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8 Tips to Prepare for Freshman Orientation

Freshman orientation programs vary widely among colleges. Some schools provide a one-day crash course in campus life; other schools invite students to a week-long schedule of activities just before the school year begins. No matter what’s in store for your orientation, keep these tips in mind to get the most out of the experience.

1. Understand the benefits of freshman orientation.

Generally, freshman orientation programs are designed to help ease your transition from high school to college. Most programs are designed to help new students:

  • Get to know their way around campus
  • Learn about services and resources provided by the college
  • Sign up for clubs and activities
  • Register for fall classes
  • Complete necessary paperwork
  • Take placement tests

And, since you’ll go through orientation with your fellow freshmen (who, like you, probably won’t know anyone), it’s one of the best opportunities at college to meet people.

2. Complete any “pre-orientation” tasks.

Colleges usually post a pre-orientation “checklist” on their websites, or they might send information about orientation to you via email. Complete and return any documents your college has asked for in advance, such as immunization records or proof of citizenship, roommate questionnaires, registration for placement tests, and any orientation “homework” they might have sent or suggested for you.

3. Review the course catalog.

Some orientation programs include registering for classes and meeting with an academic advisor. Before orientation, take a look at the course catalog and write down the classes you want to take, plus any questions you might have about degree requirements or your academic plan. Make sure you know how to contact your advisor after orientation ends, as you might think of more questions later.

4. Stick to the program.

Some parts of orientation might not be mandatory, but most college advisors encourage students to attend the entire program. A session that sounds uninteresting might contain information about resources or services that you didn’t know existed (or know you needed), or be the place where you connect with a future friend.

Most likely, the agenda will include “icebreaker” events meant to help you get acquainted with other freshmen. Attend these, too--no matter how silly they might sound.  While you might cringe at the idea of participating in a scavenger hunt tied to another student or playing “2 Truths and a Lie” with people you hardly know, these events are designed to put everyone in the same awkward situation, facilitate conversation, and forge friendships.

5. Take notes.

You’ll be getting a lot of information about campus resources--such as health services, academic advising, financial aid, and resident life. Take notes, collect or take pictures of any handouts you’re given, and keep the information accessible. A service or program that seems irrelevant to you today might be something you need in the future.

6. Prepare a list of questions to ask.

Your orientation can be one of the most convenient times to interact with your college community, so take advantage of it. The upperclassmen, staff, and faculty working at orientation are prepared to answer your questions and are usually eager to help you. Write down any burning questions that you might have in advance so you don’t forget to ask them. To get an idea of some questions to ask, see 19 Questions to Ask at Freshman Orientation.

7. Learn your way around.

Freshman orientation is about “orienting” you to campus life--and to the campus itself. If you have your class schedule, find out where your classes are and how long it will take to walk from class to class (or from your dorm to class, or from the dining hall to the library, etc.). You’ll be much less harried on your first day.

8. Be friendly and flexible.

While you might not become best friends with anyone you meet at orientation, do your best to be open-minded, polite with everyone, and make a good first impression. You just never know who you’ll end up sitting next to in class or who might be a hall-mate in your dorm.