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Exploring Freshman Orientation as a senior

Matt Portillo, a senior in the College of Fine Arts and College of Liberal Arts, missed his chance to attend Freshman Orientation three years ago. So when this summer’s orientation sessions started, he tagged along with the Class of 2014, curious to learn more about what he passed up the first time around.

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Freshman Orientation is a rite of passage for new Longhorns, but not all incoming students seize the opportunity — I would know.

By the time I got around to thinking, “Hmm, I should probably register for UT orientation,” it was the end of my senior year in high school, most of the sessions were already full, and the two that were still open happened to coincide with my family’s vacation.

As you could imagine, I was pretty disappointed.

Three years later, during my first summer break here in Austin, I am able to vicariously experience orientation through the Class of 2014.

Since the beginning of my freshman year, I have overheard friends talk about how great orientation was, and I have wondered about the experience I missed. So when this summer’s orientation sessions started, I ventured to a few of the events, curious to learn more about what I passed up the first time around.

Orientation offers dozens of different programs — some required, others optional — all geared toward new students. Campus fills with wide-eyed freshmen who eagerly absorb everything the university has to offer.

A few of the required events include information sessions, meetings with academic advisers, registration, obtaining an ID card, general information programs in Hogg Memorial Auditorium and wing meetings with orientation advisers (the student staff of the orientation program). Optional programs include placement testing, student organization fairs, barbecue dinners, campus tours, dodgeball tournaments and more.

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Many factors combine to make orientation a memorable experience. The daily schedule of an orientee is packed with opportunities to meet other new students and learn about life as a Longhorn, all while acclimating to the intellectual, cultural and social climate of the university.

“Hearing that you’re now being called a Longhorn, and not just a prospective student, is really cool,” said Mark Lupton, an incoming freshman from Houston.

For me, the best part about attending orientation was having the opportunity to visit with dozens of new students. I asked many of them, “What has been your favorite part of orientation so far?” and received all sorts of responses, including “exploring campus,” “barbecues,” “the organization fair” and “getting lost.”

Current students who attended orientation before starting UT chimed in, too. “All the people I met at orientation are still my good friends,” said Alyssa Maneri, a junior from Rosenberg, Texas.

Chelsea Adler, a senior from Arlington, said, “I left knowing that I chose the right university.”

I will always wish I had attended summer orientation and acquired the accompanying set of new friends, but looking back everything turned out just fine. Sure, I may not have attended as a freshman, but I had a great time dropping in as an upperclassman.

Better late than never, right?

Learn more about the university’s orientation sessions on the Office of the Dean of Students Web site.