5 Colleges with the Most Unique Orientation Programs

Freshmen orientation programs are on the rise in today’s modern academia. The goal is often to provide a sense of belonging to new students, thereby encouraging them to continue at the institution for the rest of their college career. Of course, some of these college orientation programs are a little more interesting than others. For example:

The United States Military Academy at West Point

Some might wonder what a military academy is doing on this list. Well, if you’ve ever heard a cadet talk about Cadet Basic Training (aka Beast), you know it belongs on this list. Beast is a six and a half week boot camp on steroids. Plebes (first-years) are isolated with minimal contact with the outside world. Only religious books are allowed during the process, along with limited phone access. Designed to mentally, physically, and emotionally, the program prepares new cadets for the West Point world. It’s definitely not on your normal list of freshmen orientations. Beast concludes with the new cadets making the 12-mile march from Camp Buckner to campus. Graduates of West Point can opt to march with them.

Syracuse University

The Freshman Stomp is a special occasion during New Student Orientation. Incoming students jump and stomp within the arched cutouts in the outside walls of the Carrier Dome. A thunderous echo then reverberates around the Dome. Alumni still come back to the school and stomp years later.

In addition to the Stomp, new Syracuse students are taken to Armory Square. There they engage with the community and can see street performances. Restaurants will also give free samples to students.

Reed College

Reed College packs orientation week with fun activities at Reed College. Examples include viewings of Finding Nemo—with fish food and prizes involved—a Haircut Station for those looking for a change in style, playing croquet with the college president, and so on. At the end of the week, students get to participate in the annual Noise Parade. What is a Noise Parade, you might ask? Well, it reportedly involves a lot of yelling, playing instruments, and banging pots and pans together as students march around campus carrying torches.

Columbia University

One of the perks of being located in New York City is that there are a wealth of options when it comes to deciding what your new student orientations will involve. New students at Columbia College (CC) and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) can choose to participate in the Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program. This places you on a 4-day camping trip with other students, both new and current. Activities during this program include biking, hiking, and river canoeing.

Students within the Barnard College, CC, and SEAS can opt to participate in the Columbia Urban Experience. New students engage in community service around NYC for a week. In addition to community service, students will carry out dinner discussions and can join the nightly activities consisting of poetry slams, desserts at local cafes, visits to museums, and so on.

Elon University

Located in Elon, NC, Elon University’s New Student Orientation activities climax with the New Student Convocation. This is the first event where new students participate as representatives of the university. Families may also attend. At the end of the convocation, each new student receives an acorn. Upon graduation, students will receive a small oak sapling to show their growth. This tradition is doubly meaningful, as “Elon” means “oak” in Hebrew.

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