Are you an incoming freshman, wondering how to prepare for your first semester? Transitioning from high school to college is an exhilarating milestone… with so much to learn! To set yourself up for success, your first order of business should be preparing for new student orientation.
What exactly IS new student orientation?
Well, it’s usually an in-person event designed to help college students get their bearings before school begins. Due to the unusual circumstances of the past few years, your school might be offering an online or hybrid version of orientation. But either way, you should schedule it into your calendar now, and plan to attend!
Orientation will be your first opportunity to connect with your college community and start building meaningful relationships. You’ll have a chance to meet with administrators, professors, and other students in your area of study. This provides a unique forum for finding answers to questions you might not have thought of yet, as well as starting important conversations with peers and instructors.
Ask, listen and learn.
Because it’s a busy day for campus employees, you may not be able to get all of your answers in one day. So, it’s a good idea to plan your questions ahead of time, in order of importance, and focus on getting the most critical answers first. You can also review the college website ahead of time to find answers to common queries.
Wondering about choosing your major or laying out your long-term plan? Most colleges will give you a chance to meet with your student advisor, or set up a future appointment. Taking the time to do this before the semester starts will give you ample time to address any unexpected tasks that come up, and will help you plan out prerequisites and future graduation requirements.
Class schedules and financial aid
Another key task of orientation is helping students register for their first semester of classes. When you register for school, you should receive login information through your school email address so you can review class options and requirements for your degree. Orientation will then give you an opportunity to clarify any schedule questions or issues prior to starting the semester.
If you haven’t yet sorted out your financial aid for the year, the months prior to the start of school will be a great time to set an appointment with a financial aid counselor. Make sure that you’ve filled out the FAFSA ( learn more about that here ) and that you review the deadlines for available scholarships and loans well in advance!
Find your way around campus
You should also take the time to tour campus and get the lay of the land. Grab a map and seek out important student services beforehand, including the:
- Financial aid office
- Student center
- Cafeteria or student union building
- Career services office
- College bookstore, and
- Computer lab
Once you have your schedule, you can also locate each of your classes on campus. Knowing where to go before school starts will make your first week of school much less stressful.
Are you planning on driving to school, riding your bike, or taking public transportation? During orientation you can learn about student discounts for public transportation, campus shuttles, and how to buy a parking pass. You can also scope out the stop, bike racks or parking lot closest to your first class.
Make sure you bring a notebook and take notes about resources, links or people to visit or contact after orientation. These might include student resources such as:
- The testing center (for placement testing)
- Mentoring or tutoring options
- Meal plans
- Housing, and
- On-campus employment or internship help.
One note for international students
If you are an international student , orientation is an important step in ensuring all of your papers are in order. A special breakout should provide you specific information about maintaining your student status in the U.S. Make sure you attend that session, and complete all paperwork and required tasks by the deadline, so you don’t jeopardize your visa.
A new beginning
There is so much to learn as you begin your college journey. New student orientation will smooth your transition into the exciting world of college academics and campus life. If you attend all of the recommended sessions, and stay engaged, you should leave with the resources and confidence to begin this monumental next chapter on the right foot.
Article updated July 15, 2022.