Coronavirus Impact: Navigating Virtual Online College Orientation

online college orientation

To all the high school students graduating this spring of 2020, congratulations. You’ve done a great job. And you’ve dealt with a whole bunch of cards no one saw coming. Quarantined for the last months of your “childhood” and your high school career isn’t anything anyone dreamed for you. And now, as the colleges and universities you’ve decided to attend grapple with the need to move forward during the coronavirus pandemic, you may be getting emails that your triumphant first time on campus as an actual student will be, yet again, done online. Welcome to online college orientation.


First of all, you may be reading this, in April, and asking WHY have they already decided to go online? Orientations happen in June or July! That’s ages away. As someone who has helped plan these events for a large public university, I can tell you they take months, even an entire year, to plan. And now, three months out from you arriving, in person, on campus, isn’t a lot of planning time. Also, we don’t know what will be going on nationally in three months. We didn’t think this was going to happen in January, right? So colleges and universities that have “already” announced an online college orientation are just playing it safe. That safety should be a comfort to you.

And believe me, a few months into being on campus (and getting a little homesick), and you’ll be ok with a day or two extra being at home.

So how can you make the most of this situation? Let’s put on those Optimist Hats.

Approaching Your Online College Orientation

Some of my suggestions for making the most, and best, out of your online college orientation is exactly the same advice I’d give you for a “normal” event. But I say this with optimism: Doing it remotely actually gives you the best of both worlds right now. So, combine your home and “virtual” college experience.

Your university will be sending a ton of information via email and/or app in the coming months. Wade through it carefully. They’re likely going to have some kind of mix of “watch this video, join this streaming live stream, read these lists, and then choose-your-own adventure” pieces.

RELATED: FERPA and FAFSA: What I Learned At College Orientation

I know I’m addressing a cooped-up audience, and so I’m going to suggest approaching these days with a bit of … whimsy. Make this experience fun, and memorable.


Wear your college t-shirts! And get your parents to as well! Get those ordered and delivered now! Lots of students choose not to wear them during orientation because they don’t want to be those students, but at home? Be that student. Paint your face in your school colors. Dress up your dog. Learn the school fight song, and sing it at dinner.

The More, The Merrier

A lot of larger schools only ask that you bring one person with you. Some families choose to only send one parent or guardian to cut down on costs and lost workdays. But during this situation, you can have everyone in on the fun. Make it a family affair. Show off videos or virtual tours. Also, inviting younger siblings to partake also prepares them for their futures.

RELATED: Planning A Virtual Graduation Party

Staycation and Savings

Set aside those days that you thought you’d be away and throw yourself a little staycation party. Focus JUST on your orientation, and scour the information they send you. Look at Google Maps of the town, and “drive around” the local grocery stores and popular areas. Read reviews of local restaurants. Daydream about “what you’ll do first.” Order in your favorite hometown takeout for dinner (you’ll miss it this fall when you’re eating in the dining hall). Bank the money you would’ve spent on a hotel room or travel for something nice for your dorm.

Stay Cool

Be thankful for your air conditioning! Most college orientations in the U.S. can be incredibly hot and hard on the feet. Be a little thankful you’re not sweating through your new college t-shirt. (Parents, be thankful for this too.)

Hashtag Orientation 2020

I’m betting your college has announced a hashtag for your orientation. Take pictures and video of you and your family celebrating your online orientation process, and share them! You can share them with us here at SCV too! We’d love to see them. You’ll love those pictures when you graduate, and look back at this time fondly.

Lastly, remember, you’re not alone. There’s a community out there — your new community — and they’re all doing this remotely, just like you. You’ll all have this spring and summer in common, forever. You’ll find camaraderie in that, together.

Visit our special coronavirus article page.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

CampusChat keeps parents, students, educators and counselors informed of college news, tips, and resources -- all delivered directly to your inbox.

Your contact info will not be shared without your permission. We don't like spam and assume you don't either.

You have Successfully Subscribed!