Getting the Most out of Orientation

Freshman Orientation

By Nikki Martinez

The journey towards choosing a school—from the applications, recommendations and deadlines to anticipating the big envelope in the mail—has led you to this: freshman orientation. Both underrated and overly hyped, depending on the college, orientation really and truly is what you make of it. Besides the introductory de rigueur, such as registering for classes, placement tests and building tours, it’s your first chance as an official student to connect with your campus and get a feel for what the next four years have in store.

First things first: do your research. Read (or at least skim) through the orientation packet and familiarize yourself with the seminars, tours, skits and activities. Every school does their orientation a little differently. They range from your run-of-the-mill weekender to six-day outdoor excursions, such as Princeton’s Outdoor Action. If you’re anything like me, whose idea of an adventurous trek is an impromptu walk through the park, the latter trip may sound more like punishment than a fun way to get to know your future classmates. It pays to know what you’re getting yourself into. If there’s a choice in types of orientations, choose the one that you feel you’d gain the most from.

Now that the necessary arrangements have been made, what else is there? Depending on your state of mind, orientation can be a pleasant introduction or, let’s be honest, a huge let-down. But no matter what your personality or outlook, you can benefit from the experience. Keep reading for tips n how.

The Shy Type

Entering a new and unfamiliar environment can be overwhelming for anyone, but if you’re already shy by nature, orientation can be downright scary. Fear not! Keep in mind that everyone’s in the same boat. They are unsure of what to expect and, most likely, don’t know many people. Part of the fun and excitement of going to college is that you can be whoever you want to be. This is not to say you shouldn’t be yourself. Rather, think of it as an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. Start a conversation with someone in your walking group. Ask where they’re from or what they’re thinking of studying. Meal times can be a little more intimidating. If you’re not totally comfortable with walking up to strangers, find a quiet spot to eat alone and think of it as your chance to soak in your surroundings and absorb all the new information.

The Never-Been-Away-From-Home Type

So you’re flying the coop. Instead of focusing on what you’ll be leaving behind, try to think about what lies ahead: new friends, getting to know a different town, and most of all, being independent. For orientation, opt to stay in the dorms instead of at a hotel with your parents. You’ll be able to share with your fellow newbies what you’re apprehensive about as well as what you’re excited about. It helps to talk out your fears with others who probably have the same ones. Most importantly, when you’re at the campus, try to imagine yourself there: eating lunch at the student center or walking to class with your future roommates. It may seem like a long time now, but you only have four or so years at college; make the most of it as soon as you can.

The Overly Enthused Type

This category is two-fold: First, you’re the Type A frosh who’s already chosen your fall schedule (because you bought the course catalog over the summer, of course). While it’s smart to be on top of your game, orientation is also about meeting new friends, getting the skinny on extracurriculars, and finding out the best places to eat on campus. Find another person who also seems enthusiastic and swap what you’ve learned. Or instead of attending yet another department info session, find out who wants to grab lunch at the local eatery.

On the other side of the overly enthused coin is the first year who thinks college is a non-stop party and orientation is nothing more than their first dip into the social pool. You plan on sleeping through class registration and would rather find out where the party is than take a language placement exam. First of all, good luck making it past the first semester, much less to graduation. There’s a reason schools go to such great lengths to have such a structured orientation—doing this on your own isn’t easy! Take advantage of the upperclassmen, faculty, and staff available. Ask questions and acquaint yourself with where everything is. Get your schedule straight. Make sure you’re prepared for your next phase of adulthood. And everyone knows adults have more fun.

The Unenthused Type 

You didn’t get into your first choice, second choice, first safety school … you get the point. That doesn’t mean you won’t have a fulfilling college experience. Often times the most successful student is the one who makes the most of their situation. Remember that first impressions stick and no one wants to be friends with the person who looks pissed off that they’re there. Pay attention to why others chose that school, even though you may not have. Learn about the various organizations, classes that sound interesting and social activities. Every campus has something to offer, as long as you’re open-minded.

You are now properly equipped for whatever the orientation gods may have in store for you. Worst case scenario, you’re underwhelmed with the whole experience. That’s okay. You’re just getting a taste of what’s to come.