UC Irvine’s nearly 5,000 incoming freshmen are getting a sneak peek at college life during the Student Parent Orientation Program, familiarly known as SPOP. It’s a summertime tradition in which students spend a night in the residence halls, eat in campus dining halls and pick their classes for the fall quarter.

Jill Halvaks, interim associate dean of students, stands by to answer questions from nervous parents and direct students to meetings and activities. She’s joined by a crew of 130 student volunteers in tie-dyed T-shirts.

“Most of the first day is devoted to academic advising, program planning and enrolling in classes,” Halvaks says of the two-day orientation offered nine times over the summer. “You want the incoming freshmen to feel connected, get to know the campus and meet some of our wonderful current students.”

Joanna Romana, a fourth-year public health policy major, is dedicating her break to welcoming Anteaters to their new home. “My goal is to make their first encounter with UCI a positive experience,” she says. “My advice to students is to open themselves up to new opportunities and take advantage of campus resources.”

Freshman Wynona Caliboso of Riverside is looking forward to living in the residence halls and joining one of UCI’s celebrated dance crews. “I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about the dorm experience,” she says. “It’s also a new start for me since none of my friends from high school are here.”

As students line up to check in and meet with academic counselors, parent Nora Aguirre of Lompoc sits in a Student Center lobby reviewing the SPOP schedule. Her daughter, Maria, plans to study biological sciences and pursue a career in medicine.

“I’m very happy for her,” Aguirre says. “She has worked so hard to get here. … She’s very shy and reserved, but I hope she makes great friends here and achieves her goals.”

Overheard at SPOP:

“The more you put in, the more you get out of UCI. … We want you to go from Anteaters to ‘Antleaders.’”

– Rameen Talesh, dean of students and assistant vice chancellor of Student Affairs (also known as “the fist bump dean” for his sociability with students)

“Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to one of the finest public universities in the history of the universe.”

– Sharon Salinger, history professor and dean of undergraduate education

“Do not sign up for a 7 a.m. class if it takes six alarm clocks to get you up in the morning.”

– Sharon Salinger

“The world is not organized by undergraduate major. Choose something you enjoy deeply. That’s how you will thrive and doors will open when you graduate. Majoring in a subject because your parents want you to is a big mistake.”

– Sharon Salinger

“College is your chance to start over with a clean slate.”

– Joanna Romana, fourth-year UCI student