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The College Orientation Tips You Can’t Live Without

College • March 4, 2020 • Connor Peoples


What you’ll learn

  • What to do before college orientation
  • How to crush the day of orientation
  • What parents need to know for orientation


You did it! You worked so hard through high school, took the SAT, applied to colleges, and earned a spot in the upcoming freshman class at your dream school. Now what? Usually taking place in the summer months before the fall semester, your school will have orientation, or some sort of “Freshmen Welcome Weekend.”

Even if you’ve read every single one of your school’s webpages, followed their social media accounts, and visited the campus before, attending your orientation is important. For many incoming freshmen and their families, this is the first opportunity to get a taste of what the next four years will be like at their new school. Some schools require your attendance at orientation. For example, in the state of Florida, attending orientation is mandatory for all new students.

Use some (or all) of these tips to make the most out of your orientation experience:

What to do before college orientation

Whether your orientation is half a day, a long weekend, or a full week, it’s helpful to put together a plan to make the most out of your orientation experience.

Here’s what you need to do beforehand:

  1. Complete preorientation tasks

    Some schools put together a “Preorientation Checklist” for their incoming students. These lists can include tasks like setting up your new school email account and making sure you have all your required immunizations, to taking your math and chemistry placement tests, and applying for your new on-campus housing. Make sure you pay attention to what your school is sending you through mail or email — they will help you properly get ready for orientation.

  2. Research courses

    At orientation, you may get the opportunity to meet your academic advisor for the upcoming school year. By researching your school’s courses beforehand, putting together a class schedule with your advisor will be a breeze. Some students come into college without a major and that’s okay. Instead of researching classes within a specific major or course of study, broaden your horizons and focus on your general courses. Use your elective courses to try some other, less familiar topics.

    In addition to researching different classes, there are resources out there to get to know specific professors. Jobany Quiterio, a student at the University of Utah and one of Sallie Mae’s Bridging the Dream Scholarship winners said, “I use tools like RateMyProfessor.com to see which professors teach which courses. I am able to get an insight, from a student’s prospective, into what the class is like and the professor’s teaching tendencies. This helps me tailor my schedule specifically to my learning style.”

  3. Pack a comfortable pair of shoes

    You’ll thank me later. Most orientations consist of different presentations and information sessions across the campus. To save yourself (and your feet), bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes. I promise you the rest of your orientation group will be jealous!

  4. Bring a refillable water bottle

    I’m sure your new school will have an abundance of juices, sodas, and waters throughout the day, but it’s still important to bring a refillable water bottle with you. Most orientations take place amid the summer months, so having water handy while you’re walking around campus will keep you hydrated and energetic.

How to crush the day of orientation

You’ve peeked on the IG accounts of just about everyone in your school’s incoming freshmen group, your outfit has been ready for the last week (or longer), and you’ve located the closest campus bookstore to grab your first swag as a new student. Orientation is here and this is your first real taste of what the next four years are going to be like at your new school.

Below are a few tips to help you take on your big day:

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast

    No, a fancy cappuccino from your local coffeehouse doesn’t count. If you want to make the most out of your day, start it off with a good breakfast. From all the walking, constant conversation, and serious learning, your body is going to need energy. A healthy breakfast will ensure you have enough strength to power through your day. Snacks aren’t always within an arm’s reach. Bring some with you!

  2. Make friends

    Whether it’s the other students in your orientation group or someone you see in another group wearing your team’s favorite jersey, try your best to get out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself. Remember, this is all new to them, too, and I bet they’re just as nervous as you are! Ask them where they’re from or what they’re planning to study. You’ll see how easy it is to bond with someone when you have the same college in common.

  3. Join a club

    Orientation is a common time for clubs to try and recruit freshmen. Whether you have a passion for fashion, an awe for the outdoors, or you love to cook, there’s a student organization for you. For example, my alma mater, the University of Delaware, has clubs like the “Fashion Merchandising Club,” the “Ducks Unlimited Club,” and the “Food and Culinary Club.”

    University of Utah student, Jobany, who is going to school for a Bachelor of Business Administration, chose to join clubs focused around his major. He said, “By joining organizations that were focused specifically in business, I met a great group of friends that bounce ideas off each other, study together, and grab lunch with one another whenever we can.”

    Joining clubs is the perfect way to connect with people that have the same interests as you.

  4. Have fun

    In addition to attending all your information sessions and taking copious amounts of notes, make time to enjoy yourself. After you’ve explored everything “on-campus,” go explore something “off-campus.” Find the closet pizza shop or juice bar. You never know, you could find your new hot spot for the next four years.

    And if you still feel overwhelmed, keep in mind your future classmates are in the same boat as you. No one has everything together yet and many students will be asking themselves the same questions as you like: “How am I going to study for all this?” or “Can I afford the extra guacamole?” or “How many minutes can I nap without sleeping through my next class?” You’re all in this together!

What parents need to know about college orientation

Whether you’re sending your first kid off to college or you’re settling in to officially become empty-nesters, college orientation is just as important for parents and guardians as it is for the students themselves.

Here are some tips to help parents navigate college orientation, too:

  1. Attend the orientation in person

    Yes, really! Even if your son or daughter is still “too cool for school” and doesn’t want to be seen with Mom or Dad on their new campus, it’s crucial for parents to attend orientation, too. Parents should use this time to become acclimated with the campus, the faculty, and the culture to help ease the transition for the students to their new school. According to the “2017 National Survey of College and University Parent/Family Programs,” more than 98% of U.S. colleges now run special orientation programs for parents of freshmen and transfer students. Parents should capitalize on the opportunity that schools are taking the extra step to make parents feel welcomed.

  2. Ask questions

    While the students are researching the best places to eat, the coolest bars and clubs, and the closest coffee shops, parents can help by asking questions like: “Does the college offer meal plans?” or “What nighttime safety services are put in place for students?” Some other popular questions for parents are:

    • How can I see my student’s grades?
    • What are the hours at the student health center?
    • What types of insurance does the health center accept?
    • Are there any counseling or support groups available?
    • Who will be my student’s counselor?
  3. Come prepared

    While your student may have their own supplies, it’s important as a parent or guardian to be prepared as well. There will be an abundance of information coming at you and your student at once so it’s always helpful to have more than one person taking notes. Also, be prepared for all the swag! As part of their orientations, schools like to hand out more informational pamphlets, pens, pencils, t-shirts, water bottles, and mugs than one person can handle. Think about bringing a tote bag to carry everything comfortably.

This is an exciting time for both you and your student, and with the right resources and a positive mindset, you’ll both ace college orientation and be prepared for that first semester.


Connor is a Sallie Mae employee and a graduate of the University of Delaware. In his free time, you can find him cheering for Philadelphia’s professional sports teams and exploring the world with his dog, Moose.


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