Welcome New Families!

wwu orientation in blue text on a white background with a blue triangle pointer shape in a compass ring

New Student Services/Family Outreach is pleased to partner with you during this important time of transition with a two-part orientation process that will prepare your student to thrive at Western. Let’s get started! 

Step 1: Complete Your New Family Checklist

Your family orientation experience begins here by completing the New Family Checklist below that will guide your learning with quick access to time-sensitive campus processes, timelines, and resources.


Your student will begin their orientation process from the Welcome New Students website, where they will schedule their Advising and Registration session and access their New Student Orientation Checklist with required and recommended tasks to complete online as they approach their first quarter at Western. 


Tip: Bookmark this page for quick reference and easier navigation back to this web page before you begin to explore the web links below.

Step 2: Experience Western  

Orientation is just the start! Learn more about the activities and programs designed to welcome and connect students and their families with the people and places that make up our Western community.  


Encourage your student to explore campus and Community Resources to learn about Western’s vibrant campus communities and upcoming opportunities to engage and connect.  

The Western Involvement Network (WIN) is Western’s primary hub for student activities, clubs and organizations, resource offices, and calendars of events. 

Fall Quarter kicks off the academic year for students, and Western celebrates each year with Western Welcome - a showcase of info fairs, welcoming events, and additional orientation activities that facilitate peer connection and community building and engagement, both on and off-campus. The schedule of student-only events will be available in September. 

Explore regional transportation options for information about getting to and from Bellingham and WWU.

Visiting your student? Western's Visit - Hotels website for a variety of hotels for Western guests, many of which offer WWU discounts, which are included in the customized booking links or with inquiry by phone. Additionally, broaden your search through the Bellingham-Whatcom County Tourism (BWCT) website for information about more Bellingham hotels, vacation rentals, and camping.

In general, hotels and BWCT note that hotel/rental rates fluctuate based on availability and are typically more expensive in the summer and on busy WWU weekends. We recommend booking space as early as you can when making your travel plans!

New Family Checklist

Getting Started

Reviewing the New Student Orientation Checklist will provide a better understanding of the priority of required and recommended tasks that students will need to complete before their arrival.

While many of the tasks are for students to complete on their own, it can be helpful for parents and families to check-in on their progress and offer support as needed. Additionally, if you feel that your student could benefit from one of the Early Arrival or First-year Academic Programs you’ll want to note that registration fills quickly, so early sign-ups are advised! 

Tip: Encourage your student to check their Western email inbox daily! Students can access their WWU email by navigating to myWestern, selecting Email, and logging in with their Universal login. 

Learning about campus resources and student support services is easy using our online tools:

  • The Viking Resource Hub is our our online directory that allows you to locate campus resources, services, and departments by their function rather than by unfamiliar department names.  
  • The First-Generation Family Toolkit aligns the most common practices of successful students with available campus support services and helps you understand how to encourage your student to access them. 

Tip: If you have questions about available campus services and resources, how to prepare for your student’s launch to Western, or need some pointers on navigating the orientation process, then grab a cup of coffee or tea and meet one-on-one with Western’s Family Outreach Manager for Coffee, Tea and Family, our weekly office hours available by appointment in Zoom. 

Talk to your student about housing and dining options, on and off campus, to find something that will best suit their lifestyle and dietary needs. 

On Campus Housing: Visit the University Residences website to learn more about your student's new home away from home.  

  • Start with the Housing Timeline to understand when and how your student can apply for student housing on campus, submit a deposit, and select their res hall, roommates, and more! 
  • Review the housing agreements with your student to avoid paying unnecessary fees or violating the terms of the agreement. Watch for upcoming Housing Webinars for opportunities to ask questions about housing processes, finances, move-in and more.  
  • Learn more about move in day, including what to bring, technology, dining services, and things to know about, Housing during holiday breaks, and Sending mail!  

Tip: Free dorm supplies and household items are available through the Resident Checkout Program while supplies last. 

Dining On Campus: Residential meal plans are mandatory for students living in the residence halls on campus. Optional meal plans for students living off campus or in Birnam Wood are also available. Learn more about available meal plans, accommodating special dietary needs, and other details through Dining Services. 

Off Campus Housing: Explore using tools and resources for locating available rental properties, finding roommates and learning about tenant rights and responsibilities.  

Tip: The Ready, Set…Rent! Canvas course is a 30-minute online course in Canvas that is available to help students learn all they need to know about “adulting,” like: signing a lease, their rights and responsibilities as a renter, and how to find a safe and comfortable place to live. 

Review the Disability Access Center tips for parents and families on how to navigate new roles and responsibilities, including changes in legal rights and responsibilities in higher education. 

Encourage your student to connect with the Disability Access Center for academic accommodations and support, noting the overview of services, application process, and changes in legal rights and responsibilities in post-secondary education.  

Learn more about Disability Access Center services and the Disability Outreach Center for peer support and connection. 

