College orientation is like a dress rehearsal for your new life as a college student. From campus tours and talks to staying overnight for the first time at your school, orientation is your chance to get a taste of what it will be like to live on campus. Here’s a guide to help you make the most of your visit.

What to expect

Most orientations include a guided tour of your campus where you can explore the buildings where your classes will take place, eat in the dining halls and see — if not stay in — a dorm room. Tour guides typically encourage parents and students to also explore the campus on their own after orientation activities. You’ll get to meet some current students who can answer your questions and share their experiences. You’ll also meet other incoming freshman and have an opportunity to start making friends.

Orientation is also the time to get everything set before school starts. That means finalizing any selections you’ve made, like your meal plan or your dorm preference. You’ll also likely get to meet and speak with your advisor, ask any questions you have about courses or requirements and select your classes for your first semester.

You’ll be very busy, but don’t worry — your parents will too! There are often activities for your parents to participate in that are just as informative for them as your activities are for you. You’ll primarily be separated, but you will have the opportunity to meet up with them and check in from time to time.

Your packing list

Orientations are typically all-day or overnight events, so be sure to pack everything you need!

First, check the weather and terrain. You’ll want to make sure you dress appropriately for the season. If your school is far from home and you’re unfamiliar with the climate, do some research online or ask a friend or relative what to expect. Does it rain there a lot? Is it particularly humid? You’ll also want to do some research on the campus terrain and layout. Is it hilly there? Is it convenient to walk around campus, or do most people drive? You’ll want to alter the things you bring with you to accommodate for both the weather and the terrain.

Second, check the orientation schedule to find out what types of activities you’ll be doing. It will be helpful to know if you’ll be primarily indoors or outdoors, or whether you’ll be doing any athletic activities. If you are planning to attend a sprawling university with a large student population, it’s likely that you will spend a lot of time walking between buildings, so you’ll want to take that into consideration as you pack, as well.

There are also a few essentials you should plan to pack no matter what, including: a pair of nice jeans that you can dress up or down; a nice shirt or blouse that would be appropriate for both daytime and nighttime events; a tried and true pair of walking shoes for long days walking through campus; and an umbrella.

Documenting your experience

Orientation is sure to provide a wealth of helpful information — for both students and parents. Incoming students can expect to learn important details about different majors and course tracks, as well as logistical details about the campus and student life. Parents, on the other hand, will have the opportunity to attend informational sessions about managing college costs, campus safety and more.

Be sure to bring a notebook and pen to document the most important takeaways, as you may need to reference this information once enrolled. You may also want to compare notes with one another after the orientation comes to an end.

Getting to know other students

Your school may break off orientation into small groups for you to get to know one another. These breakout groups will often play some icebreaker games. They may seem silly, but play along. Listen and pay attention to what your peers share about themselves to determine who might have similar interests with you and who you might be interested in getting to know better. Participate wholeheartedly so that others can get to know you as well.

Remember, you’re not in this alone. Everyone attending orientation is there because they are new to the college, so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find someone you really connect with and the more comfortable your campus will feel.