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College Orientation: A Survival Guide

Back in 2012 and 2013, I worked as an Orientation Leader at my college. For three different weekends throughout the summer months, our “O-Team” welcomed incoming students from all walks of life. We ushered the students to the computer labs for their placement testing and lectures on financial aid. Our team facilitated icebreakers and reassured “helicopter parents” who wanted to accompany their child around every corner. We even developed and performed comical skits to portray potential situations and consequences students might find themselves in during their time in college.
As Orientation Leaders, our goal was to be a helpful and fun resource for the incoming students and their families. However, we were only able to provide guidance for the students. Once classes had started and the academic year was underway, it was each student’s responsibility to learn how to self-advocate—a task which, even later in adulthood, takes continuous practice, discipline, and patience with oneself. Below are my own top ten tips to surviving your initial orientation to college life.

1. Go to class. Showing up, preferably well rested and equipped with the tools you will need for the task at hand (pencil, pen, textbook, calculator, bobbins, etc.) is half the battle. Do not assume you can just attend class every so often, or when there is a big quiz, test, or exam on the horizon.

2. Dovetailing going to class, make sure you participate in class, too. Listen to the professors, your classmates, guest speakers, the videos, and audio clips. You may be surprised how much your class participation grade counts towards your final grade.

3. Read the syllabus for each of your classes. Consider the idea of a “flexible syllabus.” A professor may decide to spend more time on some subject matter than he/she initially planned. That’s ok.

4. Seek out the following: peer/faculty tutors, and/or the writing center—early! If you know you struggle in math anyways, make an appointment after your first math class. If you don’t, others more than likely will.

5. Learn how to do your own laundry. This is a skill that will serve you later in life, too.

6. Join a club, organization, and/or apply for an on-campus job. These are fantastic ways to meet new people who share similar interests, and make a bit of spending money (or earn a bit off your tuition).

7. Order your books, if possible, online ahead of time. You will not ever be able to sell back your books at the end of the semester to the school store for even close to what you paid for them.

8. Make time to explore the town and/or city around your school. There is a world outside of campus. Get to know it.

9. Maintain an open mode of communication with your roommate(s), if you have any. Remember, you don’t have to be comfortable with your roommate having their boyfriend sleep over while you’re there if it bothers you. But your roommate can’t read your mind if it does.

10. Maintain positive in each of your interactions, even if theses interactions are not reciprocated. More than likely at some point in your college career, you will need assistance from the maintenance crew, dining crew, the cleaning staff, financial aid office, registrar, career counseling office, public safety, your advisor, your professors, your roommate(s), and your peers. They will remember and appreciate your common courtesies.

Enjoy the experience! It’s a privilege and an adventure to be afforded this transition to adulthood. Not everyone has the means to continue their education in this manner, nor glean memories from such an exciting transition into adulthood!