Freshmen share their thoughts on orientation

At the beginning of this semester, before the upperclassmen moved in, Hope College was abuzz with orientation activities. Although many colleges had to transfer their  orientations online, Hope’s first-week orientation remained in-person and scheduled as normal. The organization and activities of New Student Orientation have stayed pretty consistent throughout past years. This naturally causes people to reevaluate which aspects of orientation are working and which aspects should be changed or removed in order to improve the overall experience. The Anchor spoke with three current freshmen, Isa Jara (’25), Cole Luhmann (’25) and Anna Beth Guthery (’25), to analyze the successes and downfalls of this year’s orientation.

The orientation program is meant to help new students feel comfortable with both the school they will be attending and with their new peers. When asked about the most helpful thing that orientation taught, Jara explained that “Orientation taught [her] that Hope is an extremely supportive community that will be there for [her] if [she] needs help.” For Luhmann, “Walking with [his] group and seeing where [his] classes were before school started” was the most helpful part. In fact, Luhmann wished there would be “less sitting around and more walking around engaging with the campus to help [students] understand campus better.” Guthery added that “the Orientation groups were very helpful in answering questions [she] had about Hope and helping [her] to find [her] classes.” 

When it came to orientation group leaders, all three students agreed that they were fun, responsible and helpful. Luhmann’s orientation leaders were “very welcoming and fun to be around. They were very positive at each meeting and were excited to help [the new students].” Jara’s leaders “handled meetings well and responsibly,” while Guthery said her “Orientation leaders were great. They led the group very well and presented themselves more as friends and less as directors. They would try to start up a conversation and really get to know [the students].” These positive experiences with group leaders showed that there was a perfect balance between responsibility, leadership, friendship and fun, which allowed the group experiences to be both beneficial and enjoyable.

However, both Jara and Guthery agreed that the repeated icebreaker activities (not including Playfair) within orientation groups became very redundant and unnecessary. Jara expanded on this idea and explained that orientation “should limit the icebreaker times and allow for more free time where students have the option to either go to campus activities, such as beach volleyball, spike ball, or worship, or whatever they want.” Despite the repeated orientation group icebreakers being unnecessary, Playfair — the larger and more engaging icebreaker between the entire class of 2025 — was a big hit. Guthery said that her “favorite part of orientation was Playfair. It was a great way to see a lot of new faces and people and to just have fun. [It] was really fun and enjoyable. The icebreakers were less awkward and more about having fun.” Jara also described Playfair as “a fun and exhilarating time and the best icebreaker we did.” She believes that Playfair is a must-have activity for future orientations.

Jara considered the comedy show to be her favorite part of orientation, believing it to be “the peak of comedy.” However, Guthery considered the extravaganza to be the worst part of orientation. She explained that “[she] was really tired from a long day of moving in, and it went too late into the night.” This was a common theme among answers — students were not given enough time to relax and they were jam-packed with activities. Jara added that her “least favorite part of Orientation was that [students] didn’t have much free/downtime to explore the area or go to the beach.” 

Overall the feedback from orientation was mostly positive. At the same time, colleges often have tendencies to completely fill schedules in order to avoid students becoming homesick. Unfortunately, this strategy also results in an overwhelming and tiring effect on the students involved. While activities are good, many students agree that colleges should avoid redundancy within activities and allow for students to adapt to their campus. They should have more optional opportunities staggered throughout the day to allow the students to venture off on their own a bit more. A balance between adapting, learning, bonding and free time would be the perfect mix to create the most beneficial orientation experience.

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