10 Ways to Make the Most of Your New Student Orientation


With fewer and fewer days left in the summer, it’s important for Jack Kent Cooke Scholars and other incoming college freshmen and transfer students to begin thinking about their new student orientation. Nearly all colleges and universities in the United States hold an orientation program for new students that can be anywhere from a few hours to several days in length. Most orientations are mandatory, free of costs, and typically held on campus at least a few days before the start of school, although some may take place several weeks prior. Many programs involve an overnight stay in the school’s residence halls.

Orientation is essential to student success. Research shows that students who attend their college or university’s orientation program are more likely to graduate than those who do not. That’s why high-achieving, low-income students should be particularly engaged in their orientation program. So as your orientation event approaches, here are ten tips for making the most out of it:

  1. Find out the logistics well in advance. First of all, be sure to know as soon as possible when and where your program will take place so you can make arrangements to be there. Plan your work and personal schedule accordingly. Then, be sure to register (many schools have more than one session available), submit any necessary forms, and make arrangements on your own for things like transportation and parking, medical issues or supplies. Arrive early the day of the event in case you have any problems. (Note: Transfer students may have a different orientation program; be sure to check with your school if this applies to you.)

  1. Familiarize yourself with your school and its orientation program. Most schools will send or post a list of items to bring to orientation as well as a tentative schedule of events. Check it out at least briefly, because you won’t want to be surprised when you get there. You’ll also want to study the academic programs and student services available on campus so you know what information is most important to you in advance. Many programs involve things like choosing a major, placement testing, and scheduling classes.

  2. Dress for success. You know what they say: “You will never have a second chance to make a first impression.” Wear one of your favorite casual outfits to orientation so you feel as confident as possible and receive a positive response from people meeting you for the first time. Pack extras and be prepared for all kinds of weather and different types of activities such as outdoor games or an evening mixer. If your school has a religious affiliation, bring a formal outfit appropriate for a service.

  3. Meet new people. In a setting like this, it’s often tempting to stick close to someone you already know. It’s certainly okay to say “hello” to friends from your hometown, but this is the best time to meet new people—fellow freshman, upperclassmen (most programs have a group of current students lead parts of the program), your roommate, your professors, and other important people on campus. You’ll be spending the next four years with some of these people; some will end up being your best professional contacts in the future, some will become lifelong friends, and someone you meet may even become your future spouse.

  4. Step outside of your comfort zone. Along the same lines as meeting new people, this is a great chance to explore new things. Many programs have an activities fair where numerous extracurricular organizations on campus are represented. Keep an open mind; it’s a great time to learn something new or even reinvent yourself completely.

  5. Be prepared for more mundane matters and downtime. Many schools take the opportunity during orientation to handle paperwork and clerical tasks; anything from establishing your computer login to taking a physical exam to having a photo taken for your student ID. And there are sometimes periods of an hour or two of free time; while this is a great chance to mingle, you can bring your favorite book along if you need some time alone.

  6. It’s a great time to do your own errands. If you have some special concerns, use your time on campus at orientation to take care of them. Would need to meet with your athletics coach or choir director? Do you need accommodations for a disability? Want to know where the counselor’s office is? Or even something as simple as where to buy or rent your textbooks? Your orientation is the perfect time. Be proactive!

  7. Get to know your campus like the back of your hand. It’s called “orientation” for a reason. You may be able to avoid getting lost that first day of classes if you take time now to familiarize yourself with the layout of campus. Most orientation programs will provide packets that include a campus map.

  8. Ask questions! You won’t have a better chance to ask questions than at orientation. The faculty and staff participating in the program are there because they want to help you. Take advantage of that because many people will not have as much time the first few days of school to help you.

  9. Have fun! Take care of business, but don’t stress yourself out. This is an exciting time in your life, and orientation is a chance for you to envision how good the next four years can be.