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What to Expect at College Orientation

Last updated January 9, 2024

Your first official act as a college student is to attend new student orientation. Whether you're heading to a two- or four-year college this fall, attending orientation gets you all set up to transition to college. While the idea of spending time with new people in a new place can be overwhelming, it's one of the best ways to adjust to your new life as a college student. To help you prepare, we made a list of things to expect at orientation!

Register for classes

During orientation, you will most likely have the opportunity to register for classes 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 register for classes and talk about your academic hopes and plans for your time in college. If you're not yet sure what you want to study, don't panic! Even having a general idea of what types of classes or majors sound interesting to you is a good place to start. Your advisor can then help you explore them before registering 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) on your student account that can 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 checking your account on your student portal or 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 term!

Make friends

Orientation is the perfect place to begin getting to know your peers and making new connections. Putting yourself out there and making new friends at orientation can be intimidating, 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. 

Most schools have returning 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!

Get connected to the college system

In addition to the fun you’re going to have meeting new people and participating in group activities, you may also need 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/or 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!

Three friends sit around a table and look at two laptops - What to Expect at College Orientation

Explore campus resources

As a college student, you will have access to lots 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.

Learn 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. 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, learn how to make it yourself!
  • Events and concerts. Ask someone in your orientation group if they know of Facebook groups or Instagram accounts dedicated to advertising campus activities at your school. When you find an activity that interests you, take a new friend from orientation with you!
  • 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 head there to learn about the programs available through your school. They can walk you through the application and financial aid processes associated with these kinds of programs.

Get to know your community

During orientation, you will have some downtime to explore off-campus and get to know your community a bit more. This is the perfect opportunity grab a friend and try a new restaurant, explore popular coffee spots, and see what's happening 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 school 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.

If you’re a first-gen student (the first person in your family to attend college), parent and family orientation is especially helpful for your family, as 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 parent and family orientation, consider bringing them with you to an event or two at new student orientation! No matter whether 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! Just text #Hello to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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