General Education

Cry in a Wendy’s, and Other Tips for Surviving College Orientation

Cry in a Wendy’s, and Other Tips for Surviving College Orientation
If you don’t want to look like a freshman, don't wear a lanyard around your neck. Image from Unsplash
Kate Schulman profile
Kate Schulman October 4, 2019

Truth: Here’s something about my childhood nickname. Truth: Here’s something about a family pet. Lie: I’m not worried about the next four years.

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Gearing up for college? Nerves for the first day of school are normal—and typically mean that you care about whatever it is you’re about to embark on, whether that's a traditional undergraduate program, online degree, or community college. While orientation can help, there is no research backing up the idea that mandatory icebreaker games help create a smooth transition into a new school environment.

When it was time for me to make my way to college for freshman orientation, I was stressed and nervous and kept getting into fights with my mom. Eventually, things came to a head when we stopped at a Wendy's in a small town in upstate New York, where I sobbed uncontrollably and terrified some truckers. Okay, so it was a little bit calming, but who says you have to have a similar experience? Here are some tips for making your introduction to college life as anxiety-free as possible.

And remember: If you don’t want to be seen as a freshman, don't wear a lanyard around your neck.

Know that everyone feels out of place.

That’s right. Every other wide-eyed, nervous, or even seemingly cool (but actually not) college freshman does not know what the heck they're doing during college orientation. Everyone is just trying to share a fun fact that is memorable but not weird enough that anyone keeps it in their brain forever.

And your orientation leaders? They’re most likely seniors on the brink of experiencing life after college with plenty of nerves of their own. That's the college experience, after all. Between sleeping, choosing a major, and finding out you’re not great at acapella, everyone is winging it.

Don’t be that person.

You know, the one person at orientation who tries to stand out by being the loudest and making the most jokes. If this is your true nature, all the power to you. But, it is usually those who feel the most insecure that feel the need to be loud and “different." If you are simply yourself, that’s unique enough.

See "orientation friends" as potentially temporary.

Because nobody wants to be the first person in the history of higher education to not make friends, they'll look at every meal and activity during orientation as an opportunity to forge relationships.

Even if you don’t actually have a lot in common with someone at orientation, it's comforting to have a go-to person to grab food or spend downtime with. But don’t pressure yourself to latch onto a group. Finding your true friends in college could be that easy, but it usually takes months and sometimes takes years. The truth? No matter how instantly close you feel to your Orientation Clan, chances are, within a few months, you'll avoid eye contact while passing other on campus, and world peace will be restored.

Remember to breathe.

I fully cried in front of someone during orientation who would later go on to be in a few of my classes over the years. We never acknowledged it, and that’s the beauty of college.

If you cry, that’s fine. No matter where you go to college, you will definitely see these people cry at various times and places over the next few years (like the in the library, at parties, and possibly just, like, on the grass).

Icebreakers are a necessary evil.

Isn’t this the way these pieces usually end? College orientation, while daunting, intimidating, and sometimes uncomfortable and embarrassing, can also be really fun. You’re embarking on a new chapter of life, so make sure you come up with a really good fun fact, or no one will remember you. Kidding. Kind of.

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