Orientation is an important part of setting up, integrating and preparing international students for their new living and academic environments. We have heard questions and frustration about students missing orientation at the beginning of the semester. We'd like to give a few suggestions on how to encourage greater participation.
In the Chinese language, “orientation” represents an idea of “giving guidance and advice,” which shows no connection with academic studies and easily makes Chinese students (and their parents) think that they might be better off if they participate in orientation, but there won't be big challenges with university life if they do not. Students and parents incorrectly assume that the students could learn everything by themselves later. Besides, there are not generally serious repercussions for skipping orientation.
Therefore, we suggest to colleges to change the orientation (as well as the name “orientation”) to a 1-credit course that all international students are required to take before the official start of the semester. The student's grade would be based purely on attendance – a 90% or higher attendance rate would be given an A and so on. In practice, due to the complexity of international traveling, the course could be completely or partly “waived” for students who have a legitimate reason (e.g. visa problems and delayed flights) and cannot participate in the orientation sessions.
You may have to collaborate with a faculty member and add additional requirements such as a written assignment and quizzes. You could even learn a great deal about the experiences of international students that can help you improve your future services.