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What to Expect at College Orientation

Last updated August 2, 2022

What To Expect At College Freshmen Orientation

Your first official act as a college student is to attend student orientation! Whether you are headed to a community college or a four-year college this fall, attending freshman orientation gets you all set up to transition to college. We get that the idea of spending time with total strangers in a new place can be overwhelming - but trust us, this time is the best way to adjust to your new life as a college student. To help you prepare for orientation, we put together this cheat sheet of what to expect!

What to expect at student college orientation

Registering for classes

During orientation you will most likely have the opportunity to register for courses for your first quarter or semester. Depending on the size of your school, you might even have a designated time to meet with your academic advisor to discuss your overall academic plan. Don’t worry if you’re unsure of what you want to study - you have plenty of time to figure it out! It is helpful, however, to note specific classes or majors that interest you. Your advisor can then help you explore classes and major programs, and then get you registered for classes. If you do have a set time to meet with your advisor, be sure to check beforehand to make sure there aren’t any holds (like unpaid tuition balances) that will prevent you from registering. This will make meeting with your advisor go by much smoother and faster! You can find out if you have any holds by talking to someone at your school’s financial aid or admissions office. Whether you register for classes on your own or alongside an advisor, you will leave orientation prepared to start classes your first quarter or semester!

Making friends at college orientation

College orientation is the perfect place to begin getting to know your peers and make new connections. Putting yourself out there and making new friends at orientation can feel scary and overwhelming, but remember: everyone there is likely feeling the same way as you!

During orientation, you’ll be able to connect with people who might be from your same city or state, have declared your same major, or will live in the same residence hall as you. Don’t worry if making the first move to talk to someone sounds intimidating - orientation leaders will facilitate activities and games to help you make connections and get to know people organically. You will also tour your campus, eat together, and do other social activities together. You can kind of think of it as summer camp for college students!

Most schools have current students serve as orientation leaders. They can help you gain insight into what attending your new school is like, what the best classes to take are, what clubs you can join, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask your orientation leaders any questions as they come up. These are your peers now, and they’re there to help!

Once orientation is over, be sure to learn where else you can make friends on campus your freshman year!

Getting connected to the college system

Despite the fun you’re going to have meeting new people and participating in group activities, you will have to do some logistical things at orientation. During this time, you will take all the steps necessary to become an enrolled student, like getting your student ID card, submitting outstanding information for your student account, logging into your school’s web portal, and taking your placement tests for math, science, and language classes (if required). If you have any questions about these processes, talk to one of your orientation leaders or someone in the admissions office!

Exploring campus resources

As a college student, you will have access to tons of resources on your college campus, such as learning assistance programs, cultural centers, career services, the library, and more. All of these services are typically covered by your tuition, which means they’re free to use, and you can use them as often as you need! While you’re attending orientation, make sure you pay close attention to what resources your school offers and how to start using them when you start classes.

Learning about student life

While there are great academic and professional resources available to you on campus, there's also a lot of resources for students to have fun, decompress, and meet new people! At orientation, you may learn about the following aspects of student life:

  • Clubs and groups. There will likely be many clubs available on your campus, varying widely in interest. Enjoy reading? Have a passion for volunteering? Love playing video games? There's a place for you! Ask your orientation leaders what the best clubs to join at your school are, and if there's a club you're interested in that doesn't exist, make it yourself! 
  • Events and concerts. There's usually always something happening on a college campus - you just have to know where to find it! Ask anyone in your orientation group if they know of Facebook groups dedicated to advertising campus activities at your school. You can join the group and find a great club event, concert, or party!
  • Study abroad programs. While students typically don't study abroad until they're upperclassmen, you can still explore different programs early! Many schools have an office or department dedicated to studying abroad, so ask your orientation leaders where to find it, and head there once classes start to learn about the study abroad programs available through your school. They can walk you through the application and financial aid process associated with these kinds of programs. 

Getting to know the community

Whether you are staying local or moving away for college, you will be entering a new community, so it’s important to take the time to get to know it. During orientation, you might have the time to explore off-campus to get to know your community more in-depth. This is the perfect opportunity to try a new restaurant, explore popular coffee spots, and see what more there is to offer around town. This community is where you’ll be spending the next few years of your life, so start exploring early!

What to expect at parent and family orientation

College orientation isn’t just for students! Most colleges also have a separate parent and family orientation where your family can learn about the resources your college has to offer. This is a chance for your family to learn about topics like financial aid, student life, and other resources like tutoring and mental health services. Depending on the college, families can also meet with faculty and staff.

If you’re a first-gen student (aka the first in your family to go to college), parent and family orientation is especially helpful for your family - it can help them get a better understanding of what the college experience is like and how to best support you during your time there.

If your college doesn’t offer a parent and family orientation, consider bringing them with you to an event or two at your student orientation! Whether or not you’re a first gen student, having the support of a trusted family member with you can help ease your nerves as you prepare to transition to college. This is a new and exciting journey for them too, and they want to be able to support you!

Need some support as you transition into college? We’re here for you! Leave us a comment on Instagram @getschooled or text #Hello to 33-55-77!

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