Freshman orientation is a hot or cold experience, depending on one’s personality. More reserved students may not like learning chants and participating in endless icebreakers for hours upon hours of small group time. Yet, incoming freshmen who are peppy and amped about getting to know as many of their future peers as humanly possible in a small time frame may buy into these activities with ease.
Of course, the type of program also has an impact on how well it’s received by new students. For example, at Boston College, students are required to choose a three-day “session” over the course of the summer preceding their first semester. During this time period, when students are mingling and learning about what BC has to offer, their parents are offered the chance to partake in a “parent orientation” of sorts that runs concurrently to the student sessions. Most universities follow this format, running orientation programs that exist over the summer.
At Villanova, I was surprised to discover that orientation actually existed as one, mandatory, four-day program that lasts straight through move-in day up until the first day of classes for the fall semester. Cheers, chants, games, icebreakers, and everything between allow new students, who are separated into groups of 20 or so, to, by the end of the four days, to have an entire set of familiar faces on campus.
I was one of the shy students. Sure, I spoke when it was my turn to share, or participated if no one else would, but I was no more rah-rah than the next person. It was intimidating, being in a completely new setting and away from home.
Little did I know that the Orientation program would provide me, later on in my Villanova journey, with some of the best memories that I’ll ever be lucky enough to possess. At the start of my sophomore year, I was chosen to join the staff as an Administrative Assistant, working with a small group of fellow staff members to organize the program’s logistics and, of course, assisting the 76 Orientation Counselors.
Regardless of the type of program your university offers, I urge you to take a chance and apply for Orientation staff. Here are a few reasons why I found it to be one of the most worthwhile experiences I’ve had in college thus far (and why I chose to be on staff for a second year).
Meet new people.
This is the purpose of orientation, after all! The connections between a small staff, especially on a mid-sized campus, are remarkable. You may figure out that you sat behind someone in class for a semester who you never spoke to, but who is now one of your closest friends. The students who make the conscious decision to apply for something like orientation staff are diverse in experience, but like-minded in the sense that they all want to share your university with the incoming class. I can’t speak for other schools’ programs, but I’m sure that most students would agree when I say that, at the end of the formal program, I came to see a group of initial strangers as part of my Villanova family.
Step outside your comfort zone.
I’ll admit that I’m still not the most outgoing person there is–but, as a staff member during Orientation, I learned to trust a team of people who I respect. This made me increasingly eager to push my boundaries of personal comfort and social awkwardness, and I shocked myself when I was able to sing in the craziest way and dance like no one was watching when there were actually hundreds of people in my midst. That’s the fun of orientation: even if you’re not the most outwardly-excited person, it is absolutely still okay to be a staff member. As long as the inner zeal and passion for your school is there, then nothing else matters.
Get interview practice.
This may seem funny, but applying to be on an orientation staff usually contains a lengthy interview process. After all, not everyone who applies can, mathematically and practically, be selected. It’s certainly harsh for those who do not get the opportunity to advance in the interview process, but, if you’re one of the lucky ones, then you’re going to get more interview experience under your belt. Whether your program requires a group interview or a series of one-on-one interviews, it’s good to get used to dressing in your business casual attire and to answering questions about yourself formally.
Be a resource for new students.
If you’re truly passionate about joining your school’s staff, one of your priorities for applying should definitely be that you wish to be a resource for incoming students. The team bonding with other staffers is, of course, a fun social experience and can show you invaluable friendship. However, the sole reason why orientation programs exist is to introduce new students and welcome them. The buildup and anticipation during staff training culminates (and makes the hot, sunny days of reviewing school facts, traditions, and orientation games all worth it) with the arrival of the new students. Once a staff can put faces to this once-ambiguous group of people, it can operate smoothly with these students at the forefront of their actions.
Whether you attend a university whose student body consists of 2,000 students, or one with 20,000 students, joining its freshman orientation staff can be one of the most worthwhile experiences you’ll have in college. You’d be astonished at how dedicated your peers can be, and how eager a group of thousands of young people can be in sharing why they love their campus. Yes, the interview process may be lengthy and the training hours long–but, in the end, an orientation staff gives so much of itself to help others. The benefits outweigh these minute drawbacks, and I’d definitely recommend considering this outstanding opportunity if it is ever offered to you. Who knows? Even if you disliked every minute of the program as a freshman, as a junior you may learn to immensely respect and appreciate it and the labor that it entails.