Many of you have been through orientation (and maybe a few years of college) already–if that’s you, feel free to share your experiences in the comments–but lots of new high school grads are reparing for the big day (or week) already.
I felt like a fish out of water at college orientation: I felt nervous and out of place–the campus was so big, there were so many people, and I had to make so many seemingly huge decisions–it was overwhelming. Part of that was because I didn’t know what to expect, and the other was because I didn’t know how to approach it-so I’m going to give you a taste of both.

What to Expect

So, what’s orientation all about anyway? It’s different at every school. In fact, it can be as short as one or two days, or as long as a week. Some schools have you visit mid-summer, and others have orientation the first week you live on campus.
The point of it is to help you get into the swing of things on campus-learn where to go for food, study time, help with classes, etc. as well as the rules and procedures you need to know your first few weeks. It’s also geared towards It generally includes the following (or similar) activities:

  • Sitting in on some lectures about what to expect from college, how your courses work, which resources are available to you on campus, student health info, etc.
  • Splitting off from your parents (they’ll get their own series of orientation talks, and possibly head back home on their own).
  • Spending time with other entering freshmen, usually in a small group lead by an orientation leader (an older student who goes to your school).
  • Eating at the cafeteria.
  • Info session from current students about college life.
  • Socializing/fun activities with other entering freshmen like sports, dances, and school spirit activities.
  • Placement exams to help ensure that you start in the right level of programs like math and language.
  • Meeting with an academic advisor to get an idea of what courses you should start off with.
  • Registering for your first set of classes as a college student.
  • Sleeping in a dorm room/setting up your assigned dorm room and meeting your roommate.

Here are a few orientation calendars from different schools that will help you get an idea of the how daily scheduling goes at orientation:

  • UC Davis
  • Princeton (PDF)
  • University of Minnesota
  • Washington State University

What You Might Be Feeling (Don’t Worry, it’s Normal!)

Ironically, orientation can actually be a little disorienting at first. You’re taking a big step by entering college, so if just attending orientation makes you feel a little off-balance, know that it’s normal (and it will pass). Once you get into the swing of real college life (not just games and lectures about financial aid), you’ll be able to get more comfortable in your environment.
Apprehension/nervousness about:

  • What Happens at College Freshman Orientation?Being able to juggle school, work, studies, friends, etc.,
  • Whether people will like you,
  • Finding close friends and/or finding where you “fit in” on campus,
  • Getting along with your roommate,
  • Finding your way around campus,
  • Feeling homesick,
  • Choosing a major,
  • If you’ll be able to get good grades.

Excitement about:

  • Moving out on your own,
  • Meeting new people,
  • Setting up your dorm room,
  • Choosing and scheduling classes (and everything else about your life) on your own.