It’s summertime, which means high school seniors all over the country have graduated and are preparing to make their way to the college where they’ll spend the next four years studying hard (and maybe having a little fun, too). It’s also around this time that the new first-year students will be visiting their chosen campuses for orientation sessions. Many campus orientation sessions are taking place right now.
Even if you feel zero percent ready for college, that’s what orientation is for: to get you eighty percent ready (the other twenty is for buying books and dorm room supplies). And if you’re nervous about attending orientation, or just not sure what to expect, SUNY Geneseo Orientation Advisor (OA) Neha Marolia helped us to come up with tips for what to expect and how to make the most of your experience.
Hey, you’re already on campus, so you might as well do some exploring. To begin with, make sure you find the dorm where you’ll be living, the dining halls, and the library. If you’ve already registered for classes, figure out how to get from your dorm to the academic buildings where they’ll be held. Upperclassmen will be a helpful resource if you need help finding classes on the first day, but knowing your way around to begin with ensures you won’t be late (and you won’t be stuck in either the first or last row of seats).
Every campus has landmarks and special facilities, too—find out what and where they are. Binghamton will be opening a new LGBTQ center in the fall to promote inclusivity and provide LGBTQ students with resources and activities; Geneseo students enjoy the famed sunsets from the campus gazebo; the New Paltz campus is recognizable by its pyramid-shaped Atrium.
Since you’ll be walking all around campus on tours and exploring on your own, you’ll probably need shoes good for walking. And as many of us know, New York State weather can be unpredictable at times—wear summer clothes, but don’t forget a hoodie and an umbrella.
Take note of weather conditions and geographical features. Is the campus welcoming or functional? Flat or hilly? Is it windy? Are there places to study outside on a sunny day, or campus cafes to grab a coffee to warm up with before class?
You might be nervous—this could be the first time you’re going away from home on your own, and you may not know anyone else in the incoming class. Don’t fret! Everyone else at orientation will be in the same exact position as you. Everyone’s going to feel a little awkward during the icebreakers.
Neha’s advice: “Dare greatly, put yourself out there, and try something you’ve never tried before. You may just surprise yourself.” She adds freshmen can make the most of their experience by being present and attentive—“absorbing every word, person, and pathway on campus.”
Take advantage of the time outside your comfort zone to meet people and learn a little about your new class. Are they a friendly, an ambitious, or a scholarly group? This leads us to our next tip…
Sure, you may not be BFFs after classes start if you’re committed to different majors, but making friends at orientation will make the experience much more fun, and it will be nice to see familiar faces walking on campus or hanging out in the freshman dorms when classes start. Again, if you’re feeling a bit awkward or nervous, chances are everyone else feels the same. Don’t be afraid to talk to those complete strangers. Small talk may lead to some real connections.
Being friendly with the OAs helps, too: Neha’s favorite part of being an OA is interacting with students, answering their questions, and “making sure their orientation experience is memorable.”
You may be driving a few hours away to get to campus, so make the most of the trip! This will also provide your family with something fun to do while you’re there. We recently published our list of New York attractions near SUNY campuses all over the state. Check it out for inspiration.
Most notably, if you’re visiting Geneseo, keep in mind Letchworth State Park, the “Grand Canyon of the East,” a beautiful nature reserve in Western New York. If you’ll be at Farmingdale or Old Westbury, visit Jones Beach, a park on Long Island where you can swim, fish, and even attend concerts at its popular amphitheater. Plattsburgh is just on the coast of Lake Champlain for some beautiful summer water activities.
These orientation sessions are your first trip into independence and life away from home. Make the most of them to prepare yourself for your journey.
Jenna was a student assistant with the SUNY Office of New Media when an undergraduate student at SUNY Geneseo studying English literature.