Almost every incoming university student has questions — from those coming to Brock directly after high school or those who are transferring from another college or university — and Brock’s Smart Start program is the place to get those questions answered.
Smart Start, Brock’s academic orientation, has 22 programs throughout the summer. In general, these programs run for one full day — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — and Brock offers some special editions of Smart Start with start times that are designed to accommodate those who are unable to attend the school’s regular Smart Start programming. While standard programs run 18 times throughout the course of the summer, Brock also offers two Niagara-specific editions for local students, an evening edition for students transferring from other post-secondary institutions and an end-of-summer edition that is an ideal fit for students who are coming from a distance.
“It’s one day and students can come to campus and have all of their questions answered before they start in September. Students are able to get their ID card — and get an orientation around how to how to use it — they see their residence, they learn about their finances (and how to pay their fees) — and they learn some tips and tricks to help them be successful once they’re here,” said Courtney Keogh, recruitment and liaison officer at Brock.
“The two Niagara-specific editions are our first two days, July 5 and 6, and are open exclusively to local students. July 11 is our transfer evening for any students coming from a college or university program — it’s offered later in the day to accommodate work schedules. Our final day will be August 31 and it’s our students-coming-from-a-distance edition. This session is open to anyone coming from Northern Ontario, out of province or from another country and it’s held on the last day of the summer (before residence move-in day), so it’s a good chance for these students to visit, if they’ve not had a chance to do so before.”
Towards the end of the day, the Smart Start staff makes sure students have completed their course registration correctly — and some students will have the opportunity to meet with their academic advisor. Though the deadline for course registration for first-year students will have already passed, having the staff check with students to make sure everything is buttoned down is a great service for those who attend. “There’s just something about having someone sit down with you, to review things and say ‘Yes you did it correctly’ even though they’re pretty sure they already did,” said Keogh.
Finally, students have the opportunity to walk through their course schedule with the Smart Start staff — finding each classroom from Monday to Friday.
While there are many questions that might seem more obvious — how to pay tuition and residence fees, when certain events may happen, or how the health and dental plans work — Keogh mentioned that there are some questions that students may be nervous to ask that get answered at Smart Start. Having those types of questions answered has shown to ease students’ nerves about coming to university.
“One of the big wins for us is the students getting their student ID cards. They get to use those when we go to lunch as their ‘meal ticket’. Lots of students will say ‘I was really nervous about using my card and now I know how that works’ — and it’s those little things that we may take for granted that have been incorporated [into Smart Start] to give support to our incoming students.”
The staff at Smart Start is made up of a group of 18 students who go through weeks of training leading up to the first program.
“We try to develop a well-rounded team — we strive to represent every faculty as well as to include students who may have transferred from other schools or are out-of-province themselves — and to incorporate all elements of the student body in the selection of our team. That way, no matter who is in the audience, a new student can pick out something from somebody that they can talk to during their day.”
While the staff is there to provide incoming students with tips and tricks to be successful at university, there are also benefits for them — and their professional development.
“A lot of people take on the job because they want to develop their public speaking skills or get involved on campus. I’ve had a number of people on the team express their nerves around presenting — and to see how those staff members feed off an audience and nail that first presentation is extremely rewarding.”
For those who attend Smart Start, the goal, quite simply, is to help them turn that new-student nervousness into a sense of excitement about the fall.
“The hope is by the time they’re finished their day, all of their questions are answered — and parents and guests feel comfortable with their decision to come to Brock and they’re ready to go for September.”