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Freshman Orientation Helps New Students Make the Transition to College

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It’s only July but the fall is approaching rapidly and you know what that means! New student orientations will be taking place across the country as thousands upon thousands of college students head to campus to start classes— many for the first time.

In order to ease those stomach butterflies (let’s admit it, even the bravest of the brave get a little nervous!) colleges and universities hold orientation programs before the official start of classes to help new students get familiar with the campus, meet school officials and make a few new friends.

Orientation Week: What to Expect

New college students are usually required to arrive on campus anywhere from a few days to a full week earlier than other returning students. One bonus is that they’re able to move into the dorms before the mad rush strikes, but they’re also obligated to participate in orientation week. It’s often called freshman orientation or new student orientation— don’t forget that non-freshman transfer students might also be participating—and some colleges even refer to the period as orientation week.

It’s common practice for first-year students to be placed into groups led by upperclassmen who are usually called team leaders. Different types of orientation events take place—everything ranging from campus tours to games to volunteer work—and a wide range of social activities such as concerts and performances, school-sponsored parties and sports events are also pretty standard.

When I was in college I was a commuter student that lived at home with my parents, but I was still required to attend orientation week on campus. I was placed into a group with ten or fifteen others (I went to a private university where small class size was the norm) and a senior took us around campus and sat with us when we had to attend various lectures and meetings. It was nothing extraordinary, but orientation programs are unique at all schools. Some large universities even hold multiple orientation sessions throughout the summer as opposed to one big event immediately before the fall semester starts.

College Orientation for Parents

During my orientation week, my father came to school with me for a few days. Parent orientation is still rather new— it only became common during the last decade or so— but an Associated Press article on the Today Show website explains that most colleges across the country now hold orientations for the families of incoming freshmen.

Some parents decide to skip out on parent orientation, but many colleges report that over half of their incoming freshmen have family in attendance at the orientation events. The number of family members attending orientation events at Cleveland State University has tripled in the last five years, and Boston’s Northeastern University spokeswoman Katherine Cadwell said "At least 85 percent if not 90 percent of students have parents that also attend our programs.”

A blog entry over on the parenting site momlogic questions whether or not extensive orientation sessions are helpful or harmful for extremely protective parents, nicknamed helicopter parents by specialists. Indiana State University at Terre Haute spokesman John Beacon says that “We recognize there are lots of helicopter parents. Rather than try to limit their involvement, we embrace it.”

Why New Student Orientation is a Good Idea

If you have older siblings or friends that have already started college and participated in new student orientation programs, you’ve probably heard mixed reviews. Some people find them incredibly boring while others wind up having a great time and making a ton of new friends.

You might as well make the best of it since you have to be there anyway, so here are a few ideas to make your student orientation week a success:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to others. Even if you’re on the shy side, try to find one or two people that you feel comfortable around. College life won’t be too exciting if you don’t have any friends.
  • Save all of the information sheets and flyers that are provided. You never know when you’ll need to read up on various policies and procedures, and campus clubs and organizations often hand out info sheets. You might decide to join some of the groups.
  • Follow the rules. Parties and drinking happen on college campuses—that’s common knowledge. Even so, you don’t want to get kicked out of school for underage drinking before your classes even start. Use your common sense to avoid getting in trouble.
  • Have fun … or at least try to! Life is what you make it. Even if you’re stuck in an incredibly boring situation, try to turn things around and have a little fun. It’s not impossible!

Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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