To Access Financial Aid: Refer to the Financial Aid Department website to help navigate through important FASFA information, timelines, forms and other factors that could impact financial aid offers and payment disbursement. Encourage your student to use the Cost and Resource Calculator to determine the difference between their cost of attendance (associated with their financial aid offer) and actual expenses. 

If you’re wondering any of the same questions as these in the bulleted list below, visit the Financial Aid Center’s FAQs and scroll down the list of General FAQs until you see the question: "When will I receive my financial Aid Offer (new and returning students)?" 

  • When will my new student receive their financial aid offer?
  • How can my new student learn about financial aid eligibility and requirements?
  • How can my new student check their admission status to WWU? 
  • Where can my new student view their financial aid status? 

Questions? Visit the the Financial Aid Department website for additional resources for new students and their families, or to schedule one-on-one appointments available for parents and family online, in person, or on the phone. 

To Estimate Expenses: Utilize the following tools and resources to identify costs and help with budgeting. 

  • Tuition (cost of attendance) includes tuition and fees, housing and food, books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses incurred as a result of enrollment at Western.
  • Pocket money? Students can explore on and off-campus employment options using the Viking Resource Guide to find part-time jobs on or off campus. 
  • Students struggling with food security, housing stability, and financial security are encouraged to learn more about Basic Needs Resources available to them on campus. 
  • See First-Year Out of State Scholarships for information related to WUE, WAE. MAP, Merit and other scholarship contributions or visit the Scholarship Center for more WWU scholarship details specific to incoming First-Year and Transfer students. 

To Pay for College: Visit the Student Business Office (SBO) website to find their Checklist 4 Success! Share How To videos with step-by-step instructions with your student to authorize access to their Western Account by completing the forms and business processes detailed below.

  • Release of Financial Information form allowing SBO staff to speak to you or other payers regarding your student's account.
  • Authorization to Apply Financial Aid Funds allowing financial aid funds to pay for more than just tuition and fees, room & board. 
  • Have your student send you a Payer Invitation to designate you or a third party to view balances or make payments to their Western account. 
  • Set up Direct Deposit to prevent delays in financial aid or other refunds. 

Learn when, where and how to pay, on your student’s Western Account Online as an Authorized Payer, including: 

  • How financial aid (grants, scholarships, loans) will be applied to current quarter charges on a student’s account.  
  • Payment methods for 529 Plans, GET funds, and more. 
  • Current list of banks and ATMs located on and off campus. 

Tip: See Being Financially Responsible in the First-Generation Family Toolkit for tips on how to support your student to build skills in financial literacy and money management. 

Review Western's Important Dates & Deadlines for quarter-by-quarter information on term dates, holidays, and breaks, as well as deadlines for tuition and fee payments, registration phases, and more.

Prior to Your Student's First Quarter

Take some time to honor your own process and note transition tips for parents/family offered through Western’s Counseling and Wellness Center. You may also find it helpful to reference the First-Generation Family Toolkit for strategies to help you lean into your new or changing roles, whether as a coach, partner, or as your student's #1 fan.  There’s even a glossary of terms and phrases to help you learn to “speak Western” so you’ll know how to decipher the coded language of acronyms that sound as if your student were reading aloud from a bowl of alphabet soup. 

You will want to discuss new strategies with your student for keeping in touch, and understand how FERPA will impact access to grades and finances.

Establish channels and timing of communication. Will you call, text, video chat, etc...?  How often and at what times? Determining what feels like too much or not enough contact will ease your family’s transition until natural patterns of communication can take shape. While it might not seem like a priority now, having a mutually agreed upon plan for contact can be comforting to new students in their changing environment. Agreeing to realistic terms of communication that are respectful of each other's time could go a long way in preventing hurt feelings and miscommunications as the quarter progresses. 

You will also want to note that students’ grades and finances are part of their educational record and access to them is protected by federal law under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. What this means to parents and families is that WWU staff and faculty cannot discuss some aspects of their student's education with them without their permission. Offices and departments on campus are happy to talk about policies and procedures, even if they cannot discuss a student's specific situation. 

Your student’s Western Account is part of their educational record protected by FERPA. Students must complete the Release of Financial Information e–sign form to allow the Student Business Office (SBO) to speak with family about their Western Account. For parents or other payers to view a student’s account balance or make payments to it, students must provide them with access by sending a Payer Invitation through their Western Account Portal. Watch the How to Send a Payer Invitation video and review the step-by-step directions on the SBO's How To page to learn more.  

Your student’s grades are another part of their educational record protected by FERPA. Students can access their own educational records, including their grades and class schedules via Web4U. And since there is no portal for parent or family access to student grades, we encourage you to discuss with your student how and when they will share this information with you. While FERPA is in place to protect students, we understand that this is a big change that may take some time to get used to and intentional conversation with each other to navigate. 

