Graduation day has passed and you’re probably anxiously awaiting college. However, before you take on your first day of college, there’s one thing you first must conquer—orientation. You’ve probably been lost in daydreams about college for the past couple of months, yet orientation is about to make the entire transition more real. It's a day or weekend packed with new information that’ll help you understand more about your new home. Instead of going into the process unsure of what to expect, be aware of these seven things below that will happen during your summer orientation.
1. You will be nervous
How could you not be nervous? This will be your first real taste of life on campus, and you’re probably taking it on all by yourself. Chances are, you won’t be surrounded by familiar faces, and your parents won’t be there to guide you along the way.
Shelly Adams, a junior and orientation leader at Shenandoah University, is accustomed to seeing timid and anxious faces at orientation. “If you’re nervous, just remember that everyone is in the same boat you are,” she says. “So, just come ready to learn and have fun, and it’ll be okay.” Understand that your butterflies are normal, but it’s time to challenge yourself to enter this new chapter of your life with your head held high.
To make the transition easier, you can join social media pages, such as a Facebook group for your class and reach out to people who have the same orientation date as you. It’s also helpful to look up a hashtag for your class, for example, #MSU20, and follow your new classmates. This way, you don’t go into orientation and the school year overall not knowing a single person on campus.
2. Be ready to take your ID picture
Let's be honest, since high school let out you've obviously been sleeping in. Your orientation will start earlier than you’re used to waking up lately. Even if you want to just throw on pajamas and call it a day, be prepared to take an ID picture during some point of orientation. This ID will follow you for however long you’re in college, so wear something that will make you feel good, flash a genuine smile and don’t blink.
Christina Ulrich, a college counselor at Montgomery College, considers the ID to be one of the most important things a student can take away from orientation.“Generally speaking, IDs provide students access to resources on campus such as the library, recreation center, dining halls and computer labs,” she says. “Several campuses are now even offering bus transportation to their students with a valid ID.”
Your ID may even be good to use off campus. Local business often give discounts to college students with a valid ID. Therefore, keep your ID in a safe place –– it’s just as important as your driver’s license!
3. You will sit through several presentations
You will be bombarded with tons of information presented by some of your school's most respected faculty and staff through a series of slideshows. You might be accustomed to letting your parents know and handle all of the lengthy information, but remember that you are the primary party responsible for your college experience now. Bring a notepad to jot down notes or take pictures of the slides.
One of the biggest topics covered will be financial aid. You should go over a break down of charges and ways to pay for school such as loans, grants, and scholarships. If the floor opens up for questions, be sure to ask if you don't understand.
"Students should prepare a list of questions that they can ask at orientation," Christina says. "Students are normally very somber when the floor opens up for questions, which is quite ironic seeing as the students are going to school and not the parents. Orientation is the one time you can ask 100 questions and have an abundance of resources available to answer them. Even if it's a piece of information not brought up in the presentation, students should ask as many questions as needed to ease any concerns about life in college." Life in college is so different from life in high school, therefore everyone will be understanding that you don't have all the answers yet.
Other topics range from Greek life to housing. Be sure to do some research on your school before orientation so this information isn’t brand new.
4. You’ll make friends in your orientation group or at socials
Even if you’re still groggy after sitting through all those slideshows, be prepared to get your adrenaline pumping or even burn some calories in your small group session. To be safe, wear your most comfortable pair of shoes because you are guaranteed to be on your feet. Some campuses offer a walking tour during orientation, while others may only break you up into groups for team building activities.
The good thing is that you don’t have to go through it alone. You will be broken up into a small group with other incoming freshman and participate in ice breakers, led by an orientation leader. Be prepared to answer what your major is, where you’re coming from, and even what excites or scares you about college. As awkward as ice breakers may seem, you’ll be thankful that they force you to connect.
Sydnee Lyons, a second year grad student at Florida Atlanta University, works in a department that is heavily involved in orientation, and knows all the work that orientation leader put into the day. “Orientation leaders are usually trained to be really high-energy, really fun-loving, so if you have a bad time, it’s because you went in with a negative mindset,” she says.
You may even have the opportunity to meet even more people at socials. This is especially common at overnight orientations. In a group of a hundred or more people, you're bound to meet someone you click with, so don't be afraid to speak to someone first.
5. Clubs will ask for your contact information
You most likely will be overwhelmed with all the organization options you can choose from, but don’t let that scare you off. You’ll have the option to join club sports, cultural and political based organizations, campus publications, event committees, religious and spiritual groups, and more.
You’re better off signing up for several organizations that catch your interest than signing up for none. You will regret not getting involved when your routine only includes going to class, then going back to your dorm.
Don’t think of the act of signing up as a commitment either. Erin Ryan, a senior at Kennesaw State University, has worked at a booth during orientation for the past three years promoting her on-campus organization. “The most we’ll ask you for is your name and email or phone number,” she says. “That way, [the club] can send out more information, such as a first meeting date. Then you can decide if you want to make the commitment!” So go ahead and go booth to booth; you will meet new people along the way, even if you don’t end up committing to a club.
6. Free food and apparel are awesome
If you haven’t particularly gotten pumped up about any other aspect of the day, know that there will be free food waiting for you, whether that be breakfast or lunch (preferably both).
Teresa Amos, a sophomore at the University of West Georgia, was pleasantly surprised with the food at orientation. “Because of the parents and even the alumni who attend orientation, [the cafeteria staff] made some of the best food that I ate during my first year there,” she says. In other words, cherish the meal because it’ll probably be one of the most diverse and plentiful buffets of the school year.
If more free stuff interests you, you will find that free stuff is plentiful at orientation. At some point during the day, you’ll also collect some free items, such as pens, cups, and lanyards. Keep your eyes peeled for the bigger prize, free t-shirts.
7. You’ll create your class schedule
Now is the time where it will pay off if you have done your research on different majors and the general education classes you’ll probably be taking. You may be asked to create your schedule for fall semester during orientation. Even if you haven't done the slightest bit of research on classes prior to orientation, you won't be alone. Plenty of faculty and orientation staff will be a few feet away, ready to assist you in shaping the next few months of your life.
Due to your classification as a freshman, you will have last choice of classes, so try to get your schedule as concrete as possible. Take into account if you want to have classes every weekday, if a Saturday class if the right fit for you, if you need to coordinate with your work schedule, and how early and late you want to take classes.
Aliyah Gabriel, a junior at Kent State University, advises freshmen to spend as much time at orientation crafting their schedule. “My first tip to freshmen would be to pay attention to if the classes they are choosing are listed as an a.m. or p.m. classes,” she says. “I also would recommend staying far away from 8 a.m. classes unless you know in your heart that you are an early bird!”
At the time you’re creating your schedule, you’ll probably meet your advisor. Get used to seeing his or her face because you’ll meet often throughout your years in school. Your advisor will help you navigate through each year of college and advise you on the best classes to take to get your degree. Your advisor will be a great resource for you if have college credit from dual-enrollment courses or AP/IB classes. He or she will instruct you on what will be the best classes to suit your schedule, especially if you’ve knocked out a majority of your general education classes.
Overall, your day will be filled with a flurry of new information. At the beginning of the day, you might be filled with nerves, but at the end of the day, that nervousness should transform into excitement. This is the first step to the next stage of your life, so face it with confidence!