What to Expect from Your First Week in College


You’ve been accepted, received your visa, and packed your bags. But what should you expect from your first few weeks in college?

What is Freshman Orientation?

Every college arranges a freshman orientation for its first-year students; one or a few days of events designed to welcome students to campus, help them settle in, and foster strong social bonds in the freshman class. Typically, the orientation consists of smaller group activities, through which students get to know their new classmates, the campus, and the area surrounding the college. Students are also assigned to a leader or mentor, an older student, who will help guide their group of students through their first weeks on campus.

Expect lots of fun events during these days, and participate in as many as you can! The exact activities vary from college to college, but may include:

  • Move-in support
  • Comprehensive campus tours
  • Ice cream socials
  • Welcome lunches and/or dinners
  • Ice breakers
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Residence hall and hallway bonding activities
  • Assistance with selection of first semester courses
  • Extracurricular activity fairs
  • Department open houses
  • Campus-specific initiating traditions, such as the Illumination Ceremony at Tufts University

The week ends with the Matriculation ceremony, when you will officially join the college as a student!

Most activities are not mandatory, but why would you pass up on a chance to make new connections, or potentially even the opportunity to enjoy some free food?

International Orientation – What is it, and should I participate?

Most colleges arrange orientation programs that are specifically designed for international students. These are typically scheduled before normal freshman orientation begins. You’ll learn more about living on a college campus as a foreign student, regulations around the student visa, and – most importantly – have the opportunity to make friends from around the world!

Here are some other activities that may be included in international orientation programs:

  • Shopping trips for college and room supplies
  • US phone and banking set-up sessions
  • Cross-cultural and US culture workshops
  • Excursions and day trips around the city
  • Group bonding activities

International orientation programs are a great way for students to be introduced to the campus and become a part of the tight-knit student community already during their first days. Participating in International Orientation will NOT restrict your social circle; you will still have plenty of opportunities to make American friends. Plus, at many colleges, American students (including US dual citizens) are actually one of the largest national groups that participate in these programs! International Orientation is really just meant for students with a global outlook.

As a transfer student myself, I participated in international orientation programs twice: once as a freshman at a larger state school, where the program was a one-day course on the student visa immigration status, and once as a transfer student at a medium-sized private college, where the program was filled with activities and ran for three full days.

The experiences were very different, but both left very strong marks on me; I would even go as far as to say that they defined my college experience. Being a freshman at a large university, the program was a way for me to find a social circle on the otherwise overwhelmingly large campus. As a transfer student, I had felt nervous about making friends, but was relieved to find a welcoming and like-minded community in my international orientation group. And it didn’t stop there; I met all my closest friends during my participation and involvement in the program, and actually loved my experience so much that I returned to the program as a peer leader, program coordinator, and alumni support staff and interviewer.

Other orientation programs

Not interested in International Orientation? Then look for other pre-orientation programs that interest you! Many colleges offer specialized options, such as programs focused on outdoor activities, fitness, mindfulness, or community service. NOTE: Transfer students have their own orientation program, but the activities and events tend to be similar to the freshman orientation program.

Participate in the programs and events that suit you best – your first weeks in college are the best time to explore and make new friends!

Frida Lundgren is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group and a graduate of Tufts University. 

Shedding Light on the SAT Test Dates

SAT. Every year, these three letters strike fear into the hearts of high schools students around the world. The irony is not lost on those who know that the college entrance exam originated in 1926 as an IQ test designed to evaluate US Army recruits. Since that time, there have been many changes to the SAT. There have been some interesting changes: in 1994, antonym questions were removed, longer reading passages and open-ended math questions were added, and calculators became permitted; in 2005, analogies were eliminated, more advanced algebra concepts were added to the math section, and the scoring scale changed from 1600 to 2400; in 2009, university applicants were permitted to send their best SAT scores only, instead of sending every set of test results; the most recent change was in 2016, when major alterations included changing the scoring scale back to 1600, and removing the penalty for guessing.

The SAT examination board, also known as the College Board, has said that one reason for the 2016 change was an attempt to cut off any possibility of cheating. International locations, especially in Asia, have been rife with cheating scandals; for example, in May of 2013, both the SAT and the SAT II scores were cancelled throughout the entire country of South Korea after questions were leaked. However, even after the 2016 changes, cheating scandals continue to abound. In January of 2016, the SAT was canceled at test centers across Asia because of a security breach. Reuters revealed in March of 2016 that College Board has always and will continue to recycle old test material, explaining the vulnerability to cheating for both new and old SAT exams.

The most recent news in the world of College Board is the cancellation of the international June and November SAT I exam. After this major deletion, international students only have access to four test dates per year, in October, December, March and May, compared to the previous six. These more limited test dates come hand in hand with the introduction of new security measures, including providing law enforcement agencies with the names of all individuals and test prep companies suspected of stealing test materials.

Fewer test dates complicate a student’s strategical test-taking timeline, and make it more difficult to plan out the college application process. Students who are applying early for the November 1st deadline will now only be able to take the SAT in October. Some schools, like Georgia Tech, have an even earlier deadline, leaving students with no chance to take the SAT in the fall. Additionally, the October test date may fill up very quickly, leaving students with only the month of December as a backup test date.