a lab report. For students who aren’t in science, paper-writing and studying for midterms can be just as rigorous. A reading break provides students with an opportunity to ignore the hassle of going to lectures and labs and instead focus on projects worth far more for their final grade.
Orientation Week has its merits — there are a handful of beneficial events held throughout the week. One of the most important of these is faculty orientation, the day when new students learn about their programs. This event informs students of the challenges and opportunities that arise within their field of study. Another great event is #UNI, a play about university life and scenarios new students may find themselves in. Last year, the play was quite funny, while remaining tasteful and informative. Finally, campus tours are helpful, particularly for out-of-province or international students who may have not fully explored the campus.
While Orientation Week contains a few worthwhile events, some of the week’s elective sessions are less useful. Many sessions are redundant, presenting information that is accessible through independent inquiry. For example, a session devoted to note-taking skills is not groundbreaking. Furthermore, it’s easy to approach Orientation Leaders about such topics — they are there to guide new students and to answer questions about university life, rendering most sessions useless.
Though Orientation Week is certainly beneficial to incoming students, having a fall reading break benefits everyone on campus. It doesn’t make sense to devote an entire week to information that many students can access independently.
Even though the semester starts earlier than last year, the fall reading week makes up for it. The essential components of orientation can still occur in a two-day period. This will make managing schoolwork easier during one of the most challenging periods of the academic year.