Before my freshman year, I decided to challenge myself. I had seen plenty of notices about these "Pre-Orientation" things I could sign up for (and pay for, naturally). I'd spent days mulling it over. Did I really think I could do it? But after about two weeks of being on the fence I decided, why not.
The Western New York Bike Adventure: a bike trip along the Erie Canal from RIT to Niagara falls. The trip lasted 3 days, in which we would have to ride a grand total of 190 miles; 95 each way. Never in my life had I attempted anything like it (and two years later I haven't since). I simply figured that an opportunity like that doesn't come around very often and I might as well go for it.
So I did.
The ride was long, hard, hot, and left me exceptionally saddle-sore. But it was incredible. It was as if simply by doing the same thing and having the same goal (make it to the falls alive), all 16 of us (freshmen and transfer students), just came together in a pretty natural way. There was the first bit of uncertainty meeting everyone for the first time, sure, but when I later compared it to my group during Orientation it was so different. The pre-orientation group was so much better.
I could ramble on and on about what happened on the trip; what we did at the falls, our excursion to Walmart, those sorts of details. But that's not the point I want to drive home here. Just take my word for it - the trip rocked.
No, the point I want to make is that the specific activities offered by any of the pre-orientation trips and seminars matter. Not because of what you do, but because of how it changes the game. You move in early and get to know a small group of people before you're bombarded by the over 2800 people you will see during Orientation. That experience matters.
I can't say that I'm still close to everyone from the bike ride, college just doesn't work like that. But I did live with two people from that trip this past year, and it was great! And by the time everyone else arrived for the real deal, I was already acquainted with not only people, but RIT.
If you're at all on the fence about any of the pre-orientation offerings, all I can say is do it. Sure, there's a cost associated with it. But by virtue of selecting RIT you're already staring thousands in debt in the face, what's an extra three or four hundred? These are the types of things you'll remember about starting school. Orientation is such a blur to me (and I've done it twice now!). But that bike trip? I can recall just about every mile.
There's a wide variety of activites offered that get you in early (and avoiding the hectic freshmen move-in day is pretty nice too). Personally, I reccomend the bike trip. But what really matters is getting on campus early, and easing that transition into college. It's a huge leap, but if you arrive early, it's almost as if you're already on the other side.
P.S. Due to an unfortunate incident involving a corrupted SD card, the photos I took from the trip were all lost (I'm still mad about that!), but I was able to dig up a couple photos of the group from else where. Enjoy!