Freshman orientation is your first taste of life as a student at your new school.

You’ll experience campus living, meet other incoming students, and perhaps start registering for classes. The point of orientation is to ease your transition into college life. But what if you don’t like your orientation? College experts weigh in on your options.

Determine Why 

Reflect on what went wrong during your orientation before jumping to the “solution” phase. “Nothing is perfect in the world of academia, and if a student finds themselves in a place that feels horribly, terribly wrong, it is important to find out why,” college admissions consultant Jodi Rosenshein Atkin says. “Is it because it is farther away than they imagined? Have they never visited before, and this is not what they expected? Do they simply have cold feet about leaving home?” Once you’ve homed in on that “why,” you can better figure out what to do about it.

Get More Information

While orientation may give you a taste of what’s to come, that doesn’t mean it’s a definitive preview. “Orientation is one program that definitely doesn’t speak to the rest of the student experience,” Danielle da Silva, director of college counseling at Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, says. “A lot of it is random: who sits next to you at an activity, which event you choose to attend [or] how engaging and effective the orientation leader is.” Atkin also notes that your orientation might not even include all of the students who will be in your freshman class.

Instead of pivoting your college decision around a single orientation, gather more information about the school. For example, Atkins says, “If you hate the food, ask an upperclassperson whether it is representative of what is actually served during the school year.”

If it’s something that feels more complex than that, seek advice and insight from school administrators. “During most summer events, the college or university will ensure that the student service and support offices are open, thus providing access to staff and administration,” says Zachary L. Olson, associate director of admissions at Southern Oregon University. Take advantage of these offices as resources where you can ask questions and be connected with current students.

Give It More Time

It may be worth it to give the school a shot for a semester or a year. “Give it a chance and get involved in campus [with] clubs, organizations, intramural athletics and campus enjoyment,” Olson says. “All of these will provide a support network and a sense of community.”

If it’s still not clicking after that, you can look into transferring. If you think you might take this path, plan ahead during class registration. “Careful course selection—picking classes that are likely to transfer versus ones that are more niche (think Intro to Macroeconomics versus Introduction to Beekeeping)—will keep a student on track to graduate on time, even if they do decide to switch schools,” Atkin says.

Research Alternatives

If you do decide your experience warrants a change, you have a few potential paths. “Options typically are to cancel admission and formally withdraw, or defer admission to a later term,” Olson says. Either way, you can inquire with the administration about how to go about this process—or at least be sure to tell them your plans have changed. “Too often students don’t show up for school and assume that by doing so, the university will automatically cancel their admission,” Olson says. “The result could affect a student’s transcript, as they were officially enrolled for the term when it began; housing, as there [are] often contractual obligations with on-campus housing; and financial aid, as aid was…disbursed.”

If you need some time to figure out your next move, you can take a gap year—but be sure to consider how it will look to potential future schools. “Colleges ask about the time spent between high school and college, and one should be prepared to explain how that time was used,” Atkin says. “Did a student work to earn money for expenses? Did they spend time shadowing professionals? Did they travel? Did they enroll in a formal gap year program?” If you’re thoughtful about what you do during that year, it can help you make a smooth transition once it’s over.

Once you do the work of scrutinizing your orientation experience and considering your options, it comes down to trusting your gut. “At the root of it, there’s an emotional connection a student makes that drives the decision,” Olson says. “So in this case, I encourage the student to listen to themselves.”

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