A transition is always difficult, be it starting a new job, moving in with a new set of roommates, starting college. These all constitute big changes in your life that can sometimes be tricky to navigate. You should never go through any of them alone. And with your transition to college, you won’t be alone for a second. One of the first steps to feeling comfortable at your university is the college orientation process. While all schools operate differently, the goal of orientation remains the same. The university staff is there to help you feel comfortable and excited about your new school and this next step in your academic life. Orientation will set you up with your first college schedule, provide an opportunity for you to meet your future classmates, and allow you to ask questions about your new home. Enjoy this transition and the experience, because your new university staff can’t wait to welcome you home!
What is the Set Up
Every college orientation is a different setup and process. Some orientations occur the week before school–you come in, get your schedule and start classes just a few days after. Other orientations take place over the summer before your freshman year. In these cases, you get a little taste of college life for a day, a few days, or even a week. It’s almost like adult summer camp. Get to know your college town and find the cool restaurants and the cheap liquor store in Lawrenceville, NJ (for when you turn 21, of course). Regardless of how your orientation is set up, there are a few things to expect as far as your orientation experience.
Because there are different activities during your orientation, you may be wondering how to prepare for each. Well, just like there is a checklist for moving into college, there are also plenty of checklists for your orientation. Be prepared to bring comfortable clothes for walking around. Also, be sure to arm yourself with an umbrella, because you’ll be walking around campus come rain or come shine (just like you will be in college). You will be obtaining a lot of new information during your orientation period, so whatever way you choose to take notes, equip yourself with that as well. Some majors require a number of prerequisites before beginning. If you’re starting an Associate Degree in Nursing program, you may be required to take a baseline biology exam or bring your transcripts along with you. Your university will keep you updated with what they will need. Most of all, the key will be to bring your positive attitude and open energy.
One of the main logistical events of orientation is scheduling your classes. You will have the opportunity to sit down with an advisor who will help you map out your degree path. This is a little more advanced than high school. You may be used to always taking math, science, English, and social studies with a few extra classes here and there. Following a degree path means the majority of your classes will be in your chosen field. You’ll start out with beginning 100-level classes and move upwards. Sitting down to figure out your first year and a tentative roadmap beyond that can help you achieve your success later in your college career.
Get to Know Your Peers
It may seem like the purpose of orientation is to get you acclimated and set up with your first-semester schedule, housing, and all sorts of logistics. While these are all important aspects, some may argue that the true purpose of orientation is to start making connections that could last throughout college and beyond.
College can be a time to reinvent yourself or to define your personality while living on your own. The people you choose to spend your time with will help shape the person you become. Orientation can be a great test run before school starts to find the people who help build you up, so be open to new individuals and new experiences. High school has a reputation of being overly cliquey and catty. In college, these distinctions and petty comparisons tend to wither away. You can be authentically yourself, and orientation is the first step to feeling comfortable with this newfound freedom.
Getting to Know Your Leaders
Obviously, you are working to bond with individuals whom you will be going through your collegiate experience with. This is sometimes easy, because everyone comes in looking for new friends and groups. But there are other individuals who you should get to know during your time at orientation. These are your orientation leaders. Each of these leaders is hand-picked and incredibly passionate about their university. They care about helping you make this place your home, because they feel at home there as well. It really does take a special and energetic person to want to help mentor you through this next step in your life.
One of the biggest benefits of having current students as a resource for you is their honesty and understanding. Chances are they were going through the same transition a year or two ago and they completely recognize the challenges of moving to a new place and finding a new group. They will also undergo training in all areas of the school, so they offer a wealth of knowledge for you to delve into. They’re prepared to answer anything from, “Can I bring my new 2018 Ford vehicles on campus?” to, “What if I don’t find a group of friends?” Your orientation leader has your back. More often than not, they are involved in lots of different activities, so it may be a way for you to get involved before even starting classes. Take advantage of this opportunity to get to know them, because they are there to get to know you, too!
The best thing to remember with college orientation is that the experience centers around you. Be your own advocate. There will be opportunities to get information about anything you could need to know from professors, peers, and administrative assistants. Ask questions. Be curious. If you are at an automotive & diesel technology college in NY, ask about the practical experience you get out of the classroom. If you are majoring in Spanish, ask when in your schedule you may get to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. You’ve already committed to the university, so now your faculty is committed to giving you the most meaningful and rewarding collegiate experience. Orientation is your first step on this great journey. Start with passion and curiosity, and you can achieve success from day one.