At most colleges, the first few days or maybe even the whole first week is filled with presentations, team-building activities, BBQs, free T-shirts, and everything in between. If you want them to be, these first couple days on campus can be a lot of fun and very informative. However, if you limit yourself and are afraid of putting yourself out there, freshman orientation may not be the best of times. Though the itinerary will vary from school to school, here's a list of the most important things to do—and not do—during freshman orientation at college.
1. Do go to everything you can
Moving to a new place and being surrounded by so many new people can be intimidating—so much so that you may just want to sit in your dorm room until classes start. But don’t! Everything planned for orientation week/weekend is designed to help new students get acclimated to the school and meet new people. For the most part, everyone else there is just as nervous as you are and wants to find new friends just as much as you do. The first people you meet may not be your best friends for the next four years, but don’t let that stop you. At the very least, you’ll have someone to eat lunch with for the first couple days!
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2. Do get used to introducing yourself
More than likely, you've hung out with the same friends for most of high school or even longer than that, so introducing yourself to perfect strangers may seem kind of scary. But nearly everyone else who's new at college will feel the exact same way. Personally, I knew next to no one starting my freshman year, but by the end of the first weekend, I found myself asking anyone I met the same easy set of questions: where they were from, what they were studying, what building they lived in, etc. Try it out!
3. Don’t stretch yourself too thin
As much as you should try to meet new people and expand your horizons, don’t stress yourself out by trying to completely reinvent yourself. If you think you’ll get homesick, call home when you need to, or go home if you can. My only caution when it comes to going home is to wait a few weeks into the semester so you (and your family) don’t get used to you being home all the time—and so you give yourself a chance to make some friends and do things on the weekends. (Columbus Day is usually a good time if you start school at the end of August.)
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4. Don’t feel tied to your old self
As much as you may want to, you don’t have to feel tied to the you of the past. For all intents and purposes, you can completely reinvent yourself in college if you want to—if that feels like the genuine thing to do. Chances are there are very few people from your hometown at your new school, and even if there are, most college campuses are big enough that you won’t be running into your old classmates during orientation and between every class like you did in high school. Keep in mind, you don’t have to reinvent yourself, but if there's something that you want to change that you never felt like you could before, now is the time.
5. Don’t feel tied to your old friends either
Don’t feel like you have to constantly text and call your friends from home at the expense of meeting new people and making new friends during orientation (and after). Even if you have acquaintances or friends from high school at your college, you don’t have to—and shouldn’t—cling to them at orientation. Granted, there will be people from high school you'll still talk to and hang out with when you go home, but it probably won’t be every person you considered a friend in high school. If you ever changed schools and friend groups in the past, you’ll notice it will be quite similar in college: there will be people you'll still talk to for years to come and others who you may not be close to after a couple months in a new place. And that’s okay! Chances are they’re moving on and meeting new people too; if you don’t feel abandoned by them, they probably feel the same way with you.
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Though freshman orientation can seem a little stressful and intimidating, keeping this advice in mind as you meet new people and adjust to college can help you maintain friendships both new and old. This is the perfect time to really get to know the place and people that you're going to spend the next four years of your life with, so be sure to take advantage of it!
To learn more about life as a college student before you set foot on campus, check out our Student Life section.