The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


AARO welcomes new students

The week before AARO begins, it’s crunch time at the Office of New Student Programs.

As office Director Melissa Bryant and one of her assistants sort through shirts for the 10 AARO leaders and two student directors, she gives a rundown of the preparations involved.

“The leaders sat through sessions with various administrators and faculty to get a better feel for opportunities on campus,” said Bryant. They also attended weekly meetings during the spring semester, underwent extra training in April and arrived on campus more than a week before the first session to run through the songs, dances and vignettes they will perform.

After that, leaders have to work days as long as 17 hours (6 a.m. until 11 p.m.), guiding roughly 130 students – and their families – around each session.

But not much can dampen their enthusiasm.

“We want new students to be excited, not nervous, about SMU,” said senior leader Laura Rowley during a break from skit practice.

Junior leader Daniel Webb agreed. “It’s basically your first time at SMU and it makes a big impression,” he said. “But it’s also a really good time to make friends.”

AARO (Academic Advising, Registration and Orientation) is a long-standing SMU tradition; the first session was held in 1966. During the 10 sessions held this July, first-year and transfer students get a chance to explore the campus, plan out their fall schedules in one-on-one sessions with academic advisers, and learn more about the different student groups on campus.

The Office of New Student Programs teamed up this year with the International Office to present a new option for international students called BOW (Brief Orientation and Welcome). There are two sessions, one on Aug. 10 for international students and one on Aug. 13 for other students who couldn’t make it to an AARO session in July.

“BOW allows international students to get acclimated and still have an opportunity for Corral,” said Bryant. “Plus it’s more focused on international students in terms of adjusting to a new culture.”

But whether international or American, “no one should leave campus feeling like they don’t have a place. They should find some sort of connection to make them feel like they fit in at SMU,” she said.

Students also can test out of foreign language, technology and math classes during their two-day stay. The foreign language exams cost $35, the math exams $20, and the technology waiver is free.

Academics are a priority during AARO, but the program’s focus on easing the transition from high school to college social life is evident from the schedule. There are panels on student life, presentations on campus safety and substance abuse, and information sessions about student services and going greek. (And for any students thinking about bringing alcohol to AARO, recruitment won’t be an option if you’re caught.)

Above all, though, everyone behind the orientation programs wants a seamless transition for the students. “It’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself, say ‘hi’ to everyone and meet everyone,” said Webb.

Sophomore leader Edwin Ochoa views his job as partly informative, partly supportive.

“We just want to reassure everyone, students and families, that they’ve made the right decision,” he said.

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