Written by: Candace Rose
I applied to become an Orientation Leader (OL) at the end of my Freshman Year. No one was more surprised than me when I was hired! It was the first job I’d ever had, and I felt a mixture of terror and excitement over what the summer would hold. I wondered who I would be working with, but mostly if I would be making a difference in the lives of incoming students.
After two weeks of training, I knew the rest of the Orientation staff pretty well. If you’re looking for a college family, this might be the weirdest one you’ll ever meet. Orientation Leaders need to connect to a variety of students, so a variety of personalities are hired for the job. It’s truly fantastic that despite our differences we all work well together!
Once you’ve become a part of the family, it’s time for the real work to begin. One of the highly overlooked aspects of the OL job is the preparation that goes into each session. Stuffing hundreds of bags for both students and parents, making balloon bundles until your fingers feel numb, and waking up extra early to move signs across campus are just parts of the job. When students and friends come to me to ask me what being an Orientation Leader is really like, I always remind them that though it’s amazing and fun and life changing, it’s still a job. If you do decide to travel down the path to becoming an OL, please remember that it’s not all fun and games, though a majority of the time you will be laughing.
Finally, we come to the actual Orientation Sessions. You know what it’s like from the student perspective, but it’s rather different from the OL side. You take on the role of friend, educator, and sometimes even counselor. Beginning the transition from high school to college, or from one college to another, can be a real struggle. As an OL, you must lead students forward into a future that seems filled with uncertainty. You must be patient with their questions and empathetic to their fears while maintaining a friendly smile and making time for all of your students. Sometimes you will want to cry for them, but mostly you will laugh with them and build a real relationship with them.
At the end of the day, it’s the best job you’ll ever have. Even though you only got 2-4 hours of sleep the night before, you know that you changed lives that day. It’s a job you’ll want to do again and again, and when the summer ends you know that you’ll be applying the next year. More than that, you’ve made amazing friends with people you wouldn’t believe you would be friends with just months before and broken down every fear about college and public speaking you’ve ever had.
I applied for the job again at the end of my Sophomore Year, and that was one of the best decisions I ever made. No one was more surprised than me when I got it, but I was ready for another summer full of terror and excitement.