10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went To Orientation At Grand Valley State University


Yay! You’ve finally graduated from high school, aka four years of anticipation to prepare you for the best ones; college! While college can be scary and unknown, it is also one of the best adventures you will ever go on. From the thousands of new people you’re going to meet to the freedom (no curfews!) you’re going to have, college is much more than just essays and exams! But before you even think about buying a textbook, there is one somewhat nerve-wracking hurdle you’ll have to face: orientation. While that word may give you anxiety now, it can actually really help quell some of your fears about starting college and make you feel more prepared for what’s ahead! Here are ten things I wish I would’ve known before my orientation at Grand Valley State University so that yours goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Make sure to pick an early orientation date to get the best classes.

Since Grand Valley State does all of their freshmen orientation programs in the summer before move in, there are an overwhelming amount of days to go can that you can choose from. You should try to pick one of the first ones in May or early June- they fill up quick! Picking an early orientation date will ensure that you get the best class times and a good schedule for your first year. Try to avoid the 8ams and night classes. They sound doable now, but once you actually have to wake up at dawn to attend them or walk back home at night, they aren’t as easy as you’d thought. Also, going to an earlier orientation allows for more time to fix schedules over the summer if there were any mistakes. 

2. Your parents will have a separate orientation and be learning about the university just as much as you are.

At the beginning of orientation, the university will give an introduction to the families, but after that, the students and parents are separated. It’s scary at first being sent away from your family with about a hundred strangers who will be your new classmates, but embrace it! While the orientation leaders are helping everyone make schedules, your parents will be learning about what to expect financially and how to make the transition to college a little easier for you!

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3. Wear appropriate clothing for walking from building to building-you’ll be doing a lot of it!

Since all of the orientations here at GVSU take place in the summer, I would advise you to wear clothes you won’t sweat easily in. Why? Even Michigan summers can get to be pretty hot and your leaders will take you to a few different buildings while also showing you some parts of the campus. Being all sweaty, trying to make new friends, and picking out your classes for the next year don’t mix very well! Take my advice and wear some shorts! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

4. Say cheese! The ID picture they take will follow you for all four years so make sure it’s a good one.

Tying into #3, make sure to look your best when they take the ID photo you’ll have as a Laker. This picture will stay with you throughout all of college and the best tip I can give you is to smile! Much like a license picture, they don’t always turn out to be the best picture ever taken of you, but as long you’re lookin’ good, step in front of the camera and have no fear!

5. Have your fun facts ready for those dreaded icebreakers at the beginning of small groups.

It’s become sort of a habit now. Where there’s a group, there’s an icebreaker. And they don’t just stop at orientation, either. All I can tell you to get through them is to grin and bear it, but also have a little fun! This is your chance to come up with a few new fun facts and come off as friendly as possible to make a good first impression and start off college the right way. The truth is, no one gets excited about ice breakers, but they are a part of freshmen life! So embrace them as much as you can and  try to see them as a genuine opportunity to let people get to know you at least a little bit.

6. Come prepared knowing which AP/college courses you have taken previously.

Since the point of orientation is to make your college schedule and select classes for the upcoming year, it would be a hassle to have to sign up for one you could’ve possibly skipped. Especially some of those boring Gen Eds that an AP test credit could have easily covered! The leaders will ask if you’ve taken any AP or college courses before, if you took the test, and what the score was. This helps them decide which classes aren’t needed in your schedule so you can make room for other one you’d be more interested in!

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7. Please, for the sake of your sanity, don’t sign up for more than 15 credits unless you’ve really thought about it

When it comes to the point of actually signing up for classes in the giant computer lab, you’re going to feel very overwhelmed by all of the other students trying to schedule classes, trying to figure out which ones you’ll actually need, etc. Don’t let the pressure get to you! There are plenty of orientation leaders and advisors who will gladly help you. The main thing to keep in mind when signing up is to try and stay at 15 credits or below. Any more than 15 will result in you spending more money to pay for the extra classes. Remember, 12-15 credits are the same amount of money and considered a full course load! Stay at 15 credits maximum, and your freshmen year will be more than manageable.

8. Tests at orientation?! Already?!

Calm down, they’re not mandatory! However, most there is an optional language placement test your leaders will offer you. Most students, especially those pursuing a Bachelor of Arts, will take at least a few semesters of language during their time at GVSU. I highly recommend taking this test, even if you don’t have more than a year of language strapped under your belt from high school. These tests suggest what level of the language you’d like to take depending on how well you know it. It only takes about fifteen minutes of your time, and could potentially save you money by making sure you don’t start
at a level lower than your ability, so give it your best!

9. Get to know your orientation leaders!

Honestly, they are the one thing that makes orientation that much easier to swallow. It’s such an overwhelming time at first, but once they round up small groups and bring you into a quiet classroom, it gets much easier! Most will be juniors or seniors who know more than a thing or two about classes, scheduling, dorm living, and pretty much anything you could want to know about college! And all willing to help!! Definitely get to know them and ask them anything you want. Trust me, it will make such a difference in your experience!

10. Aside from all the stress, orientation is going to make you so excited for what’s to come!!

Even though orientation is understandably one of the most stressful times during your preparation for college, it is also the most exciting! Aside from making your own schedule for the first time and singing up for some hopefully interesting classes, you’ve met some new people (maybe even some friends) who about to embark on this journey with you. Now that you’ve gotten the specifics out of the way, take this time to start buying decorations for your dorm room, getting to know your roommate, and enjoying the summer! So sit back, relax, and enjoy being a Laker!

Is there anything else you’d like to know about orientation at Grand Valley State University? Post in the comments below!
Featured image source: youniversitytv.com and visitgrandhaven.com


Alex Sixt

Grand State University ’20. Journalism Major. CLE – CHI – GR.

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