Congratulations! You have made it through the rigors of Unofficial Orientation with your good friends here at Wesleying! Now, for your final challenge before you are officially Wesleyan students: ~Official~ Orientation.
Orientation is a wild time. You are left to your own devices without classes/activities/parents to structure your time. There are “mandatory,” highly-recommended, and optional sessions. There are the parties you hear about people going to, but have no idea how to find. There are those first awkward meals with your hallmates/roommates. There are the nights when you curl up in bed with a picture of your best friends from high school and wonder why you didn’t just follow them to college.
Our goal today is to teach you everything you need to know in order to make the most out of your orientation experience and start the year off on a good foot!
Before you do anything else, you’re going to want to register. Last year, registration was in Usdan, and it’s probably going to be there again this year. Basically, you’ll go down a line of tables and people will hand you important papers, wifi instructions, instructions for filing your W-9 tax form (important for anyone who’s planning on working a campus job), free stuff like Class of 2020 t-shirts and other Wesleyan swag (we got water bottles and drawstring bags last year), etc. Hang on to this stuff, you’ll thank yourself later when you’re trying to figure out what’s going on and your parents are already gone.
This is probably the most hectic part of the entire orientation process at Wes. Basically, depending on where your dorm is, you will be directed to bring your car/truck/whatever to a certain unloading location. There, you will get everything out of your car and into a taped-off section of ground so that your parents can move the car to a more permanent parking spot and make room for one of the other 700-and-something frosh trying to unload their stuff.
While this is happening, you will go up to a table with orientation workers who will get you your room key and point you in the general direction of your new home for the next year.
Then, student volunteers (usually athletes who had to move in early for pre-season practice) will help you move all your stuff from the unloading area to your room. There are some carts available, but you’re going to end up carrying a lot of stuff, so dress accordingly.
Major key: Label all of your stuff with your name and room number. Get a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie, or if you’re feeling really fancy, print up some sticky labels. There’s going to be so much stuff everywhere, and you don’t want the box with your underwear and shower stuff accidentally ending up in some stranger’s room down the hall. (You will want to shower and change as soon as you’re done moving in. It is HOT, and most of you won’t be living in dorms with air conditioning.)
Once all your things are in your room, you get to begin the fun process of fitting all the stuff you thought you needed into a room that is 25% smaller than you pictured it being. Don’t worry, you can always send stuff back home when you realize you haven’t touched it between move-in and Thanksgiving break.
OFFICIAL ORIENTATION ACTIVITES
Last year, New Student Orientation rolled out a digital schedule on the app Guidebook. Our guess is that they will be doing that again. According to the official website, the schedule will be available on August 24. Definitely check back there for more official details.
Once the schedule is posted, you’ll notice that there are more sessions than you can possibly go to (and definitely more than you’ll want to). Some sessions are listed as “mandatory,” and you really should do your best to attend all of those. While no one is going to track you down and drag you out of your newly-decorated dorm room, it really is important to show up to these sessions. In addition to providing you with important information as new members of the Wesleyan community, these are also great places to meet new people. Most of the mandatory sessions will be with your hall/dorm, so this is another great opportunity for ~bonding~. You’ll be sharing a bathroom with these people for a year, so it’s in your best interest to be on friendly terms with them. That is not to say that you’re going to be besties with your whole hall, or even your roommate, but it’s much nicer to come home to a smile or a wave from your neighbors than awkwardly pretending you didn’t see each other to avoid having to interact.
They’re also going to take a giant panoramic photo of the entire class on the steps behind Olin Library. It’s going to be hectic, but it’ll be a nice memory to look back on (and to find your friends/crushes/frenemies in once it’s posted). You should definitely show up to this. Also one person on the end always gets up and runs to the other side of the photo to be in it twice… traditions, amirite?
Then there are all the other sessions. There are departmental open houses, meetings for groups like first-generation and low-income students, financial aid info sessions, social events and much more. Again, no one is forcing you to go to any of these, but if you have any questions, these are a really good way to get them answered. Also, going to these keeps you from being bored and alone in your room all day.
As they tell you on the Official Orientation website:
“Some events are required as an essential part of Orientation. There will also many optional events, which you’ll be able to choose from according to your interests. Orientation programs will help you form a foundation for your college life, and students often find themselves at a disadvantage when they miss essential events. We have planned time for you to move in, and there is also free time during the weekend.”
