Incoming Gorillas gathered inside the Overman Student Center for Pitt CARES throughout June to become prepared for the upcoming semester.
Pitt CARES takes place annually each summer directly before classes begin in the fall in order to teach incoming students different things about the university, such as financial aid, housing, and more. Heather Eckstein, director of student success programs, helped make sure Pitt CARES ran smoothly and met students’ needs.
“(Pitt CARES’ intention is) to help students successfully transition from high school to college, to provide them with information they need now through August so they’re prepared to begin classes in August,” Eckstein said.
Along with learning information about campus and college life overall, students at Pitt CARES also have the opportunity to enroll in classes for the fall semester. Students can use this time to get to know their department more.
“So, we have a student transition program and a parent transition program first thing, that’s what we do first thing,” Eckstein said. “And then we highlight some offices and support programs on campus, including financial assistance, career services, ROTC, Campus Activities Center, Student Rec Center, (housing, and student health). And they have a rotation they go through; they can choose which areas they want to visit with … and they have the option to choose three. … Then after that we go to lunch, we all go to lunch together in the dining hall … Then after lunch we begin the academic portion of the day, so we discuss the Pitt State Pathway so they understand that academic portion of their degree, then we send them to enrollment. They meet with an academic advisor, develop their course schedule for the fall semester. After that that they come back to the Student Center where there is an Engage sort of session …”
Following the various sessions throughout the day, students also have the chance to ask questions or receive help with anything discussed from the day.
“But we also have a financial aid help desk, so if they’ve gotten through the day and just look at their actual file with someone, they can do that,” Eckstein said. “We also have an enrollment check table, so if they forgot to enroll in marching band, they can sit down with us … They can take a tour of the residence halls, there’s a couple residence halls that will be open … and finally we want them to ring the bell.”
Eckstein is not alone in leading Pitt CARES, though, as many student leaders also help lead the information-filled days. One of those leaders was Abbey Schwab, sophomore in communication.
“I think it’s a lot of fun because we get to meet a lot of the freshman that are coming here and we get to know them and figure out why they chose Pitt State and things like that, and we get to help them feel more comfortable,” Schwab said. “So, I think it’s a really good experience for us and them.”
Schwab became a Pitt CARES leader because she wanted to give students the same personable help she received as a freshman.
“Because when I came here to Pitt State and I saw that you could be like an orientation leader, I thought that was really cool because they made me feel really welcome and I wanted to like help other kids feel welcome and like they belong here and like Pitt State was really the best choice for them,” Schwab said. “Yeah, because I remember when I was coming in I was super scared and we have a lot of students who are like, ‘I’m terrified to be here, like I don’t know what it’s going to be like at all,’ and we get to just calm a lot of their fears … So, I think that’s how it really benefits them the most.”
Kynzie Smith, freshman in elementary education, attended Pitt CARES with her family and she said she learned a lot from the day.
“It’s actually pretty like, has good information about the college, and it’s actually helping me a lot on like financial aid and everything.”
Smith said she looks forward to the new college atmosphere and meeting new people. Along with receiving more information relevant to when classes begin, Pitt CARES allowed incoming students and family members to see more of campus.
“I think that it is a lot of information but it’s information they need right now,” Eckstein said. “… And a lot of times the things that we’re bringing up, both the students and parents haven’t thought of it or haven’t thought of it in the way we’re saying you need to consider, and so I think that’s particularly beneficial to them. … And they get to meet with someone within their academic program … just to talk about what their goals are and how that program or department will help them get from where they are now to hopefully the stage of graduation.”
Eckstein said the student leaders are essential to Pitt CARES and in making sure it is ran most efficiently, as they first must attend a spring training course in preparation.
“The CARES leaders are amazing … so they spend a lot of time caring—we always say you’re caring, the CARES leaders,” Eckstein said. “… I think that it really helps students see all of this from a student perspective, which is great for them. I think the CARES leaders have a lot of fun and they enjoy getting to do this and getting to interact with new students, and it’s very beneficial for the university to get to provide a student to this new Gorilla to help them kind of be less nervous about this whole process and be better prepared for the fall semester start.”