A first-year’s opinion on orientation

Lucy Severson, News Reporter


By the end of the weekend, I wanted to cry — and I did. I had never been more mentally and physically exhausted than I was after fall orientation at Hamline University. 

My first weekend of college should have been a time for me to acclimate to campus, to meet new people, to adjust to life away from everything that I knew. My parents. My friends. My beloved Siamese cat. Instead, I was thrown into an entire weekend of required orientation. 

Webster’s Dictionary defines orientation as “the act or process of orienting or of being oriented.” However, in Hamline’s case, I believe that this definition couldn’t be further from the truth. 

I was led astray by this so-called “orientation” process. I was led to believe that my whole college experience would be as miserable as my first weekend at Hamline University. Trudging from building to building in the blistering August heat, packed together like sardines in the bleachers, feeling like I was unable to breathe. 

I was left debating my future at Hamline after being on campus for a mere weekend. To this day, fall orientation was undoubtedly one of the worst weekends of my entire life. I want to bring to light the problems with Hamline’s orientation process, and how we can possibly make it better for incoming first-year and transfer students. 

When asked if Hamline’s fall orientation was beneficial, Sophia Rapacz, a first-year student at Hamline, agreed to share their perspective. 

“There are helpful parts, but it had so much negative impact on how I was feeling and how I was doing in this very transitional weekend of my life that it just felt devastating.” 

Before pinpointing what made fall orientation at Hamline so devastating, I’d like to call attention to what went well. 

Helpful Aspects of Hamline Orientation

Many students had positive things to say about summer orientation and registration (more commonly referred to as SOAR), as opposed to fall orientation. 

“SOAR was helpful. It helped me get my bearings a bit and not be so scared about the logistics of everything like when they talked about the financial aid stuff,”  first-year Ally Week said. “I also thought I was gonna be with my dad the whole day, but then I wasn’t and I was able to meet new people. It was more mingley than fall orientation, which I liked.” 

Sophia Rapacz had similar thoughts. 

“It was very helpful, especially compared to what I heard my friends at other universities were doing,” they said. “I think it was very thorough and helped me get well acquainted with the school without being overwhelming. It was very helpful overall. I got a lot of support and I really appreciate it.” 

I attended SOAR through a webinar. I found the whole program very helpful. I was assisted by New Student Mentors (NSMs) and Hamline faculty through the entire registration process. I was able to meet some of my classmates and learned some helpful information that eased my mind about my concerns. 

Fall orientation was a different story. 

“I don’t think fall orientation was entirely unhelpful, but it wasn’t nearly as helpful as SOAR,” Week said. 

The Flaws

  • Total hours of fall orientation: 16. 

In August of 2022, first-year Hamline students (myself included) had to complete 16 hours of orientation in our first weekend on campus. That is simply too much, especially for a very transitional time in our lives.  

“They should give you a day to get acclimated to your dorm and stuff before class starts,” Liv Milhoan, a first-year at Hamline said. “It’s immediately just orientation and then class starts with almost no free time.” 

  • Repeating information already learned at SOAR 

“The information we learned at SOAR was important but I didn’t need to hear it a second time at fall orientation,” Week said. “It just felt redundant.” 

I think those 16 hours could have been cut in half if we cut out information previously learned at SOAR. 

  • Accessibility 

There was a lot of moving involved in orientation, which posed challenges for those with disabilities. Of course, the August heat didn’t help. 

“I witnessed multiple people struggle because of how quickly we were moving and how much standing was happening. I can’t stand or walk for very long, and it was so much standing and walking and we had not been notified beforehand,” Rapacz said. 

  • First-year seminar (FYSEM) groups 

Throughout both days of fall orientation, everybody was relegated to their first-year seminar class group. Staying in these groups squandered the potential for myself and many other students to make new friends, as I did not connect with anybody in my FYSEM. 

“I didn’t like that I was forced to be in the same group the whole time because I didn’t become friends with anybody in my FYSEM,” Week said. “I feel like if I was allowed to be with other people and other FYSEMs, then I would’ve made friends quicker.” 

Once I was finally able to explore campus on my own terms, I made lasting friends at trivia, an optional event that took place after orientation. I had an opportunity to meet new people, and the people that I met at this optional event are still my friends today. 

On the second day of orientation, my new student mentor attempted to corral everybody from my FYSEM to eat lunch together, but since we are all legally adults, I believe it should have been our prerogative where to sit at lunch. 

“My new student mentor got angry at me for grabbing my books and going to my dorm to drop them off during a scheduled break,” Milhoan wrote in an email. “It’s so dumb because I’m literally almost 20, not in kindergarten.” 

Possible Improvements

  • Breaks

 There should be more breaks implemented in fall orientation, especially when considering accessibility. That, or those 16 hours should be cut in half. During what is already an emotional weekend full of change, we should have had more time to relax and settle in. Ideally, everything would be closer together as well, so students don’t have to trek all over. 

  • Less repeated information 

We learned lots of valuable information at SOAR and lots of resources were provided in case students had questions. There was a lot of repeated information that could be cut from fall orientation, and if students would need to access the information again, they should be able to meet with faculty in person or via email. 

  • Campus tour  

I heard that other schools went on brief tours of campus and areas around campus to help get students familiarized with the area. This would have been very helpful for Hamline students. 

“The biggest thing in my experience was that they should do a tour,” Milhoan told me in an email. “I live out of state and couldn’t schedule one before the semester started, so when classes started I was so lost???” 

  • SOAR

 Nobody that I spoke to had anything negative to say about SOAR. I think it could be beneficial to model fall orientation after SOAR. 

  • Optional events 

Personally, I had a lot of fun at the optional events that happened after fall orientation. I had been given some much needed time to relax and I was able to meet lots of new people. 

In conclusion, it’s plain to see that Hamline’s orientation process could use some changes, and I hope administration will keep what I’ve brought to light in mind as they plan for next school year.