Some of my personal favorite events at orientation last year were: In the Company of Others, We Speak We Stand, hall meetings where we got to know each other better, and Bend It at Beckham (gender-bender themed dance).
Devon Cooper ’19 shares one of her favorite, non-mandatory orientation experiences:
“Even if other people think something is super dorky *cough cough* square dancing in Andrus field, just DO IT! You will end up having tons of fun and being able to tell some pretty fun stories about it later :)”
The best part about orientation is that you get to shape your own experience. Most of you won’t come into college knowing that many people, if any, and the only way to change that is to put yourself out there. Sit next to someone new. Compliment someone on their outfit/shoes/hair/music/other thing you can bond over. Reach out to the person standing alone and invite them to join you. The fact is, everyone is going to be a little overwhelmed by everything that comes along with being in a new place with new people, so no one is going to think you’re weird for being proactive and friendly.
TL;DR: Go to the mandatory sessions, go to the non-mandatory sessions, meet new people, have fun!
UNOFFICIAL ACTIVITIES DURING OFFICIAL ORIENTATION
You’ll have plenty to do if you just go to the official orientation events, but we all know that there’s plenty of stuff that happens outside the official schedule.
As good Wesleyan students, you’ll probably spend an afternoon or two lounging on Foss Hill with your ~orientation besties~. This may or may not include a drum circle/jam session. You may feel weird just going up to a group of people, but hey, that’s what this week is for.
Then, there’s the parties. For many of you, this will be your first foray into the world of non-parent-chaperoned partying. There may be drinking. There may be dancing. There may be hooking up in shady corners of houses that you don’t know how to find your way back to your dorm from. The key to a fun orientation party experience is to follow the golden rule: moderation. There will be plenty of parties throughout the year. There will be plenty of times to drunkenly make out with a stranger (or two) on the dance floor. There will be plenty of time to see how bad of a hangover you can give yourself. Don’t feel like you have to have every college experience on your first night. Stick with some friends/people you met yesterday and clicked with, stay safe, and have fun!
Orientation is the time when you’ll meet so many new people that you’ll begin to doubt that Wesleyan actually has less than 3,500 students. (Don’t worry, in a few months, you’ll start to realize exactly how small this place really is.) In order to help you on your journey to make those lifelong college friends that everyone gushes about, here are a few tips and tricks to use during orientation and beyond:
1. Leave your door open
When you’re in your room and you feel like being social (especially in all freshmen dorms), leaving your door open effortlessly increases the chances of meeting new people in your building, most importantly your hallmates. It sort of acts like an open invitation to passersby to say “hi.” There’s nothing better than having friends in your building once it gets unbearably cold, so get friendly with your hallmates now!
2. Go to Usdan
Usdan is by far the most social eating space on campus. It’s almost always crowded during meal time so it’s easy to bump into people and have simple, yet lasting conversation. There’s a good chance you might be in the sandwich line with that cool kid with the glasses from film class – what better way to get to know each other than to start a conversation about yesterday’s lecture? Especially early in the year, try eating with people you recognize. Lots of people are happy to have someone new to chat with during a meal.
As a side note – make friends with the Usdan workers and cooks! They work super hard and a smile and quick chat can make their shifts much more pleasant. ALSO, clean up after yourself! College may feel like a free-for-all, but it shouldn’t always be.
For some reason, people find it easier to look at the ground or pretend to be on their phones while awkwardly walking past each other. This is a small campus; even though you won’t meet everyone, you’ll definitely start to notice a lot of the same faces once you form a routine. Be friendly! Say hi! Smile as you pass! It’s not weird, trust me. I do it all the time and I haven’t been rejected yet. You never know who you will meet on your way to class.
4. Go to events—and invite people to come with you
Some of my closest friends were acquaintances I invited to performances, meals, or even walks to Rite Aid (…and Metro.) It’s great to feel comfortable going to things alone, especially as schedules get busier, but it’s also really nice to have company. Especially if you get socially anxious, going to a Second Stage show or a concert in the CFA is a great lowkey way to get to know someone: there’s a built-in conversation topic and activity, and you can always hang out afterwards if you hit it off.
