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9 Things You Didn’t Know About Orientation

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You haven't been able to sleep for days, and your heart beats a little faster every time you think about it. No, not that cute guy you met a few weeks ago—college orientation, of course!

Freshman orientation is like an initiation into college. You get to meet new people, pick your classes and learn the ropes of college life. It's exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time. Luckily, Her Campus is here to help you get the most out of orientation. Here are nine things you might not know about college orientation that will help you navigate this experience!

1. You can choose an orientation program that's right for you

Who says college orientation has to be a run-of-the-mill event? Every school does orientation a little differently, so it's useful to check out your orientation packet and familiarize yourself with the activities beforehand. Princeton University, Washington University in St. Louis, Williams College and others offer pre-orientation programs ranging from arts-centered events to multi-day outdoor excursions. If you have a choice of different orientations, pick the one you think you'll gain the most from.

"College is about trying new things and having new experiences, so you want to try something a little outside your comfort zone but not so much that you'll be miserable," says Alexis Savery, a sophomore at Williams College. "Remember that you don't have to choose a certain orientation option just because the majority of your school does."

2. Everyone is desperate to make friends

If you've got this small, nagging fear that you won't be able to make any friends in college, you're not alone! Trust us, everyone at orientation is as desperate as you are to get a head start on making friends. This is definitely a good thing. Smile and be confident, and you'll be meeting people in no time.

"See if you can spot a person with your sense of humor," says educational consultant Peggy Baker. "You will be surprised how quickly a friendship can begin based on that single trait."

Because everyone is still so new to campus at orientation, take this opportunity to talk to as many people as you can. "It is more important than ever to be open-minded to people that may be different than you," Baker says. You might be surprised by how many people you'll click with!

You might also be wondering how you're going to keep in touch with all of these wonderful people you'll be meeting. This is the perfect time to friend them on Facebook or ask for their cell phone numbers. You don't want to end up not being able to get in touch with someone you really connected with at orientation.

And even if you don't find anyone you fit in with at orientation, no worries. This is just the very beginning of your search for long-lasting friends, and there's a lot more time to meet people once school actually starts. "Don’t worry if some students seem to be making friends sooner than you are," Baker says. "Everyone has her own pace." So keep an open mind, and don't worry too much about finding your BFFL just yet!

3. Everyone is nervous and a little overwhelmed

Feel those butterflies in your stomach? You're far from being the only one with those. What a relief, right?

Remember that freshman orientation is a new experience for everyone, so there's no need to pretend that it's not actually the most overwhelming thing ever. It's okay to be unsure of what to expect and to not know people. Everyone's going through the same thing. "Keep in mind that every student feels overwhelmed," Baker says. "By October, you will be adjusted."

No questions are off-limits during orientation, so don't be afraid to ask any you have, because at least 10 other people are guaranteed to be wondering the same thing. Don't be afraid to joke around with others and laugh about your mutual confusion. In fact, a great way to meet someone is to offer to find a building together if you're both lost. Don't know what's going on? See if the people next to you do (probably not). Don't know which event to go to next? Find out which ones your new friends are going to. They'll definitely be grateful that you’re making an effort to talk to them! By putting yourself out there and interacting with others, those butterflies will disappear before you even know it.

4. You should take placement exams before you get to orientation

It's typical protocol for incoming freshmen to take a few exams that test current knowledge so they can be placed into the appropriate math, science and language courses in college. The results from these exams will very likely affect students’ course requests. What you may not know is that you might not be able to sign up for certain classes if you haven't taken your placement exams yet. So if you can, get those placement exams out of the way before you arrive at orientation so you can sign up for your classes without a hitch.

Not all placement tests need to be taken by every student, and requirements will usually be listed on the college website. Some schools require students to take them online before they arrive on campus, so make sure to check for a deadline and instructions on the school's websites. Other colleges give placement exams in a proctored setting during orientation sessions before you sign up for classes, so check your orientation schedule for times and places. You'll also be making your life easier later when you don't have to fight for that last spot in the class you need! And if you're having trouble taking the exams, don't hesitate to contact the registrar's office or the testing center with questions.

5. Scheduling your fall classes might not go as planned

In high school, it was easy to take class scheduling for granted. In college, not so much. You may go to orientation with your class schedule perfectly planned out for next semester and walk away with a completely different one because classes filled up, you changed your mind or some other unforeseen occurrence happened. And that’s okay! Your world won't come tumbling down, we promise.

"It is important to have a general idea of what classes you need to take to fulfill your major and when you'll fulfill those requirements, but if you think about it, college is the time you can explore a variety of areas," says Miharu Sugie, a sophomore at Northeastern University. "You might think taking a certain course will be a waste of time since it's not required, but it's not. There's so much more to a class than just fulfilling major requirements!"

Even if your schedule doesn't come out as you had hoped, don't panic. Just make sure to check in with your adviser and even reach out to professors who are teaching the courses to get their input. Also, keep in mind that you do have the option to switch classes during the drop/add period at the beginning of the semester.

Scheduling classes can be grueling, so it's important to stay positive and flexible and to realize that sometimes change can bring about the most pleasant surprises.

6. You should limit contact with people from back home

You know that girl who always has her nose in her phone? Yeah, the one who isn't experiencing orientation at all? There's a right and wrong time for everything, and orientation is definitely the wrong time to be stuck in your digital world when the real world has so much to offer! 

Using social media or texting to keep in touch with friends and family back home shouldn't be your priority at orientation, no matter how much you want to tell them about all the exciting things that are happening. "Limit correspondence with old friends from home during the first few weeks," Baker says. "It is tempting to email and text with familiar people, but force yourself to participate in most events." You'll never know what you missed if you always have your eyes glued to your phone screen!

7. It's the perfect time to explore clubs

It's never too early to start thinking about which clubs you want to join on campus. Luckily, at most colleges, orientation is the time whenclubs will be frantically trying to recruit incoming freshmen. Don't be hesitant to check out the clubs or to talk to students in charge of the organizations. It's a good idea to get involved on campus early on in college; joining clubs is a great way to meet people who have the same interests as you!

Miharu encourages incoming freshmen to put themselves out there during orientation and sign up for any clubs that interest them. "Even if you're not sure you'll commit to a club, sign up to their email lists!" Miharu says. "After freshman year, I noticed that orientation is the one opportunity where you can explore student life, and it's the one time all the clubs will come to you. Take advantage of that!"

8. Joining in on the festivities is crucial

No matter how corny some of the presentations might get or how long some of the activities might last, you've got to hang in there! Try to be engaged and have fun, because, why not? This is the time to meet people, so take advantage of these events that people took the time to plan just for you, even the ones that are optional.

"If a freshman seminar is offered, take it, even it is not required," Baker says. "You will meet other students. Students who meet during the first few weeks tend to bond for the next few years."

In addition, these presentations are created specifically to give freshmen the information they need to navigate college. College is the place to learn as much as you can, and the learning can already start at orientation if you want it to! Whether they’re about picking classes, housing information or career counseling, events during orientation will arm you with the knowledge you'll need to jump right into college life.

9. The weather might not be great

You definitely don't want it to rain on your parade during orientation, so make sure to bring an umbrella! A lot of the time orientations take place during the summer, when it's really hard to gauge whether you're going to get rain or shine on a given day. To avoid drenched notebooks and soggy shoes, it's nice to have an umbrella just in case. A little fall of rain can hardly hurt you now!

Get excited about orientation and the beginning of a new chapter in your life, pre-collegiettes! This is your chance at a fresh start. With a little help from these tips, you'll be able to get the most out of your orientation experience. So take it all in and get pumped about college life!


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