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Now that summer is in full swing, it is the season of College Freshman Orientation. Orientations take place all throughout the summer at colleges around the country. Sometimes they are stand alone events, or sometimes they are in conjunction with camp experiences where students spend several days on campus participating in various welcome events. Regardless of how it is structured, there are definitely steps you can and should take in advance and during the event in order to maximize your experience. With a daughter of my own in college and many of her friends accessible to me, I take every opportunity to ask them lots of questions about their experiences so that I can share them with you. In future blog posts, I will be covering other topics that I have grilled them about. :)

But first up, Freshman Orientation.  college freshman orientation

Before You Go:

If the student has a major already in mind, take the time to look over and/or print out the degree sheet and course catalog and study them prior to arriving at orientation. While not the same at all colleges and universities, there is a good chance the student will register for their first semester of classes and you don’t want to be caught off guard and unprepared. Have an idea of what classes are required and what classes the student would like to take so an informed decision can be made.

If the student has access to the online registration system at their college, explore it ahead of time and become familiar with it. This will make them more comfortable when it comes time to use it to register for their classes. Additionally, registering for classes, especially those that are popular and/or required by many students, can become a contact sport and highly competitive. Knowing how the system works before using it can help streamline the registration process and relieve some anxiety a student may feel registering for college courses for the first time.

The registration system can also be used to look up professors of courses that interest the student and give them an opportunity to work up a rough schedule prior to registering. An advisor will be on hand at registration to help students choose their courses, but never leave that to someone else without first doing your own legwork. While researching classes and professors, access and/or download the app for This service has information about over a million and a half professors at over 7,000 schools. The site exists by and for students. It is a forum for students to openly discuss the good and the bad about their professors and classroom experience. A student can choose a great course but if the professor is less than desirable, it can have a huge impact on how well the student does in that course. This is a resource that can be used all throughout college when making course decisions. Checking the RateMyProfessors site can provide invaluable information from other students. My daughter used information from this site to transfer to a different section of a course because the professor was obviously going to be a problem. She said it was one of the best decisions she made this year. The site also lists fun information about professors and colleges, like colleges that will make your friends jealous, and which professors are hot, designated by a chili pepper. So if professorial hotness is a factor in course choice, by all means, research that information. :)

chili pepper


If the orientation program does involve an overnight or extended stay, the college will most likely provide a packing list. Take full advantage of this option if provided. It gives students an opportunity to experience living in the dorm with a roommate. Pack lightly, but be sure to plan for all included activities and weather possibilities. Items to bring include:

  • Summer clothing
  • Swimsuit, sunscreen, and beach towel
  • Refillable water bottle
  • A light backpack
  • Plastic bags for wet swimsuit and towels

Be sure to leave room in the suitcase for all the free swag and any purchased spirit wear the student will most surely acquire while at orientation.

The final step to take before orientation is to download an app called GroupMe. Many colleges and universities use this app to form small private chat groups within groups of students. It is used to convey important event information to students while at orientation, and students continue to use it throughout the school year to organize activities with friends. It’s free and works on every device. My daughter tells me that the app is used for a lot of communication at her university for any kind of social activity the student is involved in.


Once The Student Arrives at Orientation:

The first thing that might happen at orientation that may catch a student off guard is that they may have their picture taken for their student ID. So they probably shouldn’t drag in to orientation at the last minute with bed head. This may be their photo for all four years so unless they WANT to sport the stoner look for all four years, they should probably dress comfortably yet nicely, with their hair groomed and girls should wear their makeup.

college freshman orientation: student ID cards

If the student hasn’t already downloaded the GroupMe app, this will be the time to do it.

The student should get very comfortable answering three questions they will be asked repeatedly at orientation (and probably for the next four years): What is your name? Where are you from? What is your major?

Students will most likely engage in icebreaker games and activities to help them meet other students. So come ready to play!

Go into orientation with a friendly attitude and a willingness to fully participate. Walking around with a crampy disposition won’t help the student meet new people or make new friends.

Listen attentively to orientation leaders and camp counselors. They are usually upperclassmen who have been right where the freshmen are and they are a WEALTH of information and tips to help students assimilate quickly. They’ve been through it all before and are there to help new students feel comfortable.

A lot of activities may take place outside so pile on the sunscreen, wear your coolest shades and keep that water bottle handy.

Talk to as many people as possible. Remember everyone is feeling scared and overwhelmed. By meeting as many people as possible, there will be lots of friendly familiar faces on campus during that first week of class. This will be a very comforting sight, especially if the student is attending college far from home or without any of their high school friends.


After Orientation:

Make a point to stay in touch with friends made at orientation. It will really make those first few days on campus in the fall more comfortable.

Take some time to reflect on the experience, and know that it is OKAY and NORMAL to feel overwhelmed or scared or both. But relish in the success of registering for college classes for the first time! It’s a huge accomplishment and should help the student begin to feel more excited about attending college.


Overall General Tips:

  • Be open-minded
  • Use resources like GroupMe and RateMyProfessors to maximize the experience
  • It’s okay to be scared and overwhelmed–everyone secretly is feeling the same way
  • Try to be as social as possible and get outside of the comfort zone as much as possible
  • Use the orientation experience to become familiar with campus and leaders and other students
  • Take lots of pictures. This is a once in a lifetime experience that you are going to totally rock!

Still need some more help preparing for freshman year? A couple of helpful books to check out are The Freshman Survival Guide: Soulful Advice for Studying, Socializing, and Everything In Between

college freshman orientation: Freshman Survival Guide book

The Freshman Survival Guide Book


college freshman orientation: 1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know

1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know Book

and 1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know: (Like Buying Your Books Before Exams Start). We stuck one or both of these in with each graduation gift we gave last year. 


If you have any questions about surviving orientation, or tips of your own to share, be sure to leave a comment!

And check out Pinterest!

Tips for Rocking College Freshman Orientation Pinterest



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