Freshman orientation was, hands down, the most terrifying, intimidating and stressful five days of college to date. You’re thrown into a totally new environment with totally new people, with a totally new life ahead of you. You are now independent, with a mere five day introduction to that new role. But guess what? Orientation doesn’t have to be the most terrifying, intimidating and stressful five days of college! It can be full of promise, joy and memorable experiences, a wonderful way to start out your college career! Check out the 13 tips I wish someone had told me before I started orientation—maybe then I would have embraced the opportunities my school offered at the beginning!
1. Move in now, nest later
I don’t know if this was just a personal problem, but I felt caught between my need to be social and make friends, and my need to make my new dorm room space feel like home. I hated the tiled floors, fluorescent lighting and plain white walls, but I couldn’t decide if I should spend my spare time making friends or nesting! Unpack as much as you can (your clothes, items for your bed, the necessities) and leave the rest until post-orientation. I promise, your pictures will still be around on your first Monday night after you’ve finished all of your reading!
2. Get your first meal (or meals!) with your roomie
I specifically requested to not have a single my freshman year. I was terrified to go into a completely new environment without having someone constantly there, feeling equally as nervous as I was. I really lucked out my freshman year, and my roommate was the most lovely girl I could’ve met! My advice? Get your first meal or two with her. That way, you can both judge what random group of people to sit with in the dining hall, and minimize your social anxiety as much as possible!
3. Leave your door open
Invest in a door stop, and leave your door open as much as possible! Most people are terrified to go around knocking on doors, asking people to hang out, so when they see that your door is open, they’ll be more inclined to stop by and say hello! I met one of my best friends freshman year when I wandered into an open room, and she came in after me! If that’s not serendipity, I don’t know what is.
4. Put yourself out there and knock on other people’s doors!
But even if you’re wandering down the halls and seeing only closed doors, that’s okay! Everybody is just as scared and lonely as you are. Put yourself out there, and try knocking on a door or two! Chances are, during that down time in between all of your orientation seminars, nobody else really knows what to do with their time either. It’s more than likely that people will be in their rooms, just trying to pass the time. So give the doors a knock, you’ll be surprised at how many people will be stoked on meeting a new friend!
5. Spend some time outside
The quad is where it’s at during those sunny days. Walking up to a frisbee game or to a group slack lining is the easiest way to make new friends. It’s inherently open to adding new players and friends in a very casual setting! Plus, you’ll get some much-needed sun, which is proven to help improve your mood.
6. Stay up late, get up early
During my freshman orientation, there were nighttime events and parties every night. My roommate and I made an extra effort to go to as many of them as possible, even if that meant staying up extraordinarily late. Keeping yourself busy for as long as possible is the best way to combat homesickness, and going out with your new hall mates is an amazing way to meet new people! But don’t waste the next day away—get up at a reasonable hour, go to breakfast and start again. Orientation is exhausting, but if you end the week with too much energy, you’ve done something wrong!
7. Actually go to the scheduled events
I know, hearing a speech about the impact of drugs and alcohol sounds like the last thing you want to do. But, chances are, a lot of people will be going to these seminars (another opportunity to make friends!) and they’ll definitely be giving out free swag at the events. And so begins your four-year-long collection of T-shirts, bottle openers and baseball caps. Plus, you might actually learn something! I was particularly interested in the sexual assault seminar my school held, run by the Student Organization for Sexual Safety (SOSS). I learned a lot about the resources on campus, and opportunities to get involved in SOSS as a student!
8. Sit with a random group of people at dinner
For me, this was the most terrifying moment: walking into the dining hall and knowing nobody. My roommate was on the girls’ lacrosse team, so she basically already had 15 or 20 friends. I, on the other hand, had no safety net when I went to meals. But I did sit with random people, and I had a blast! I met some students, and had a group of people to go out with later that night. And guess what? They will not judge you for asking, “Can I sit here?” They’re also new, and are also looking for friends! A new smiling face is just what they need to make dinner even better.
9. Invite your hall mates over for a movie night
Again, people want things to do, and the best way to bond is over a movie! Plus, microwavable popcorn is about to become your new best friend—you’d better start now. Have everyone bring over some pillows and blankets, and make some makeshift chairs and couches. You’ll have so much fun chatting with everyone about the movie, and it’s a great way to meet your new hall mates!
10. Wear your version of the “power suit”
What I mean is, wear your favorite outfit. Something that makes you feel strong, confident and beautiful! Confidence (or, at least, faking confidence) is everything during orientation, and wearing an outfit that makes you feel amazing is the best way to put on a brave face! Plus, you might even get some compliments! Check out some of our suggestions about what to wear for your first week.
11. Let yourself feel sad, scared or lonely
What not many people tell you is that freshman orientation is extraordinarily scary and intimidating. I thought I was alone in feeling terrified of the next four years, almost dreading what else was coming up. Am I going to feel this lonely forever? What if I don’t make any friends? But, guess what? Everyone feels this way. It’s completely normal. And the best way to deal with it? Allow yourself to feel sad, scared and lonely. Give yourself a moment or two to recenter and refocus on what brought you to this school (you came here for a reason!). Then, have a cookie or some ice cream, pick yourself up and put yourself back out there. You’re going to be fine, and these emotions are all part of the process! How you move past those terrifying feelings is a testament to who you are and how you’ll develop—college will be full of those moments!
12. Get stoked—you’re ready for college!
And as sad, scared or lonely as you may feel, never forget: you are ready for college. It is the most exciting and wonderful time, and you’ve worked so hard to get wherever you are. You are emotionally, socially and academically prepared—and you are going to thrive in this new environment! Get excited for the ride ahead, it’s really an incredible one!
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Any other tips for surviving orientation? Share with us some of your favorite stories from that first week!