Back to School at TTU Might Surprise You

Still expect fall to bring nervous freshmen and football games to Tennessee Technological University's campus, but telephone systems and computers have completely changed the face of some back-to-school activities.

Automated phone systems and computer programs for filling out applications, applying for financial aid and registering for classes have reduced many long lines, paper stacks and student frustrations.

"Making applications available on the web this year made the admissions process easier and faster for a lot of students," said Brenda Anderson, a university admissions supervisor. "I think it's great kids can sit at home or at their high school and apply to college."

On-line applications are processed faster than paper because the web applications instantly load into the university's system; manually entering paper applications takes a couple of days. Usually, acceptance information is posted on the web a week after a student applies.

Once admitted, students can sit at home and register for classes in their pajamas if they want, thanks to the Eagle On-Line Information System on the world wide web or the Eagle Line phone system. Students can register, check their grades, pay their fees and buy a meal plan, all on their computer or phone.

"Even entering freshmen use the Eagle Line to register," said Taunia Coe, director of student orientation and Greek life. "They go to the registration office to use Eagle Line for the first semester, that way the staff can answer any questions. Once students are comfortable with the system, they can register from their home or dorm room."

Not only does each incoming student receive a traditional campus mailbox, each new student receives an e-mail address and Eagle Line voice mail. Some instructors use e-mail to make themselves available to students who need timely responses to questions. If students don't own a computer, they have access to computers in dorms, university departments and laboratories.

The Financial Aid Office has made special arrangements for university or high school students who do not have access to a computer and want to fill out an application or find scholarship information. A computer lab is available to anyone applying for financial aid.

"The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is available on the web to everyone, but we felt there might be students who didn't have access to computers at home," said Betty Hunter, Financial Aid assistant.

The FAFSA is written in easy-to-understand instructions. With some beginning instruction from a financial aid worker, someone with little or no computer experience can feel comfortable using the lab. Tennessee Tech's financial aid newsletter, the Nine Step Application Checklist and scholarship information can all be found using the lab computer.

Even though technology has changed a lot of back-to-school rituals, the need for students to settle in and feel at home remains the same. Orientation week is stuffed full of activities, including a President's Reception, freshman games, a luau, a carnival, a scavenger hunt and a freshman mixer.

University organizations and local businesses offer an orientation fair to give students information and free items as a welcome to the community. Ilene Qualls, Tennessee Tech's assistant director of student activities, also plans six weeks of programming aimed at helping new students make friends and enjoy campus life.

"We plan lots of free activities to let the students see there's more to college life than just the books and classes," said Qualls. "There'll be student bands, dancers, chorus performances, singers, artists -- all arranged at times and places where students can come and socialize."

"Fall is the perfect time put new ideas to work to help every student have a good college experience," Qualls added.

Tennessee Tech's web site for applications, financial aid, registration and other information is www.tntech.edu.