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8 Tips to Prepare for Freshman Orientation

College freshman enjoying their orientation

Chances are, your college life will officially begin with freshman orientation. Here's why you shouldn't skip this important event and how to make the most of your time.

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. Additionally, some schools may be holding their entire orientation online, while some may have a mix of in-person and virtual activities. No matter what’s in store for your orientation, keep these tips in mind to maximize 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. Especially for the online portion of the orientation, make sure you have all the necessary orientation apps and login information ready ahead of time.

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. Don’t forget to check which classes are being held online and which classes are being held in person when reviewing the course catalog – and when eventually creating your schedule.

4. Stick to the program

Some parts of orientation might not be mandatory, but most college advisors encourage students to attend the entire program. Whether in-person or online, 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 dorm 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 students, 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. If your orientation is online, make sure you attend a virtual tour of the campus.

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.

Freshman orientation isn't just a formality you need to get through. If you're engaged and curious, it's something that can set the stage for a successful, fulfilling, and fun freshman year.

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