Freshman year can be overwhelming for students, but connecting with faculty and other students over the summer can ease the transition.
"It is important for students to really come into college prepared to build a network and that would be with their peers, with their faculty members, staff members and advisers across campus," says Emily Forbes, director of communications for undergraduate admissions at the University of Denver.
"The first thing a student should do over the summer is to get in that mindset of really taking advantage of every opportunity to engage," she says.
Orientation is often the first opportunity for students to experience campus life and culture. Depending on the school, orientations usually last anywhere from a day to a week and include information for students on everything from academic advising to housing – which can leave students feeling overwhelmed.
Many schools will couple students with staff, academic advisers and peer mentors during orientation so students have a designated person they can go to for help. Email is a great way to make those initial connections with staff if you have questions, experts say.
"We try to be sure that during this time on campus they don’t leave here without contact information for at least one faculty or one staff member that they’ve had the opportunity to meet and get to know a little bit," says Doug Estry, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of undergraduate studies at Michigan State University.
Students should be proactive about reaching out for help and seeking assistance whenever they need it, experts say. Schools are willing to assist students in any way that they can.
Students should reach out to the admissions staff if they have questions but aren’t sure who to ask, Denver’s Forbes says.
"We do have a sense of the resources available and would be happy to connect them with particular professors or departments depending on what their concerns might be," she says.
[Read these guidelines for interacting with a professor.]
Social media is another great way for incoming freshmen to connect with schools and reach out to other new students before the school year begins.
Many schools have Facebook groups dedicated to the rising freshman class, and many campus organizations and academic departments also have social media accounts. Some schools, like the University of Denver and Michigan State University, have apps dedicated to helping new students connect with each other.
For students who are going to a school from a different state, connecting with other students through social media could really be useful, Forbes says. Many students use Denver’s app to find freshmen from the same state and plan meetups before the school year starts.
[Learn how to use the summer before college wisely.]
Social media can be a good way to connect with schools, but students need to be mindful of how they present themselves on social networks when engaging with schools. The summer transition is a great time for students to start thinking about how they would present themselves professionally. Students should alter their social media habits and make sure they present a positive and clean image.
"You need to present yourself as a college student who is really serious about the experience," says DeLaine Priest, associate vice president of student development and enrollment services at the University of Central Florida.
She advises students to avoid using foul language and oversharing. Priest says that students should avoid giving out information like Social Security or credit cards numbers, and also personal information about their lives that should only be shared with close family and friends.