5. Get involved with student groups
There are SO many clubs, teams, and societies on campus that it’s pretty hard not to be involved in some capacity. Being active on campus gives you an instant network of people that you share interests with. Many groups on campus also host lots of pre-games, outings and formals for its members, increasing the chances of friend-making even more. This is a great way to meet upperclassmen, and to expand your friend group beyond your hallmates and/or orientation friends. Which leads me to…
6. Have various different groups and relationships
It’s easy to get really close really fast when you start college, and that’s a good thing! That being said, remember to spend time with different people. You and your roommate may get along really well, but if you spend all your time together, there’s likely to be some tension. Most of us are used to having distance from our friends—going home after high school, for example. This distance is pretty important for a lot of relationships—don’t be afraid to take time for yourself and for other relationships. It’s okay if not all your friends know each other; it gives you an opportunity to explore different things and meet more people.
7. Balance old and new friendships
Maintaining relationships at home is important too: some of my best friends are people I’ve known since I was little. Don’t get too caught up in old relationships though—spending all your time on the phone with your best friend from home makes it hard to make new friends. As important as old friends are, having friends who understand your current environment and are physically there gets more and more valuable as you get settled at Wes. You’ll be a lot less homesick when you have new friends, and you’ll have more stories for your old friends anyway.
8. Go out on the weekends—and follow up
There’s tons to do on the weekends, especially when workloads are light and the weather is nice still. Apart from parties, there are tons of art and performance events, both university and student-produced, sporting events, and student group activities. The weekends are also good opportunities to explore Middletown, or just to hang out with friends in their rooms or on Foss. Especially at the beginning of the year, you meet lots of people going out. Just talking to people when you’re drunk, however, isn’t the best way to make lasting friendships. If you have a cool conversation with someone in the Fountain backyards, say hi to them next time you see them. Invite them to Usdan during the week. I know way too many people, myself included, with the tendency to awkwardly avoid people we meet at parties, which is super silly. Probably (hopefully) they remember you and were also into the conversation; if they don’t, you get to bond over their crazy night.
9. Relax, nothing’s set in stone
You’re going to make friends. You’re going to make friends you don’t stay friends with. You’re going to make acquaintance-friend hybrids you feel differently about over the course of your time at Wesleyan. You’re probably going to make friends you later hook up with and then feel really awkward around for a while. You’re going to end up with phone numbers of people you talked to twice during orientation. The point being, people will change and grow over the next four years and your relationships will change and grow with them. Don’t stress if you don’t immediately find people you can see yourself being friends with forever. Keep making new friends—your random Usdan acquaintance might end up being your best friend later on. It often feels like everyone has a wonderful, permanent group of friends they’re completely thrilled with, but lots of people are open to new relationships, take advantage.
Best of luck, new (and even returning!) students. Make lots of friends, maybe even at Wesleying!
ADJUSTMENT, ADVISORS, AND COURSE SELECTION—OH MY!
Sometime during orientation, you’ll have a chance to sit down with several different people to help you plot out your academic trajectory for the next semester, year, or even four years. You’ll probably start off with a Peer Advisor. Each Orientation Group is assigned one of these students to help them get a better feel for what types of classes they may want to take. You’ll have the opportunity to meet with this person in both group and individual settings.
Then, you’ll have both group and individual advising sessions with your faculty pre-major advisor. This person is usually assigned to you because they teach one of the courses you got during pre-registration. It’s okay if they don’t end up actually being your teacher (I dropped the class my advisor taught immediately once adjustment began), they’re still a great resource to help you navigate academics at Wes. One thing to keep in mind as you meet with your advisor is that they will likely not remain your advisor all four years. Once you declare a major, you will be assigned/select a major advisor in that department. While your pre-major advisor may not be able to give you tailored advice based on your specific academic interests, they can usually point you to someone who can.
You will have to meet with your faculty advisor every semester during pre-registration/adjustment for them to approve your schedule. If you don’t, you may not be registered for classes. It is your responsibility to set up those meetings; think of it as your first adult college responsibility.
We hope this guide to ~Official~ Orientation helps you as you embark on your Wesleyan journey. If there’s anything you still have questions about (or we made a mistake somewhere), please reach out to us via Twitter, Facebook, email, or in the comments! Best of luck, Class of 2020!