Saklad: A Guide to Orientation

Students should not burden themselves with orientation schedules.

by Avery Saklad | 9/12/18 9:00am

The incoming freshman’s first exercise in college-styled time management presents itself at Orientation. Parents and regularly scheduled class times do not dictate the time dedicated to moving into dorm rooms and getting adjusted to life as a Dartmouth freshman. In fact, neither does the Orientation schedule. Sheets of paper that lay out the day in colored codes corresponding to words like “optional” and “mandatory” ought to mean little to a college freshman recently released from the binds of a high school agenda. What is a schedule during Orientation week? Merely a suggestion.

Aside from move-in dates, the importance of planned activities should be evaluated on an individual basis. It’s a decent idea to attend a few interesting events and information sessions that will make transitioning to college life less stressful. However, one should not make attendance decisions based solely on whether or not the College desires the presence of the freshman class at a specific event. Sometimes, bonding with future classmates just isn’t as important as all of the other items piled on the plate of a freshman just entering college life. Spending some time unpacking or saying goodbye to family can and should take precedence over “mandatory” events like the Twilight Ceremony. Campus life moves on regardless of a few absences. Besides, nobody is taking attendance.

New students attending the later sessions of Dartmouth Outing Club’s First-Year Trips ought to take this advice the deepest to heart. Being on J-section myself, I know how incredibly stressful it can be to emerge from the woods and jump straight into the hustle and bustle of Orientation. By the time the bus will arrive on campus from the Lodge, most of the other freshmen will have already unpacked their boxes and will be moving at full sprint to the Orientation groove. People working welcome tables representing house communities will shove discs and lanyards and other such house merchandise in the faces of freshmen that come their way. Orientation teams will wave around calendars and stress the importance of making the very most of the Orientation experience. Excited upperclassmen, decked out in flair, will spew words of praise and admiration for the old “College on the Hill,” hoping to infect the newcomers with their enthusiasm. Freshmen must remember to take a step back, relax and breathe. The Orientation process, while meant to ease freshmen into college life, can be just as overwhelming as it is helpful.

Furthermore, arriving later than the other students to Orientation doesn’t need to be a headache. Instead of diving headlong into the stream of activity flowing through campus, all students, and especially those on later trips, should take a minute to catch their breath. Unpack a box or two. Eat lunch with parents while they’re still around to pay for the restaurants in Hanover. Get to know roommates a bit before sleeping in the same room with them. It’s better for students to not worry about attending every community activity and making a million friends before even getting their feet firmly on the ground. Engaging in the Dartmouth community is important, but most freshmen will not meet their best friends in their first couple of days at school. As opposed to latching onto the first visible faces, it’s classes, clubs and extracurriculars that will naturally form the friends that students end up spending their time with in their later terms. Being a bit of a hermit during the first couple days on campus in order to get a personal life settled is not only perfectly okay, but it will make the first weeks of classes and homework much more manageable.

Ultimately, Orientation is supposed to teach incoming students how to manage their lives, work schedules and time independently in college. Sacrificing attendance at Orientation events in favor of handling other move-in stressors provides students with the first opportunity to exercise exactly the lessons instilled in them during their few days on campus.