Colleges want you to succeed academically and socially, and they know that those two areas of life are not mutually exclusive. In order to help you deal with the overwhelmingness of meeting new friends while exploring campus, finding classes, learning to live on your own, and managing your schedule, most colleges host first year experience programs. These programs are designed to help you meet people while you transition to a new environment.
Since these experiences will determine your initial impression of college life, you should get a feel for what a college offers in terms of a first year transition program. It’s always better to ask admissions representatives what their colleges do to help students acclimate to campus life. If you know what to expect going into the experience, you’ll have less to think about when you’re putting your best foot forward. Here are some programs to inquire about:
Pre-Orientation Programs: Meet other incoming freshmen before arrive on campus. Many colleges organize events for new students in order to help them form a network of friends before they have to deal with all the other parts of transitioning to campus life. These events might be trips – hiking, camping, or canoeing – or community involvement activities. Incoming athletes also have their own pre-orientation pre-season program.
Orientation Programs: Nearly all colleges have an Orientation. Check to see what your potential college includes in theirs. Typical orientations help you register for classes, meet advisors, get to know others through activities, tours, and pep rallies. All colleges begin the year with a convocation ceremony.
Welcome Week: It’s not always called “Welcome Week”, but most colleges provide a series of free on and off campus activities – movies, concerts, and information fairs – to help new students bond.
Shared Read: Ohio University, as well as many other schools, give new students a book to read over the summer. When incoming students arrive on campus, the book will feature into the Orientation – the author might come to speak, or there will be discussion groups and guest lecturers. If the book is good, you’ll have something smart to talk about with people you meet. (And, if the book is bad, you’ll have an easy inside joke.)
FSEM’s, FIGS: These letters don’t refer to an ingredient in fast-food, or giant raisins. Schools like Bowdoin College and the University of Denver have special classes they call Freshmen/First Year Seminars. Generally these classes focus on helping well-known faculty and new students explore and discuss academic concepts. Other schools, especially large ones like the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, use the acronym FIG to refer to Freshman Interest Groups. These small learning communities group incoming students according to academic interests.
Most colleges try hard to make your social and academic transition to college life a successful one. Try decide what sort of transitional experiences would work best for you, and then see if the colleges to which you’re applying offer these sorts of programs. Campus tour guides and admissions representative will generally have the answers that you need.
Finally, consider your social media options. Most colleges have Facebook groups and pages for their incoming freshmen class. It’s less intimidating to meet new people when you get to check out their profiles, and communicate via chat.