College orientation is awkward: Insights from the Office of Admission

June 23, 2017

By Amanda Merritt
Admissions Specialist

The summer break after high school graduation means that incoming college freshmen are attending what some have called “is this real life” land that is known as college orientation. While half are completely pumped about the freedom that the impending event brings, the other half are freaking out.

“What if they don’t like me?” “What if my roommate is a total slob?”

You can probably relate to one of these, right? I certainly could.

It was freshman year of high school all over again except I had to live with these people, too.

Those few days definitely were different from my real college experience, but I learned a few things.

I’m here to share them with you, because I was in the freaking out group and would have loved a little more insight than “it’s going to be fine.”

Wherever you may fall, the points below are what I gathered from my college orientation. I hope you find them helpful as you navigate yours.   

1. You’ll proclaim your interminable devotion to the school.

During the orientation welcome ceremony, all students will be asked to pledge their undying love for the institution by reciting the school chant in unison or taking part in some sort of school tradition.

Yes, you have only been an official college student for about five minutes, but you have to start somewhere, right?

At this point of orientation, I had a better chance at picking the winning lottery numbers (because I was finally a legal 18-year-old) then I did at knowing what the words to the fight song were, but I soon found out that no one else knew the words, either.

Do not worry, fake it ‘till you make it, and you’ll catch on quickly.

2. Utilize the student ambassador prodigies. 

You will meet students who visited campus multiple times to get a better feel for the place.

I’m talking multiple times—like the campus tour, in-depth department tour, Open House, Admitted Student Day and Scholars Day. They could probably take over for the student ambassadors at this point.

These types of students are what I like to call “ambassador prodigies”, because they pretty much know everything there is to know before they get to orientation. They are definitely #prepared and proud of it.

The way I see it, you have two options when you meet a prodigy: You can completely ignore them or team up with them. If you are a competitive person, like me, you will definitely want to choose option two.

Most schools hold a group scavenger hunt throughout orientation to get students who are not “ambassador prodigies” acclimated to the layout of campus. If you have a person who is already familiar with campus in your group, you are about to own that scavenger hunt and the free swag that comes with it.

3. You’ll go through the “OMG NEW PEOPLE” phase.

This phase varies from student to student, but you might fall into one of four categories: The Crusher, The Cheerleader, The Casualist or The Collector.

The Crusher: If you are a crusher, within the first hour of orientation you have already pinpointed bae. It could be the person four chairs down from you at the welcome ceremony or the orientation volunteer that checked you in that morning. Either way, you’ll do your recon work to learn this person’s name and find a reason to “run into” them again.

The Cheerleader: The cheerleaders are not hard to miss. If you are a cheerleader, you are all out for your school, and you probably already own half of the swag in the bookstore. When everyone is asked to sing the fight song at the welcome ceremony, you are front and center. You pride yourself on being one of the few people that already knows it word for word. You gravitate towards other cheerleaders and cannot wait until athletic events begin in the fall, because any excuse to break out your school branded tailgate gear is a good one.

The Casualist: As a casualist, new people can confuse you. You are the type of person that has yet to grasp why the perky girl in your orientation group just followed every single one of your other group members on twitter and made them follow her backback—Because, LB/FB! You’re not really expecting to hang out with this group after move-in unless one of them happens to be kind of cool.

The Collector: If you’re a collector, you are the social butterfly of college orientation. By the end of day two, you know everyone at orientation. Half of them are contacts in your phone, and you’re planning a pre-college beach trip with the people you just spent all night hanging out with in the residence hall lobby.

Whew! Did I miss anyone? Tell me if you found another at

4. You’ll recognize people from social media.

So you know that “Class of” or “Incoming…” social media group your admissions office added you to?  Let’s be honest, you glanced at the last announcement, but you really just logged in to check out the other group members.

Unfortunately, some people look very different IRL than they do in their profile pic. Not helpful.

So inevitably, you’ll be sitting at lunch or in a group meeting, see someone walk by, and hope they don’t catch you doing the squinty eyed stare trying to catch a glimpse of their nametag. When it happened to me, I made some joke about what was happening in the background, and walked quickly in the opposite direction. Totally awk sauce.

5. Cell phones are scapegoats.

As with any activity you have to partake of en masse, during orientation there are multiple 10–15 minute gaps between each event, and believe me when I say you will get to the point where if one more person asks, “what’s your major,” or “where are you from,” you might freak out.

I reached a point where I started making up majors, because I didn’t really know what the name of my program was “Business Administration”, “Business Management” or “Hospitality and Business”.

Truth be told, I didn’t figure out the technical name for my major, until I had to declare it sophomore year.

Needless to say I got a little tired of making up answers, so to skirt the situation, I pulled out my phone and starting texting to look preoccupied.

There will be periods of downtime where everyone will be on his or her phones. While it’s nice to have a little “you” time to break up the “omg new people” madness, many a roommate has been made over a quick conversation about the latest viral cat video.

The cucumber one gets me every time!

6. Is this what college is really like?

Unless you take placement tests for funsies, sit in circles sharing your favorite ice cream flavor, or plan on implementing a 12 a.m. curfew for yourself, orientation will be two days of you doing things you might not do again.

It’s a big icebreaker and will be one of those things that comes up in conversation when you and your roommates are pulling all-nighters, and you remember, “that one time at orientation when we...”

Here’s the thing, friends. College orientation is inevitably awkward.

This is the starting point for everyone! Think back to when you began high school.

You’ve been the awkward freshman once before, and you have now successfully made it through four years of high school.

College is your chance to make change and escape your comfort zone, even just a little bit. At first, it will be awkward, because you know about as many people as you know words to the college chant, but you will land on your feet with the right attitude and a sense of humor.

You may make great friends and those friends will introduce you to more friends who you will be able to bond with over all of the awkward situations (or viral cat videos).

My point is you’re not alone. Embrace the awkward for the few days of orientation and see what can happen. It really is going to be fine, and after all, you need the rite of passage and a few stories to talk about while you’re pulling those all nighters.

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