Tips for Preparing for College Orientation

Last updated: Jun 16, 2021

Senior year is winding down and you’ve made your college decision. Yay, you! There’s just one more rite of passage to complete before you fly the nest: college orientation. Whether you’re waiting for it with bated breath or dreading it more than a trip to the dentist, our college orientation tips can help you get the most out of the event – and dare we say, enjoy it!

What to Do Before College Orientation

Getting a few things out of the way ASAP can help you be successful at orientation, the first event of your college career.

Register Early

There are typically a limited number of orientation dates available, and the popular sessions fill up fast. Make your reservation as soon as possible to ensure the best selection of dates.

If you’re an athlete, international student, or part of a special program, there may be specific orientation dates set aside for you to accommodate sports schedules, travel concerns, and more. For example, international student orientation may take place immediately before the semester begins so students don’t have to make a separate trip.

Most colleges also run special orientation programs for your family. Talk to your family about attending if your school offers this option. It can be a great opportunity for them to practice “letting go” while still showing support.

Finish Your Pre-Arrival Checklist

You likely have a long list of items on your enrollment checklist. Find out which ones must be finished before orientation (such as submitting your immunization records and final high school transcripts). Failing to complete these items may result in you being barred from the event, prevent you from registering for classes, and more.

Prepare a List of Preferred Courses

At most colleges, you’ll meet with an academic advisor and register for your first-semester classes at orientation. To prepare for this process, review the course catalog before orientation and make a list of preferred classes, as well as some alternates. Time with your advisor will be limited, and early preparation is the key to creating a schedule that fits your needs.

Female student preparing for her college orientation at USF.

Pack Necessities for Your Trip

Orientation is typically a one- to three-day experience, not a month-long trek through Tibet. That said, here are a few essentials you’ll definitely want to bring:

  • Toiletries (including sunscreen for hot, sunny climates)
  • Twin sheets and a towel (if not provided)
  • Pillow
  • Clothing appropriate for the weather
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Laptop or notepad for taking notes
  • Cell phone charger
  • Umbrella
  • State-issued photo ID
  • Copy of unofficial transcripts
  • Parking permit
  • Small snacks
  • Spending money (cash or credit card)
 

What to Expect During College Orientation

So, what exactly happens at orientation? Every college is different, but in general, you can expect to participate in some of following activities:

  • Take an in-depth campus tour that covers areas typically not included on the standard admissions tour.
  • Learn about campus resources, such as health services, fitness facilities, tutoring services, recreation opportunities, etc.
  • Review academic requirements needed for your degree.
  • Attend activity fairs and find out how to get involved on campus.
  • Get to know your future classmates at planned events like trivia nights, ice cream socials, etc.
  • Meet with your advisor to plan your first semester and register for classes.
 

If your family is also registered to attend orientation, typically they will attend separate events and will not be with you the majority of the time. Their programs normally include presentations on campus resources, letting go, and supporting their student without becoming overbearing.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Orientation Session

The best way to approach orientation is to think of it as a trial run. This is your chance to get to know campus and have fun before the craziness of your first semester begins.

Make Friends

If you’re intimidated by meeting lots of new people at orientation, don’t be! Everyone is in the same boat. By developing a few connections now, you’ll have familiar faces to make the transition to college that much easier in the fall.

Ask Lots of Questions and Take Notes

Everyone, from your orientation leader to your academic advisor, is there to help you navigate your college experience. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask questions. Whether it’s where to go or what class to choose, they have the answers.

You also may be faced with information overload during orientation. Be sure to keep all handouts and take good notes so you can refer back to them later (after you’ve had a chance to decompress and digest).

Be Open Minded

You’re going to be meeting people from many different cultures who may have different life experiences than you. Keeping an open mind will help you make friends and become more cultured and knowledgeable as a person.

Join In and Have Fun

There may be some corny and awkward moments to endure during orientation (think icebreakers and school songs). But some of the best memories are made through shared experiences, and goofy team-building activities can be a great way to bond with other attendees. Just go with it and try to have fun.

Group of students on a USF campus tour for their college orientation.

Attending a Virtual Orientation?

If your college offers a virtual orientation experience, never fear! You'll still have plenty of opportunities to engage and get to know your classmates. To get the most out of your experience, make sure you download any necessary apps prior to your orientation date and make sure you understand how to use its basic functions. Also be sure to have your login information handy. Spending the first hour of orientation wrestling with technology (or worse yet, missing the event altogether) can cause you to miss critical information and chances to connect with other incoming students. 

Have Questions About Orientation at USF?

We’re here to help! To learn more about orientation and to register for an upcoming session, visit the USF Office of Orientation website at the Tampa campusSarasota-Manatee campus, or St. Petersburg campus. Sessions fill up quickly – act fast to secure the date you want!