Prepare for Your First Semester with Graduate School Orientation

Like most events right now, graduate school orientations are going virtual in order to abide by safe social distancing practices. While not attending in person may seem like a disadvantage, there are several steps you can take to ensure the experience provides you with everything you need to prepare for your first semester.

Register and prepare beforehand.

For most grad school orientations, you must register online in order to save your spot, so make sure to check your school’s website to find out how to register. In addition, now that schools are doing virtual orientations there may be multiple meetings you have to sign up for at different times and dates. It’s also a good idea to prepare before your orientation by writing down some of the questions you might have about your program and its services and resources.

Stay present and actively engaged.

By now, we’ve all heard about “Zoom fatigue” and the challenges of staying focused during long periods of time at your computer. It may take time to fully adapt to this medium, but a good first step is to make sure you’re knowledgeable of the nuances of professional video conferencing etiquette. In order to stay fully present and actively engaged during your virtual graduate school orientation, be sure to take notes, ask questions when appropriate and try to get to know the people leading the events. And as tempting as it might be, don’t sit in bed or on the couch during the orientation. Instead, find somewhere quiet that presents as few distractions as possible.

Set up a one-on-one meeting with your advisor.

Asking all of your questions may not be possible at your school’s orientation. These events are usually done in large groups, so you might not be able to talk to a program leader one-on-one. Setting up a meeting with your advisor afterwards can be helpful when it comes to finding answers and getting advice on how to approach your first term. Orientation is a great place to learn about your program in its broadest sense, but your advisor will be able to delve into your more specific and personal questions.

Your graduate school orientation may not be what you were expecting, and it might feel a little disappointing having to do it virtually, but you can still gain a lot of valuable information from the experience. Be sure to keep an open mind, be an active participant when possible and reach out to your advisor and faculty members if you have more questions afterwards.