College Orientation Activities and Ideas

college freshmen orientationAt college orientation, incoming students get their first true glimpse of what their life is going to be like at their new home away from home. Welcome them with open arms and get the fun started with these ideas for running a successful orientation program!

Activities for the Entire Crowd

Start with the most important and beneficial information to share with all students and parents. This way, they’ll both share in the excitement of being a new student!

  1. A Peek at Campus Life - Start your program off with a skit performed by the student leaders to give students a glimpse into what they can expect to experience on campus. SNL-style skits are a popular method, including as much humor as possible!
  2. Nutrition and Exercise - Educate and inform incoming students about all the ways to stay healthy at their new university. While a change in lifestyle can be overwhelming, it is important to know how to eat right and stay fit.
  3. Spare a Second for Service - Take advantage of the many sets of hands that are present at orientation, and put them to work for a good cause. Check out these volunteer opportunities and ideas for plenty of ways to help the community.
  4. A Lesson on Studying - College can be a big change from what students experienced in high school. From study tips to academic resources, provide information about how to prevent the books from piling up.
  5. Talent Show for Strangers - Encourage students to go up on stage and let loose by showing off an on-the-fly talent in front of their peers. Some may be a little hesitant, but that’s nothing a gift card to the student stores or a nearby restaurant can’t fix!
  6. Campus Traditions - Teach the newbies some of the campus traditions and songs so they have their wits about them the first time they experience the entire student body breaking out in chants and singing the alma mater.
  7. Risky Business - As fun as college may sound, there are some concerns when students might have a little too much fun. Make sure to present possible scenarios and campus resources like safe walk or blue light emergency phone locations to make sure students stay safe on campus.
  8. Hype Reel for Campus Pride - Cut together clips of student’s favorite experiences on campus to create the ultimate video showing off student life. Whether it is concerts, parades, athletic events or other performances, explore everything new students have to look forward to.
  9. Student Panel - What better way to answer student and parent questions than from the first-hand experience of currently enrolled students? Have people ask questions by tweeting to the school account to keep new students engaged through social media!
  10. Party for the Students - After the parents depart, gather the students in a common-space area featuring games and local cuisine like pizza, ping pong and the chance to mingle and make friends.

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Build Bonds in Small Groups

While big groups are great for getting a lot of information out to a lot of people, small groups are a great place for students to build relationships with each other and their orientation leader with these activities.

  1. Write a Letter to Yourself - Give students a piece of paper and an envelope so they can write a letter to their senior self. They can write anything from where they are in life at the moment to their goals and aspirations for college, and then they can open it on their graduation day.
  2. A Step into Someone’s Shoes - Have everyone line up in a large space. Then, the orientation leader will read a list of sentences about different experiences that students may have been through. If a student relates to that sentence, they will take one step forward. For instance, the orientation leader might read, “I have experienced bullying,” and students who have been bullied will take a step forward if they feel comfortable doing so. While this can be a serious exercise, students will get a look into the diversity that can make up the student body — and the similarities they have with others.
  3. Photo Scavenger Hunt - Host some friendly competition between orientation groups by creating a photo scavenger hunt for different areas and items on campus. Students must work together to figure out what should be in the photo and then rush to take a picture with it. Whichever small group finishes first and submits the correct photos wins! Genius Tip: Try some of our general scavenger hunt ideas and tips.
  4. Design a Timeline - Help new students lay out the major events of their first year at college and set goals by designing a timeline. Each student will have different goals, but each orientation leader should be able to help everybody with what they want to accomplish.
  5. School Spirit Jeopardy - Test the knowledge of incoming students by creating a jeopardy game filled with fun facts and helpful things to know. The person with the most points wins!
  1. Secret Guide to Campus - Enlist help from orientation leaders to brainstorm tips and tricks to survive campus life and give the list to all students in small groups. This can include favorite study spots, lesser-known events, favorite restaurants, registration tips, and other tricks that will make adjusting to college life easier.
  2. Create a Bucket List - Write out a college bucket list with the students in each small group so they have ideas about what to get excited for when they begin school. Take a look at these 50 items for your college bucket list for a little inspiration.
  3. Social Media Challenge - Encourage students to win points by interacting with campus social media accounts by liking, commenting and tagging the school account on their own social media. The small groups with the most activity will win prizes like gift cards or merchandise!
  4. Host a Technology Tutorial - While this may sound like the time when students may tune out on their phones, it is essential that they know how to do things like register for classes and access academic materials. To do this, have students participate in a hands-on experience by going through the steps that the orientation leader takes to find those resources.
  5. Find a Fun Fact - Divide the students into groups of three or four within their small groups. Give the orientation leader a sentence or two to read to the students and task them with finding a fun fact about each person that relates to that sentence. You never know what everybody might have in common!

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Tips for Success

Start your orientation off on the right note with these tips to get your program running smoothly.

  1. Make it Interactive - Keep everyone actively involved in the presentations and have polls, games and other activities that allow the audience to participate in the discussion. They will absorb more information and be better prepared to start their college career!
  2. Provide Entertainment - Lighten the mood and keep the audience engaged by having a cappella groups, dance companies and other performance groups show off what they’ve got.
  3. Break it down - Consolidate large groups of people into smaller groups whenever possible so it is easier for students and parents to meet new people and participate in each activity.
  4. Offer Incentives - A little can go a long way in terms of gift cards and prizes when trying to encourage participation from the crowd. Include vouchers to the campus bookshop and local restaurants to encourage people to invest in the campus and the surrounding community!
  5. Create a Hashtag - Encourage a conversation between the school and new students on social media with a fun and captivating caption that inspires the incoming class to engage and ask questions.
  6. Give out Swag - Help new students feel at home at their new university by giving out T-shirts, sunglasses, drawstring bags and more that they can wear around campus.
  7. Reference Pop Culture - Gifs, memes, and celebrities galore! Stay up to date and include references in your presentations to make the information relatable and more memorable.
  8. Mix Up Activities - Alternate between sessions that are more information-based and those that incorporate getting up and moving around to keep the audience’s attention. A great way to do this is to have sessions in different lecture halls so people can move around and stretch their limbs.
  9. Student Takeovers - In the time after orientation and leading up to the new school year, have current students take over social media accounts and show a little piece of their favorite parts of campus life and what they look forward to. This way, new students will get even more excited than they already are to attend college!
  10. Send out a Follow-up - Recap the most important and essential information that was given out at orientation in an email so new students won’t miss any dates and will have something to reference if they forget anything.
Take advantage of these ideas and tips to help your orientation program run without any problems. Students won’t be able to contain their enthusiasm!

Celine Ives is a college student who enjoys playing field hockey, cuddling with her dog and cheering on her Carolina Tar Heels.