7 Important Questions to Ask at Freshman Orientation

Posted August 30, 2012

You’ve chosen your college and signed up for freshman orientation. You’re almost there! But don’t let orientation fly by without finding out a few last things about your school and college life. If you wait until the first day of class, you’ll miss your chance to ask people who are specially trained (and willing) to answer all your questions. Go to orientation with a prepared list of final questions so you don’t forget. If you’re having trouble thinking of any, here are some to get you started.

  1. What’s the security like on campus?

    It may come as a surprise to you that the first question you should ask is not "Where are the best parties?" — though that could be the follow-up question. Your safety and security should be your top priority while you’re away at school, especially since you’ll be living on your own for the first time and will have to take responsibility for yourself. You’ll want to know where the campus police are headquartered, campus emergency numbers, and what kind of security there is for buildings where you might spend a lot of time late at night, like the library, gym, or dorms. Ask about campus crime rates and for safety tips so that you can protect yourself while you’re learning (or partying).

  2. Does the health center accept my insurance?

    Maybe your orientation leaders won’t be able to answer this question themselves, but they can point you to the health center where the workers or doctors can tell you how things work. This is a good chance for you to see first-hand where the health center is and find out what hours it’s open. You’ll want to ask if your parents’ health insurance plan is accepted at the center since some schools’ health centers are not "in network" and will cost you extra. The convenience offered by the on-campus doctor might not be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars in extra fees.

  3. Is there a Safe Ride program?

    There’s no shame in using college as a time to try alcohol as long as you do it responsibly. This means not getting behind the wheel after you’ve had too much to drink and endangering your own life and the lives of others. Many schools have a program where students volunteer to provide rides for anyone who calls, a valuable system for anyone who wants to play it safe but doesn’t have anyone else to pick them up. Being informed about the ride options available to you before you even get invited to your first party will allow you to have a good time without worrying about how you’re getting home.

  4. How do I get involved in (blank)?

    Whether you were really active in extracurriculars in high school or you want college to be a fresh start from your uninvolved high school days, there are an overwhelming number of clubs to join when you get to college. The good part is that you have dozens of options so you can find the best fit for you; the bad part is that you may have no idea where to start looking. This is a perfect question for orientation. Mention your interests to an orientation leader and see what clubs the school has that might fit the bill. If there aren’t any, don’t be afraid to start one!

  5. Where’s the best food on and off campus?

    If you’re going to be eating cafeteria food for the next year, you should at least know where the best selections are. Many colleges have raised expectations when it comes to food court meals, with vegetarian options, food from other cultures, and a large selection daily so students will make the most of their meal plans. Since offerings differ from cafeteria to cafeteria, make sure to ask which one has the best food or is open the latest. Also ask about off-campus restaurants that students frequent, either because they have the tastiest food or the best deals.

  6. Who do I talk to about financial aid?

    You’ve probably already applied for scholarships and been offered loans, but if there’s one thing you don’t want to be confused about, it’s your financial situation. Even if you just want to make sure you’ve done everything right and are set financially to start classes, a visit to the financial aid office isn’t a bad idea. Find out who is the best person to talk to or email for certain problems and when to get started on your financial aid for next year.

  7. What are your favorite traditions here?

    This is a great question to ask any upperclassmen if you get the chance because all the answers will be so different. You’ll learn a lot about college life and won’t be easily pegged as a freshman when a seemingly random cheer erupts and you know all the words. Of course you should learn the fight song, school song, and your school’s signature hand gesture, but talking to upperclassmen will reveal some less-official traditions, like bell towers you can sneak into, contests not sponsored by the university, or strange games students play for fun. You’ll feel more like you belong already just by knowing the most fun aspects of campus.

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