What to Expect at Your College Orientation

By Patricia Gorden Neill - June 13th, 2013

Many colleges have an early orientation program during the summer months; others place orientation the week before classes. Some colleges run week long freshmen orientations, others have a program that runs for two to three days and includes parents, siblings and students. In other words, there’s a great deal of variety in how colleges run orientation, but all of them have orientation programs in some form or another. The first step to prepare yourself for your college’s orientation is to check online for your college’s program or look at the materials sent to you in the mail. You’ll find a detailed orientation program with a listing of meetings, lectures, advising sessions, meet and greets and social events for however long orientation runs.

Plan on attending everything, all the meetings, lectures, question and answer periods, advising sessions and especially the social events. At orientation you’ll meet your new classmates and learn how the college runs its business. You’ll go on a campus tour and find out where your classes will be, where your advisor has an office, where the student health center is and most importantly, where your dorm room is in relation to the nearest dining hall. You really don’t want to miss out on that information because as soon as classes start, you’ll be on your own to find your way around campus.

Most parents and students attend orientation and enjoy themselves. Parents learn what they need to know such as where to pay tuition bills, where to find their kid’s dorm room and various phone numbers they might need during the school year. There’s lectures, Q&A sessions and campus tours for them as well as social events, wine tastings and musical evenings. Usually students and parents are separated during orientation.

Why Orientation is Important

Let’s face it, college is a huge investment for families and students. With the amount of time, effort and money invested in a college education, parents and students need to become involved in the college and its workings. College administrators know that everyone is nervous during orientation. In fact, the entire program is set up to ease that nervousness by letting everyone get to know the college administrators, staff and faculty and to have them interact with parents and students. Orientation programs provide both necessary information and enough ice breakers that everyone feels just that much more comfortable in their new surroundings afterwards.

Most college orientations include at least some of the following:

  • Residence, dining facilities and general campus tours
  • Lectures and talks on academics and student life, honor codes and campus rules and regulations
  • Group sessions on financial aid and study abroad
  • Placement exams for languages, math and science classes
  • Campus fair and information booths for student groups and campus organizations such as student clubs for languages, science, philosophy, chess and community service groups
  • Academic advising sessions for students to register for classes
  • Social events such as dances, carnivals, ice cream socials, dinners, lunches, speeches by college staff, departmental ice breakers, musical concerts and theatrical performances
  • Orientation adventures including two to three day field trips for students including outdoor hiking trips, surfing school, community service gigs, trips to historical landmarks, etc.

The Lowdown on Orientation

Why do colleges invest so much time and energy in orientation programs? These days, colleges know well how much time, effort and money students and parents are putting into this education endeavor. They realize that if a freshman student hits a sudden crisis, the chances of that student simply dropping out or transferring are great. They know that students go through an intense transition period when they first get to school. If they can introduce the students to all the campus support systems during orientation, the chances of dropouts or transfers are less. The student is more likely to work through his problem than simply leave. It makes sense for colleges to put forth the effort they do for orientation. It leads to greater student retention for the college and overall academic success for the students.

Orientation is Fun

As a student, do yourself a favor and don’t be too “cool” to attend orientation. You’ll find out a lot of information you need to know. You’ll meet a lot of new people, classmates, deans, faculty and maybe even find a roommate. Some of these people will end up being close friends. While you might be slightly bored by some of the events, overall you’re guaranteed to have a good time because you’ll be learning things essential for your college career.

Besides the Fun

  • Orientation is when you’ll get your college ID. For many colleges, this card is your college account card, which you will use to register for classes, pay college bills, swipe it at dining halls for meals, use it for vending and laundry machines and take out library books. It’s your all purpose college card.
  • Orientation is where you’ll meet your professors and your first academic advisor. If you’ve already picked a major, you’ll probably meet your department chairman and even more important, the department secretary. Your academic advisor will help you pick the classes you’ll need to get started, whether its classes for your major or in general education. Between your interests and core requirements, if any, you’ll end up with all your classes lined up.
  • If orientation is just before the fall session, you’ll see your dorm and probably meet some of the people who will also be living in your dorm. There’ll most likely be a dorm party or other activity during orientation and you don’t want to miss that.
  • You’ll find out where the gym or workout room is, the computer lab, the building where most of your classes will be held, and where the various dining halls, cafeterias and cafes are located. You’ll take a tour of the library and choose the study spot that suits you best.
  • You’ll learn where the safety phones are around campus and about emergency procedures in case of accidents. You’ll find out where the student health center is and how to go about accessing the various kinds of counseling available.

In Summary

You’ll learn most everything you need to know to make college your new home away from home. While you won’t end up being entirely comfortable for a few weeks yet, you’ll have learned your way around campus and know what you need to know to start college off on the right foot.

Attending orientation is your first step on a successful college career. Go for it, and enjoy the process. You only go to one of these bashes in your lifetime, unless you attend multiple colleges, so jump right in, be open and friendly and join the college community.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.