By Beth Winze
The tassels have been turned; the pictures, taken; the cake, cut; the gifts, opened; and now we are stuck with our nostalgic feelings of high school passed and a summer quickly fleeting. This, at least, has been my interpretation of the hangover from graduation excitement. It was all a grand flourish of family, friends, love and support and now the waning summer gives way to the thoughts of an impending lifestyle change not hiding too far around the corner. Now comes the hardest part, Freshman Orientation. Freshman Orientation is not grammatically capitalized correctly, but since it is what all of us graduates are about to attend, I gave it a little emphasis. If we could timeline our lives in a written form, I truly believe that Freshman Orientation is a bulleted, highlighted, circled and underlined event on our life calendar. It is the second step towards college. We have been accepted, we have picked the school we want and our minds have already aroused a certain sentiment about our life changing. But Freshman Orientation can be mentally compared to the cautious “toe dip” into the pool that will be our new lives come August. I have already completed and attended Freshman Orientation and I am here to try and bestow some advice on what to do and what not to do. I am a person that loves lists, therefore I have compiled a list of points that I wish had been there for me pre-Freshman Orientation. My master list to surviving Freshman Orientation begins below. If you are excitedly anticipating Freshman Orientation or if you are sweating profusely and letting your pre-meditated thoughts about Freshman Orientation control your entire thrill towards it, I hope this list can provide a sense of what I experienced and what I took away from my Freshman Orientation.
*NOTE: I am attending Western Carolina University in the fall so this of course is based on what WCU gave me and what I took away from it. This may or may not line up with your college at all. It is simply my desire to at least sort of, kind of, maybe, prepare you for what is ahead.*
- It Feels Like Too Much Information:
It does. WCU’s Freshman Orientation kept us there from Monday at 10 a.m. to Tuesday at 3 p.m. That is a long two days! They are consistently talking about information, handing you brochures about information, and giving power points of information. It would have made me hit my mental Panic button if I had not firmly decided one thing before I arrived. “It’s all highly important information, but if I miss something or do not understand something, I will learn it eventually.” Maybe this is a bad theory, but by mentally telling myself NOT to freak out, I avoided what is usually the inevitable with me. I was able to relax and enjoy my time and I feel as if I retained much more information through staying relaxed than if I had panicked from the first time I wanted too.
Keep a level head. You got this.
- How much does a Polar Bear weigh? Enough to break the ice.
More than likely, at some point in orientation, they will have a “get to know ya” game or activity. As cheesy and “unnecessary” as they are, it really helps to break the ice! Meet as many people as possible. Long gone (or not so long for us) are the days in which high school students classified themselves in rank and had a strategically placed pecking order in which you had no say in. We are all brand, spanking new at college, so not many people are going to avoid you if you start up a friendly chat with them. I was able to talk to several people who in my human state would have probably never associated with elsewhere. But these are my classmates now and therefore, in an attempt to become Beth 2.0, I was determined to go out of my comfort zone and talk to new people. I was not disappointed with the results and I have several people who have already said they wish to connect up with my first weekend we are there! Most times, I would literally just walk up next to someone, say my name, and ask what they are majoring in. You just got to be willing to talk.
Everyone desires some sort of friendship. Let that fuel you to talk to new people.
- “I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map, I’M THE MAP!” (Dora the Explore “Map” theme song)
For being as directional challenged as I am, I was surprised I did not find myself lost more often those two days. If the college cares about you, which they do, they will give you a map more than likely. LEARN IT! Look at the schedule for the time while you are there and correlate it with buildings. You do not have to have it memorized but having an idea of where you are going is a lifesaver! And just think about how much more prepared you will be in the fall!
No GPS. Familiarize yourself with the map!
