Welcome Week can be the best part of your freshman year... or the worst. Most schools designate about five days to be a crash course in starting college. You probably won't have classes scheduled during Welcome Week, which means your days with be jam-packed with moving in, meeting your roommate, adjusting to campus life, and attending fun events! You’ll experience your first taste of college parties and have a few sleepless nights as you anticipate the start of classes. While your first week on campus can be a blast, making peace with your roommate, finding friends, and the dreaded FOMO can make it pretty stressful. With our tips on maximizing the fun and limiting the stress, you'll navigate your first week on campus like a pro.
DO plan ahead.
Your college will offer a range of Welcome Week activities. The Italian Studies department might throw a pizza party, student government might offer an outdoor movie screening, and the gym might hold free Zumba classes. You can look up the schedule for these activities ahead of time on your college's website. Plan to attend one or two activities a day. Not only are the activities fun, but they're a great way to meet new people!
“While it was weird to do activities with a bunch of people I didn't know, it ended up being a great icebreaker for making new friends!” says Rachel, a recent graduate of Butler University. “Everyone was doing goofy charades together, scavenger hunts, and obstacle courses. A few weeks later when classes started, it was a relief to see someone in class or around campus and recognize them from an event where you'd met them before.”
If you're nervous about attending events by yourself, invite your roommate to come along. But there's no reason to worry about walking in solo; college is a clean slate for everybody, so no one will judge you for not having a posse on day one.
DON'T schedule every minute of the day.
While it's great to take advantage of school- and club-sponsored events during Welcome Week, you don't want to cram your calendar with events from morning till night. The first week of school can be exhausting; it's totally fine to head back to your room occasionally for some downtime. Remember, you'll have to be in class in just a few short days – make the most of your naps while you don't have a five-page paper hanging over your head!
Another reason to keep your schedule open? New friends! Keep a few hours clear every day so you can explore campus or chill out in the dorms with people you meet during Welcome Week.
DO make the most of the club fair.
One event you definitely can't miss is the club fair. Each club on campus will have its own table. As you walk through the fair, you can learn about each club, sign up for the email listservs of clubs you're interested in, and scoop up freebies, like candy, T-shirts and pens.
“It's a good idea to at least get your name on the club [list-serv] and attend a few meetings during the first few weeks of the semester,” says Annie Pei, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago. “The first few weeks as a freshman aren't super busy, so take the time to look at the different organizations and decide if they're for you. That way, you can get a good feel for what each club is like and you won't end up regretting not going in and trying them out.”
Not 100 percent gung ho about a certain club? Sign up anyway. It doesn't hurt to attend the first few meetings, and you can ask to be removed from the club list-serv at any time.
DON'T sign up for a million clubs.
On the flip side, you don't want to sign up for more clubs than you can handle. If you have zero interest in water polo, there's no point in signing up just to impress the cute swimmer who explained the club's practice schedule to you. It's great to break out of your comfort zone, but stick to clubs that you can reasonably expect to participate in and enjoy.
Beware: sign up for too many clubs and you'll spend the rest of your college career bombarded with emails about the meditation club's next meeting. It will be stressful (oh, the irony).
DO put yourself out there!
You've probably known the majority of your high school class since kindergarten. It's been a long, long time since you've had to make an entirely new set of friends, which can make the prospect of meeting new people in college seem a little intimidating. Luckily, everyone else wants to make friends right away, too, so be as friendly and open-minded as possible.
“Meet as many new friends as you can,” Annie suggests. “You're probably not going to keep in touch with a lot of them, but one of the awesome things about college is the diversity and variety of people you meet. So in the end, it won't hurt to really put yourself out there, because that way, you'll get to meet all sorts of interesting people.”
Some schools have an open door policy, which means you have to keep your dorm door open during the day (or at least during the first few weeks of school) to facilitate making friends. That's an easy way to get to know people; just introduce yourself as you walk by someone's room!
Most people are ultra-outgoing during Welcome Week, but it becomes a little tougher to make friends a few months down the line. So seize the opportunity to form friendships now!
DON'T worry about finding your new BFF right away.
Some people instantly click during Welcome Week and remain friends for the rest of their college careers (and even afterwards). That's sweet, but it's not always the case for everyone. You might take a few weeks, months or even semesters to find your college best friend, and that's totally normal. In the meantime, though, just enjoy meeting new people. The girl down the hall might not be your best friend for life, but in a pinch, she'll be there when you don't want to go to a party alone.
DO have fun!
Aside from move-in day, you don't have a ton of other responsibilities during Welcome Week. Once the semester really begins, you'll be caught up with classes, clubs, internships or jobs, and more, so appreciate how much freedom you have this week.
Want to explore the gorgeous scenery around campus? Go ahead, take a long walk and bring your camera. Want your dorm room to look like the cover of House Beautiful magazine? Spend the whole day making DIY crafts from Pinterest. At night, go out and get a taste of your new school's social scene. During the hectic exam period, you'll want to look back on this week fondly!
DON'T let FOMO get you down.
It's easy to get caught up in the notion that you have to have ~The Most Epic Freshman Year Ever~. You've heard about how crazy awesome college is for years, so you might feel like the pressure is on to dance until the bars close down every night and hook up with the hottest guy on campus.
While college can be totally awesome, you'd be surprised by how many people struggle with FOMO, the fear of missing out, during their first semester. If you end up without plans one weekend, don't meet your best friend on move-in day, or clam up around a cute guy, take a deep breath; it's totally normal. You have a full four years to experience college – there's no need to cram all the highlights into your first week!
DON'T party too hard.
Even if you went to a few wild parties in high school, there's nothing quite like the college party scene. We don't advocate underage drinking, but if you choose to do so, be safe. There's nothing nastier than waking up the next morning with a horrible hangover and a lack of concrete details about what exactly you did last night. If you choose to drink, make sure to eat a filling dinner to avoid drinking on an empty stomach (a recipe for blacking out) and alternate every alcoholic drink with a glass of water.
Finally, know that it's always smarter to call your university health center if you or a friend has had too much to drink than to try to deal with it alone. Alcohol poisoning is dangerous. If you're worried about getting in trouble, know that many schools have policies against punishing you for reporting a potential health hazard, like having too much to drink. The phone number for your university's health center may be written on the back of your ID. If it's not, go ahead and program it into your phone before you head out for the night.
With the right combo of planning ahead and going with the flow, Welcome Week will be a breeze. Before you know it, freshman year will have zipped by and you'll nostalgically watch the Class of 2019 do it all over again. Have a blast!