4 Ways to Make Your First Week of College Count

Many students feel a bit lost during their first week on campus. Learn about all the events you should attend before the academic year kicks off.

portrait of Samantha L. Solomon, Ph.D.
by Samantha L. Solomon, Ph.D.

Updated July 22, 2022

Edited by Cameren Boatner
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4 Ways to Make Your First Week of College Count
Image Credit: Westend61 / Getty Images

If you're starting college, you may be approaching two important milestones in your life: moving away from home for the first time and stepping inside your first college classroom.

While sorting out your courses and registration remain top priorities, most students enjoy several days to a week on campus before the fall term begins. So what do you do in college on week one?

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Ready to start your journey?

Getting acclimated to your new campus, meeting your peers, and establishing a daily routine are all ways you can ease yourself into the college experience. Here, we introduce our top tips for what to do before college classes start.

1. Participate in Campus Welcome Activities

Because students move in or return to campus before the academic year officially begins, most colleges host welcome events in the first week of college before classes start. This week can include any number of activities, such as orientation, campus picnics and barbeques, and concerts or other forms of entertainment.

Attending these events is a great way to learn the layout of the campus and meet people. You can also get to know your campus culture better. What do other students do for fun? What are their favorite classes? What's the history of your university? What's its fight song?

You might've researched these things before choosing your college, but now that you're here, you can observe firsthand the dynamics of campus life outside the confines of a classroom.

Welcome week usually culminates with convocation, a formal celebration meant to welcome the incoming first-year class. Think of it as the opposite of commencement — if graduation is the celebration that ends your college career, convocation is the celebration that starts it.

For incoming first-year students, convocation is a great way to celebrate your first college success: getting in and getting there. It's also an opportunity to learn what your institution is all about and to get to know the staff and administration.

To learn more about events going on during welcome week, ask your resident advisor or check your campus calendar.

2. Establish a Daily Routine

Before you get too excited about all the fun stuff you can do, remember that you'll have a pretty busy schedule change once classes begin. Starting classes means being in different places at different times throughout the week, which is why it's best to adopt that routine as soon as you arrive.

First, set a healthy sleep schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the times you'll be expected to once classes start. This ensures you get ample sleep and will make it to your early classes in time.

Be sure to also work other daily activities, such as exercising and calling home, into your day-to-day life before classes begin so you can get a better idea of how these commitments will fit into your schedule. You've likely built your class schedule around your availability, but you might not have thought about when you'll get to do other things that matter to you.

Finally, pay attention to when you have downtime — you can use these moments for studying and catching up on sleep, especially when the semester gets underway.

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3. Take Advantage of Student Resources and Fairs

In addition to enjoying all the fun events you can attend your first week of college, you should familiarize yourself with campus resources while both you and your campus are less busy.

Getting to know where essential campus resources are — such as student services, the library, dining halls, counseling and psychological services, and the tutoring center — will make your first few weeks a lot less stressful.

You should also use this time to scope out nonessential campus resources you might enjoy, like the recreation center, student club offices, and study lounges.

As you explore campus, make sure to check out the buildings where your classes will be held. This can prevent you from getting lost during the first week of college. More importantly, it'll help you learn how long it takes to get from one place to another on campus.

If you're worried about having back-to-back classes in different buildings, do a quick practice run. This way you'll know on your first day of classes whether you'll need to inform your instructor of any potential delays with getting to class.

During welcome week, it's also common for different offices and student organizations to set up tables on campus for informational purposes. These events are typically called "resource fairs" or "open houses" and allow students to see what their university offers.

4. Engage With the Larger Community

College campuses tend to be tight-knit communities. But what many students forget is that every university is surrounded by a larger community of locals. Though college may just be a temporary home for you, don't be afraid to get involved with the local community while you're there.

Get to know the people who live there permanently and ask them for recommendations for fun activities. You can also support local business owners by eating at their restaurants and shopping at their stores.

In addition to letting you learn about your campus, the week before classes is a great time to explore where you're living in general, especially if you've moved away from home. During your time in college, you'll be a member of many communities. Don't miss out on enriching opportunities by staying cooped up in your room.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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