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New-student Orientation: Getting to Know Your School

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Starting college can cause much anxiety. You are surrounded by the unknown. Student orientation programs are designed to provide answers to the many questions you have. Before classes start, students are given information about college life – from academics to social activities. This is referred to as orientation. You should receive information about your school’s orientation after you have committed to attending.

Orientation varies from school to school. Orientations can vary in length from a one day program to a week-long event. Some colleges require orientation classes (for credit) that last an entire semester. Some orientations are free, while others may charge an orientation fee. Some colleges make orientation mandatory, while others make it a voluntary activity. Check with your particular college for specifics on your orientation program.

Some colleges are establishing online communities for students to familiarize themselves with each other before orientation. Admitted students can post their web page or their Facebook or MySpace page before stepping foot on campus. Some colleges have blogs documenting first-year experiences.

Regardless of the nature of the program, three objectives should be present in all orientation programs:

  • Introducing students to college life

Introducing students to college life requires presenting a full view of all the school can offer. Academics and extracurricular activities will be presented. Students should be advised of opportunities to be integrated, academically and socially, into the culture. Students that don’t become socially integrated in the first few weeks of school are less likely to stay in school. Social activities during orientation can include parties, games, and concerts. Students can also learn about the various student organizations on campus.

While the social aspect plays a significant role in one’s college experience, academics must not be over-looked. Orientation programs begin before classes start. This allows students to register for classes if they haven’t already. Academic advising is usually available to give new students direction and guidance in enrolling for classes. You may meet with faculty members through a panel discussion or other event. The academic component to orientation gives students an advantage in making the transition from high school to college. Providing a strong overview of academic expectations and expected behaviors better prepares students to meet the challenges of college.

  • Acclimating students to their new environment

Orientation gives students time to become familiar with their new surroundings. New students should meet their roommates and find where their classes are held. Take advantage of the guided tours available during orientation. These tours will show you where necessary buildings are on campus, like the library and health center. Get a campus map and wander around. Students should become familiar with both physical locations and the workings of the campus – such as how the bus system works. If you have time, take a look at the surrounding community. Many schools provide virtual tours of their campus so you can see the campus prior to orientation.

  • Providing an opportunity to meet people – fellow students, faculty, and staff

Students, as well as faculty and staff, play an important role in orientation. Orientation leaders are usually students themselves, so they can give the inside scoop on college life. If you have any question – no matter how silly you think it may be – ask them.

Often the orientation leaders lead new students through a series of workshops, tours, and social activities. You will meet all kinds of people during these activities. Try to talk and interact with as many people as you can. Pay attention to who seems interested in the same campus activities as you – and talk to them. Orientation give you the opportunity to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time, but you still have to put in the effort to be friendly. Try to be more outgoing than you normally are.

While freshman and transfer student orientation is most common, there are orientations for special populations. Some of these include minority students, non-traditional students, graduate students, disabled students, and international students. These orientations may be in place of or in addition to new-student orientation.

A recent trend is the family orientation. This orientation includes the student’s parents and siblings. This enables parents to get information and ask questions. Most sibling programs consist of fun activities and can help with separation issues that may come up.

Orientation is designed to answer questions before they are asked and to provide solutions before problems occur. While it is not possible to tell new students everything they need to know for their entire college experience, orientation programs create a framework in which students will know where to go if they have additional questions. If you feel that you aren’t getting the information you need, take the initiative and let someone know you want to know more.

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