Learn More About FERPA 

The University Police Department provides a comprehensive list of FAQs with important safety practices to follow. You can also encourage your student to download the new campus safety app, launching in Spring 2024. Students can use the app to call 911, message campus police through a chat feature, or opt to share their location for assistance. Students also can also request a safety escort while they’re walking if they feel unsafe. Learn more about campus safety resources.  

A Tip About Bike Security From University PD: Bike Registration is as necessary to campus bike security as bike locks. Students who register their bikes have increased chances of having lost or stolen bikes returned. They also have a way to retrieve property information for insurance claims and other purposes. Encourage your student to learn more about the bike registration process on this page of the Transportation Services website. 

Resources and services are available to your student with a swipe of their Western Student ID Card! 

Transportation Services & Parking: We often hear the question, “Can students really get around Bellingham without a car?” The answer is YES! Extremely limited parking combined with the savings from not paying for parking, parking tickets, and gas are persuasive reasons to embrace your students' many alternative transportation options that include a bus pass and (student only) late-night shuttle they can access with just a swipe of their Western Card! Check out WWU Transportation website to assess your student’s transportation needs and how they can even request a trip plan for traveling home

Academic Technology & User Services (ATUS): Western students can checkout laptop computers as well as other technology and digital equipment at no cost using their Western Card through the Student Technology Center (STC). The STC also loans out digital still cameras, video cameras, tripods, microphones, lighting kits, digital audio recorders, projectors/screens and much more! Explore the full list of computers and technical equipment that the STC has available to loan to students!

Tip: The Student Orientation Checklist will guide students on how to get their Western Card through the Western Card office website. For new Fall Quarter students: All cards ordered before September 1 will be mailed to the Student address listed in Web4U. All cards ordered after September 1 will be held for pick up when your student arrives on campus. 

Western's health and wellness services are funded through the mandatory student Health Services Fee.  

The Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) helps students discover their unique pathways to wellness by connecting them to programs, services and resources, including individual counseling, group support, wellness programs and self-care resources.  

The Student Health Center is a primary care medical clinic that specializes in college health, providing an extensive array of services to students without charge for nearly all office visits. Learn more about  costs/charges, student eligibility, 24/7 access to care through the MyWesternHealth patient portal, as well as optional insurance plans to actively enrolled WWU students and their dependents. 

During Your Student's First Quarter

After a few weeks have passed and the newness begins to fade, students might be seeking additional ways to connect with community and “find their people” on campus. If that seems to be the case for your student, encourage them to check out the Western Involvement Network (WIN) to connect with AS Clubs and Organizations, learn about campus events, and explore new interests. Learn More About WIN. 

More resources to help your student find connection and support are available by visiting: 

Tip: You might find it helpful to challenge your student to find three new activities to try each week of their first quarter on campus: one that is purely social, one that gets them outdoors and moving, and one that supports them academically. Offer hints by sharing links from the  Find Your Community or Academic Support sections of the Viking Resource Hub! 

You can continue to support your student's academic success by encouraging them to make a habit of checking in with an academic advisor each quarter. 

Check out the page for The Academic Advising & Student Achievement Center (AASAC) to see academic planning and success resources available to your student and the responsibilities they share in staying on track towards declaring a major and graduation. As such, academic advisors are not assigned to students. Instead, students are responsible for taking the initiative to connect with an advisor to explore majors and discuss things like graduation requirements, courses, and strategies to reach intended academic goals and objectives.   

Tip: Your student’s first experience with Academic Advising & Student Achievement Center will be when they sign up for their Advising & Registration (A&R) session as part of their online orientation process to campus. Once completed, the AASAC recommends students meet with an academic advisor early and often by scheduled appointment or during drop-in advising hours.  Learn more about academic advising at Western

As your student settles into campus life, you can stay engaged in their world by learning more about it through the following resources:  

  • WWU Family Connection is our monthly e-newsletter published by the Office of University Communications and New Student Services/Family Outreach. Parents and families are automatically signed up to receive newsletters directly to the email address provided on your student’s admissions application.  
  • Western Alerts – Parents and families can opt-in to the university’s emergency notification system for urgent text messages. Click on “REGISTER” in the top-right corner. 
  • Western Today – Subscribe to the university’s e-newsletter for the latest campus news and highlights published by the Office of University Communications. 
  • WWU Window Magazine has our most inspiring stories about WWU, alumni, faculty and students. Subscribe to get Window’s digital edition each month. 
  • Be Well WWU is an e-newsletter with news and updates from Western’s Counseling and Wellness Center. 

Still Have Questions? We Have Office Hours!

Coffee, Tea, & Family: NSSFO Family Outreach Office Hours logo

Coffee, Tea and Family

Family Outreach Office Hours are available to parents/families of new and current students.

Is your student new to Western this quarter? Do you have questions about how to navigate the New Student and Family Orientation website? Need a crash course in accessing resources and services available to students? Want to be ready with helpful information and advice to support your student’s success at Western? 

If your answer is yes to any one or maybe all of these questions, then grab a cup of coffee or tea and meet with our Family Outreach Manager!  

Book a Meeting Now