Beyond Orientation

So you’ve made it to college. You’ve taken the SATs, completed applications, listened to financial aid counselors, spent days visiting schools nationwide, and finally decided on St. John’s. You’re probably a bit nervous, a bit excited, and a bit scared to be starting your college

And right now, if you’re anything like I was three years ago, you’re probably a bit annoyed.

Think about it: who wants to come to St. John’s in the middle of the summer, sleep over in a temporary dorm for two nights, and participate in forced social interactions with kids you may never see again during your four years of college?

Nearly everyone I know at St. John’s hated his or her orientation. “It’s’ too long,” some complained; others detested the ice-breakers that each orientation group had to perform; and some commuters hated having to stay overnight in the dorms, only miles away from their
own beds.

For me, St. John’s orientation failed on a number of levels. Leaders dragged my group around campus, showing us buildings, performing chants, and engaging in what I considered childish activities.

I was forced to share a room at night with two people whom I’d never see again during my years at SJU, and groups were mandated to attend a goofy dance in Montgoris Dining Hall.

Needless to say, I wasn’t a huge fan. “Hey,” I thought, “I’m in college. Why are we acting like a bunch of kids?”
Most of my friends and acquaintances here at St. John’s have told me that orientation left them with bad tastes in their mouths. They thought, “Could this be what the next four years of my life will be like?”

Looking back on it, I was a bit harsh on St. John’s. The folks who run orientation are well-intentioned, and the activities, though juvenile, serve as a decent means of making new friends.

But cutting into students’ summer vacations, giving them tours of New York City (even to commuters who’ve lived in the city their whole lives), and forcing students into awkward social settings can be a bit much for some.

If you’re reading this and are a new student at orientation (and you’re not enjoying it), then I can sympathize. But I offer one word of advice: stick it out.
As bad as it may seem, St. John’s orientation is about on par with orientations at other institutions.

Friends of mine who attend colleges across the country have told me that they hated their respective orientations and absolutely dreaded taking the time out of their summer to meet people they would potentially never see again.

That’s why it’s important you stay the course and not give up hope if you have a bad orientation experience.

You’ll find St. John’s to be a school much more enticing than its orientation may make it seem. The people who work at the University, and the vast majority of student leaders and organizers, are some of the best you’ll find at any school. Through their enthusiasm and pleasant demeanors, the organization leaders here at SJU make getting involved an easy task.

So come Fall semester, look into running for Student Government positions. Get involved in Haraya, LASO, the Italian Cultural Society. Write for the Torch, submit to Sequoya, or look into contributing to a publication specific to your particular major.

Though you may be sweating through your first night of orientation right now, have a little hope: there’s a lot of good at St. John’s University.

Judging by the majority of responses I’ve heard, it’s clear that orientation could use a few changes. Perhaps the sleep-over rule should be optional to accommodate particular students. Maybe some of the other activities (the dance, the Manhattan excursion) could also be optional.

Perhaps the University could take a cue from Fordham and make its orientations recommended, but not necessary. Or maybe St. John’s could be more like Columbia University and hold one en masse orientation a day or two before classes start in the fall.

With a growing rate of students who live far out of state and even overseas, this might be the best option.

Regardless, I urge all new students to give St. John’s a chance. It’s been a terrific school for me, and I had fairly low expectations after my orientation. You may be in the same boat that I was in, but stick it out.

Doing so will help you realize that all that time spent filling out applications, studying for SATs, and listening to guidance counselors, was well worth it.