High school graduation day has come and gone and it’s finally summer. But, this isn’t just any summer; it’s the one before college, a season filled with endless possibilities. One of its most exciting events will be your first real college experience: orientation. Sure, you may have visited your university for tours with your parents, but orientation is the first time that you’ll get to experience college as an official student. For many schools, orientation is mandatory, but even if it’s not, you should definitely go. If nothing else, you’ll get to interact with a bunch of your fellow classmates and spend some time on campus. In order to make sure that you get the most out of your school’s orientation, follow these tips!
Do some research
It’s easier and much less stressful to attend orientation if you have some idea of what you’re going to be doing there. Make sure you check out all the information that your school sends you and publishes online about the orientation process so you know what is expected of you. That way, you’re prepared if your program involves discussion sessions based on readings you were supposed to do, different choices of activities you have to decide between or bringing paperwork (like vaccination records) with you.
Also, many colleges have you register for classes while at orientation. If you already know what you’re majoring in, check out which ones you need to take early on to get a head start. If you’re not sure about your major yet, figure out which general education classes you’re interested in so you don’t go into the registration process blindly. “Have some idea of what classes you want to sign up for,” says Laura Baugh, a senior at Virginia Tech. “Do your research and figure out what core classes you need to take.”
A good way to prepare for registration is by checking your school’s online course catalog to get more specifics about classes and then making a list of the ones that interest you.
Hence the name, orientation is the time to get acquainted to your university and to what college life is going to be like. While there, most schools have you do things like pick classes for the fall, meet your academic counselors and advisors, and plan out your major. You’ll also probably attend sessions to learn about things like your school’s general rules and policies, honor code, and more.
You’re going to be given a lot of information in a short period of time, so you want to make sure that you wear comfortable clothing, have a water bottle and bring a pen and notebook. Consider turning your phone on silent during the most important information sessions; that way, there won’t be anything distracting you from learning the essentials.
During the evening, most schools hold more fun sessions that consist of activities like dances, parties or opportunities to play sports and games. If you’re not sure what you’re in for, make sure to pack both a sporty/casual outfit and a nicer going-out outfit so you’ll be prepared for every event that comes your way.
Explore your options
At most orientations, there will be a lot of information about the different clubs and organizations you can be a part of once school starts. Orientation is a great opportunity to figure out what you want to get involved in.
If your school is big on Greek life, orientation will most likely have some informal rush activities going on and you’ll probably be able to speak face-to-face with some sorority representatives. This can help you learn about how to register for rush, what rush week entails and what some of the different sororities are like.
On the other hand, if you’re not so into the whole sorority thing, use this time to explore the multitude of other opportunities your university offers. Whether you want to be a part of a service organization or play on a club sports team, there’s something available for everyone.
Sign up for the email list-serv of any club/organization you’re remotely interested in so you’ll be in the loop in the fall. Don’t worry, you’re not actually committing to anything just by putting your name and email down – it's just to stay informed.
Whether or not you make lifelong friends at your orientation, you should still socialize with as many people as possible! Remember that everyone there is just as new at the whole college thing as you are and probably just as nervous about meeting people. Everyone is going to want to make friends, so interact with others as much as possible. Try starting a conversation with someone you’ve never met or sitting with someone new in the dining hall during meals. There will also be plenty of activities provided by your orientation leaders to help you all get to know each other.
“I would say go to all the social and student mixers you can,” says Hillary Johns, a senior at Ohio University. “My orientation had a karaoke party at a coffee shop followed by a night club-esque party. It was fun and a good way to break the ice with other students. Don't be afraid to jump right in and have fun!”
Also, remember that once you’re out socializing, make sure to talk to lots of people rather than just clinging to the one or two you might know. Put away your phone so you’re not tempted to hide in the corner and text all your high school friends.
If it’s an option, definitely stay overnight at the dorms instead of staying at a hotel with your parents. It will give you another good opportunity to bond with your future classmates and a chance to experience what it’s like to live on campus.
Good luck at orientation, soon-to-be collegiettes!