Question one: Do the dorms have vacuum cleaners? Answer: Yes.

Question two: Is it possible to ride a bike up that huge, steep hill to campus? Answer: Yes, but if you're tired, stow your bike on a bus rack and ride to the top.

Question three: Where can we go to see some cute raccoons on campus? Answer: They usually come out at night, but don't feed them or get too close.

Student tour guides answered question after question during Student Orientation, as excited and sometimes anxious parents and students fanned out across the campus.

The wide range of interests was not surprising, considering the big turnout. All told, 6,800 students and family members attended the event, said Rosa Plaza, director of student orientation. "We get asked everything," she said.

Many guests were from northern California, but parents and students showed up from throughout the state and across the nation. Over 60 current UCSC students were on hand to interact with the frosh and their parents.

Everyone was determined to make the most of this opportunity to see the campus, register for classes and get a feel for UCSC's dorms and libraries in one intensive session. During one campus tour, a mom listened with such rapt attention that she did not notice a small spider walking up her bare shoulder.

One parent wanted to know if there was a "massive shift in roommates" at any point in the year. Orientation leader Lun Wang, 21, a 2010 UCSC grad and a former College Eight residential advisor, said that some roommate disagreements can take place after the Thanksgiving Break, but they are usually quite minor.

"It generally works out," Wang said. "The disagreement is usually something small. 'My roommate ate my popcorn and didn't ask.'"

Wang, who wore a big yellow pullover with the word ORIENTATION printed on it, assured that the food gets high marks from students, and besides, "they don't have to cook or do the dirty dishes."

In response, a mother yelled, "I want to go back to college."

Student Orientation also drew a large crowd of transfer students, including Alisa Pierini, 21, an incoming junior who switched to UCSC after starting out at Sierra College in Rocklin, California. She'd considered UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara but chose UCSC instead.

"The academics are certainly attractive here,'' she said, "but community is also important to me. The small college community is ideal for me."

The program was informal but packed with activities. Students learned about requirements for majors, took a picture for their student IDs, attended academic advising sessions, enrolled in classes, and even caught a glimpse of the rooms in their colleges. Some took math placement exams. Parents--some of them just as nervous and excited as their children--enrolled in a class that explained how to "provide support from a distance."

Janet Kassouf-Quan, treasurer of the UCSC Parent Council, worked one of the booths, greeting anxious parents. Kassouf-Quan answered questions while drawing from a well of experience. She's the mother of a current UCSC junior. Some parents of incoming frosh are already worried about empty-nester syndrome, she said.

"It's hard," she said. "I'm a helicopter mom. But I ask them to get involved. Don't worry if your kid's busy for the first six weeks of school. It doesn't mean they've forgotten about you. Keep in touch with your children with e-mails and phone calls."

Anticipating that long separation, many parents have given their children some words of advice before setting them loose. Sandy Neel of Grass Valley told her 17-year-old daughter, Dana, "to be aware, get involved, don't hide in your dorm. Get involved in your campus."

Sandy Neel values the idea of her children experiencing adventure away from home. "I never moved away from home for college," she explained. "I did community college while I was working, so I had a different kind of experience."

The move far from home will be an adjustment for Dana. "I'll have academic counseling but it's not like high school, where the counselors basically do everything for you," she said.

Jinesh Jain, who works in information technology in Southern California, had similar words of advice for his son, Tanay Jain, 18. "I told him, 'you're on your own, and this is the foundation of your career. You need to be proactive here. Professors are not going to tell you that you're missing a class. If you are in catch up mode in college, you'll be in catch up mode all your life."

"In today's global economy, it's not just how high you score on tests, or your grades," Jain continued. "It's how you are as a leader, your analytical, interpersonal and business skills. Outside the U.S., everyone is working very hard. We don't want to chase them. We want to be the leaders."

Tanay acknowledged "the pressure to do really well, to exceed expectations," but he was excited about the beautiful campus and the people he'd met. As for Student Orientation, "it's very enlightening. It shows you how all the pieces fit together."