10 Things to Expect from Your College Orientation


At many colleges and universities, Orientation looks a bit different these days.  It’s been proven if you help students with the transition to college, they tend to do better and are more likely to stay.  Go figure.  So many students and parents are currently getting ready to head to a “New Student Orientation” of some sort.  Yes, colleges now orient the parents right alongside the students.

When I went to college, Orientation meant you arrived on campus two days earlier than upperclass students, met a resident advisor who led some “Girl Scout” type ice-breakers, were handed a huge book called a “course catalog,” and told to choose your classes. We spent one afternoon getting lost on campus while figuring out the route to classes and the dining halls.

After working for a large university observing this thing called Orientation from the vantage point of the Admissions office, I have a couple of bits of advice for you. I always knew when Orientation began because the foot traffic in the Admissions office would increase. This always happened despite specific instructions having been sent to report elsewhere.  Which leads me to the first bit of advice…

10 Orientation Tips

1. The torch has been passed. You’re admitted. Congratulations!  At this point, you no longer need Admissions and Admissions no longer needs you. There’s also a good chance Admissions can no longer answer the questions you have since Admissions is expert in, well, admissions.  Your people are now the ones who work in Orientation.  Go find them… which brings me to #2.

2. Read everything Orientation sends you.  All of it.  It probably tells you where to report upon arrival and it’s probably not the Admissions building where you came six months ago for your campus tour.

Reservations (The Lodging Kind)

3. If you’ve read everything Orientation sent, you probably know if and where you’re spending the night.  If you didn’t read what Orientation sent you then you may be assuming you’ll be staying on campus.  This may or may not be true.  If you should have made a local hotel reservation earlier and you didn’t — good luck. And, no, the nice folks on campus probably can’t make you a reservation at this point either.

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4. Know your ID.  Hopefully by now you’ve memorized your social security number, but that’s not the ID I’m talking about. Henceforth until you graduate, you’ll likely be known by some kind of computer generated student number that was probably given to you when you applied for admission, were offered admission, or accepted that offer.  You need to know it.  It’s like the lunch number you punched in the register to get food in high school.  Don’t look at Mom upon check-in and be like “do you have that email with my student ID in it?” Mom, resist the urge to tell them the number.

5. Bring a folder with copies of everything.  It would be nice to assume that everything you sent Admissions has made its way smoothly over to every other office on campus that might need it (like the academic advisor who will help you build your schedule). However, there’s a solid chance that hasn’t happened.  Yes, most campuses are now paperless and it SHOULD just mean the touch of a button to access everything you need but, trust me… technology does not always cooperate.

Here’s a list of important items people would regularly to try to request from Admissions during Orientation:

Copies and Printouts You Need

  • Social security card
  • Photo ID
  • Final high school transcript
  • Community college (dual enrollment) transcript
  • SAT/ACT/AP score record
  • Immunization record
  • Vehicle registration if you’re planning to buy a parking pass
  • A list of any scholarships you were awarded. Remember the names of them.


6. Don’t assume that every building on campus will have WiFi or cell service.  Print out copies of anything you think might be important and add it to the folder.

7. If you weren’t asked to do it before Orientation, be prepared to create various electronic accounts and passwords.  Have some way to remember said passwords or something on which to keep them (even though IT will recommend you not write them down).  If you’ve already created your accounts and passwords prior to arrival it’s unlikely the folks in Admissions know what you chose.

8. Don’t assume that you can make changes easily.  On some campuses you might be able to pop into Admissions or the Registrar and ask to change majors and it will happen with click of a button.  At others, that may be impossible.  In other words, you should arrive on campus expecting to be “oriented” in the major into which you received and accepted an offer.

Shoes for Comfort… Not for Fashion

9. Dress comfortably.  This is not the time to wear something you would wear to an interview.  Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. And I’m looking at you, Mom.  You’re likely going to be outside for part of the day, walking quite a bit, sweating (it’s probably July), and expected to sit in grassy areas on occasion. You might even be asked to participate in things like a cheer or (apologies in advance) a group trust-fall. A college logo t-shirt would be a spectacular choice… provided it’s the college you’re attending.

Finally… 10. Leave Fido at home.  Because the dog does not need Orientation.  Neither does the horse.  And no, the nice folks in Admissions will not keep them for you. Sadly, yes, I have been asked to dog-sit and horse-sit.

Have you gone to your orientation yet? What’s the best piece of advice you’d give someone who is heading out? Did you remember sunscreen? Was something a life saver for you or your family? Tell us on our social media!

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