- PSY 150 vs. PSY 340
Your class schedule, which was handed to me the end of the first day, is highly important. I mean if you are going to college for education it should be the biggest thing that will get handed to you that entire time. While my advisor made a rough draft class schedule that I could either choose to change or keep, you may have a set one or an adjustable one like mine. Do not be afraid to ask to change things around. For example, I was greatly cautioned against 8 a.m. classes and when I saw that I had been placed in 2 classes that started than, I immediately wrote down the change I wanted to make. We made our own class schedule adjustments and picked our own classes and professors. If this is how your college allows you to work with your schedule, DO NOT HIT A PANIC BUTTON. I am already familiar with college class schedules because of my community college experience senior year. And it was still a tad frustrating. But do not allow your mind to go to a place of “I can’t do this!” Keep an open mind and a willing attitude to work with your advisor on your schedule. If you do, it will be presentable much smoother than if you shut down.
There is a MASSIVE difference between PSY 150 and PSY 340 so make sure you read class descriptions and know your passions instead of blindly signing up for a class.
- This is your new home
The most fun of Freshman Orientation came when I pictured myself there. When we toured the campus gym, I pictured myself in jogging shorts and a tank top running laps. When I was eating lunch in the cafeteria, I pictured a weighted backpack sitting at my feet and my new friends chatting it up with me across the table. You are going to college here, so you might as well begin to adjust to the mindset that in two months this will be your new reality. That, in my mind, is where I had the most fun! You picked your college for a reason that you loved so make the most of it and change your dream into your reality.
Begin to picture you running from class to class, studying on the front lawns, and participating in on-campus activities. It’s more fun when you place yourself in that mindset.
- “I’m majoring in _____”
You know what you want to major in, or maybe you do not, but meet with your desired major’s directors, deans and or previous students. It helps when you hear from the professionals lips themselves what you are going to be doing. It also helps fuel or extinguishes passions. For me, meeting with the dean of Communications was pivotal for my desire to concentrate in Journalism. If I had not meet with him, Freshman Orientation would have made me feel a little lost in the educational shuffle. Knowing your dean’s, faculty, or peer students passion for the major is encouraging in itself.
Ask them hard questions about the major. Make sure you are fully informed so that you are prepared mentally going into it.
- Majors, minors, concentrations, FAFSA, loans, and other threateningly scary sounding words.
In two days, I feel like I learned more about college than I did in my four years of high school. Catch on to the lingo they use because it will make it easier for you to understand come fall. I had to ask several times what certain things meant and by asking I felt much more confident next time it was brought up!
Learn the lingo. It is a LIFESAVER!
- A tutor a day keeps the bad grades away
Learn about all the resources the college has to offer you. The library hours, the tutoring services and the professors’ policies are all going to be the savers for me at some point in my education. They gave us the information, but I am continuing to read up on all the free services the college offers me as a student. This way when I know that science is not going the way I planned, I know how to work the tutoring services.
Learning school hours on services can help you avoid 1 a.m. study crams.
- Sign Me Up
I determinedly signed up for everything that interested me. I wanted the information on how to get myself involved in everything they had to offer. I refuse to be the freshman that never took initiative to try and involve myself. I literally put my email on over twenty signup sheets but I figured that I would rather have an overabundance of activities to participate in than nothing at all.
It doesn’t hurt to put your email address down. It is going to be easier to weed out things that you do and do not want to do than it will be to have no options at all!
There you have it! My list of advice from things I experienced while at the imposing Freshman Orientation. Your Freshman Orientation is going to be what you make it! Mine was a blast, and in fact, I hated leaving WCU knowing that it would be another two months before I could go back and have that same excitement. So whether your Freshman Orientation is in two days or one month, hopefully my list will be of some use to you! Always remember that you have chosen the college because there was something about it that really caught your attention. Do not lose the excitement and anticipation of a new life in a muddle of confusion and frustration. You have plenty of time in the future to worry about grades, food, and life, so take your Freshman Orientation at it’s full. Go out there, put on your big kid college pants and make it work for you! You are ultimately the only one who can get the experience you desire!
You got this,
One Freshman to another