With only a few weeks left in the semester, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on my first semester here at IU. With that, I’ve also been looking back at my first impressions and introduction to college life, the feelings and fears I had at the beginning of this new adventure. Looking back, I especially remember my dissatisfaction with New Student Orientation (NSO). The discouragement I felt leaving that program was not an accurate harbinger of the days to come at college.
I remember envisioning the two days of NSO as my high school’s orientation. In that program, upperclassmen performed skits, created games and led a scavenger hunt around the school to prepare freshman for the huge transition. Of course, I knew orientation for college would be different, but it didn't seem too far-fetched to expect some mildly engaging activities. Instead, when I arrived, I found a day jam-packed with back-to-back lectures, where it seemed the goal was to bore new students to sleep.
The entire first day was spent in (I kid you not) six different lectures. Various student leaders and faculty stood in front of a hot, crowded hall of teenagers and talked about academics and health in college. Much of the information felt dry and irrelevant to our lives. There were some feeble attempts to encourage interaction, but they were sparse and ineffective.
I understand the university has to cover certain topics for new students, but the current NSO model does everyone a disservice. There was genuinely important information shared: for example, the Indiana Lifeline Law, which provides minors in the possession of alcohol immunity from criminal prosecution if they call for medical help. But the presentation of information meant students zoned out and failed to retain critical information.
I spoke to other students who described Day 1 as boring and discouraging. In fact, during Welcome Week, I found bringing up the boredom of NSO to be a great conversation starter. Most people also felt orientation seemed like a waste of time. Historically, orientations aren’t exactly known to be the most riveting activity, but IU can do better.
I propose IU bring back activities like the musical they used to perform called “Welcome to College.” The musical discussed important topics like assault and alcohol, but in an engaging way. Admittedly, it was a cheesy show, but it was also entertaining enough to keep students from drifting off to sleep. If that’s not possible, what about an activity where leaders show students how to use the bus system, or send them on a scavenger hunt to become familiar with navigating such a large campus?
“I think if the first day wasn’t just about forcing as much information as they possibly can at students and instead focused around meeting people and familiarizing yourself with the campus, it would be better,” freshman Maddie Thomason said.
Make no mistake, NSO wasn’t all bad. I talked to multiple people for this piece, and several said they had an overall positive experience. I personally enjoyed Day 2 of orientation, which was much more tailored to individual students and our interests. We were able to meet with an advisor to schedule classes and attend sessions covering specific topics such as study abroad or athletics. Day 2 showed me IU is capable of creating a program that feels genuinely helpful to future Hoosiers.
When I tried to recall good memories from NSO, I immediately remembered playing volleyball after Day 1. I had felt pretty glum all day, wondering if I made the right choice in choosing IU. Playing volleyball with “This is Indiana” blasting from a speaker was the first feeling I’d had since stepping foot on campus that yes, I would be all right.
IU should work to increase these types of moments during NSO, giving students a sense of belonging and comfort that will prepare them for the fall while imparting critical information. Students' first impressions of IU matter, and both students and the university would benefit from a revised orientation experience.
Samantha Camire (she/her) is a freshman studying journalism.