Ten tips for a useful CI

Colonial Inauguration is GW’s jam-packed freshman orientation for the class of 2009. With almost 40 events planned over a three-day schedule, the CI Web site asks “Fact or fiction: It doesn’t matter if I skip CI events.”

The site says fiction, but The Hatchet says fact. This is The Hatchet’s top-10 tips on what to do, what not to do and how to make the most out of your three days at CI.

10. Don’t waste time on the Day One campus tours

Odds are that when you applied to GW or found out you were accepted you visited Foggy Bottom and took the requisite campus tour, so you’ve done it. There are so many great things to do during CI, both on campus and in D.C., that you shouldn’t waste time taking a tour of stuff you’ll see countless times over the next four years.

Besides, no matter how many times you take the formal campus tour, you won’t get a true sense of GW’s campus until you’re living here day by day. And while some of you may feel compelled to take the tour for fear of looking like a lost freshman during the first week of classes, don’t sweat it. No matter what you do you will look like a lost freshman and so will all of your peers. At least you’re not alone.

9. Check out the Lerner Health and Wellness Center

On Day Two of your CI schedule there is a designated 7 to 9 a.m. morning workout. While these early hours may not sound appealing to non-morning people, definitely take the time to check out GW’s workout facilities at some point over your CI weekend.

The “HellWell,” as students like to call it, is GW’s state-of-the-art exercise complex, complete with workout machines, a free-weight room, indoor pool, jogging track, and squash, racquetball and basketball courts. With all these features, and admission to both students and faculty members, HellWell is one of the busiest places on campus. So take this time to get a nice, peaceful workout at the gym before it is September and you find yourself waiting half an hour on the treadmill line.

8. Are all those information sessions that informative?

GW is sending you to its Mount Vernon Campus if you want to sit in on one of many “Experience GW” information sessions. These Day Two forums are aimed at helping incoming freshmen prepare for life as college students. Topics range from managing your money, using your new GWorld card and Colonial Cash, living on campus and achieving academic success.

But really, while these sessions will give you a few good nuggets of advice, don’t work yourself into a frenzied compulsion to hear all of the lectures. If you’re a Columbian College of Arts and Sciences student who is already on Mount Vernon for your academic advising, then take in one or two of these speeches if the topic interests you. But remember, you’re going to learn most of the stuff covered in these sessions by default as soon as you become a full-time student.

7. Kickoff is cool

Day One’s Colonial Inaugura-tion Kickoff may be a little cheesy, but it’s one of the most fun events of your orientation weekend. At the kickoff, CI leaders will have almost unimaginable levels of enthusiasm, but don’t be turned off. Take their excitement with a grain of salt and let it have a contagious effect, so you can sit back and enjoy their song-and-dance introduction without any airs of “I’m too cool for this” cynicism. Plus there are freebies: stay seated and maybe you’ll catch one of the GW T-shirts, sweatshirts or blankets that the Colonial Cabinet will throw out into the audience.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg will also speak at this event, an occasion you definitely don’t want to miss. SJT, as he is more commonly referred to, is known for his witty humor and wacky, non-sequitur stories.

And then there’s the laser light show. This is the only time you’ll get to see this famed CI event that people talk about long after these three overwhelming days are over. Trust us, it’s pretty cool, and not to be missed.

6. Go to the fun stuff

While CI is clearly about getting yourself academically situated, GW’s orientation is not without events that will make you smile. First there is the free food, which is sure to bring joy into the heart of any financially challenged college student. And while you may not be able to fully enjoy the benefits of being fed on the house quite yet, you can at least use the Buff-N-Blue barbecue and ice cream breaks to meet new friends.

Don’t miss out on the student skits or Capitol Steps Comedy Show either. You’re sure to get a few laughs out of the Colonial Cabinet’s version of the college clich?s and the professional comedy troupe’s lampoon of the Washington political scene. You’ll soon find that at GW these two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

5. Like a virgin – register for the very first time

This may be the scariest part of CI, but freshmen tend to stress out a lot more than necessary about registration. So keep these few things in mind and you might be able to get that desired perfect schedule:

First, go to your advising sessions and Web registration practices. Even if you’re sure of your major, each school and department has course requirements that many students like to get out of the way early on. Your advisor can help you figure out the best courses to take in your first semester of classes. And then there’s GWeb. While not a difficult system once you’re used to it, you want to be well-versed in the ways of GW’s online registration before you sign up for classes.

It’s not a big deal if you don’t get all or any of the classes you want. Yes, it might seem like the end of the world now, but it’s not. You should make a list of the top five classes you want to take, but don’t forget to include several back-up classes that also interest you. As incoming freshmen, you are at the bottom of the totem pole of class registration, so many classes may already be closed once it’s your time to register. But don’t despair, because even though you get last pick, registration will open up to all GW students once the last CI is over.

A couple more important pieces of advice for registration: If you can avoid it, don’t take the 8 a.m. or 5 p.m. classes that CI leaders tell you are required – it’s just not true. While these may be the only bottom-of-the barrel classes left open, you aren’t required to register for these specific class times. Also, sign up for a Dean’s Seminar. These are the special-topic freshman-only courses that often involve cool field trips. They’re interesting and fill up some general course requirements.

4. Where will I live?

Housing: it can make or break your freshman year, so CI is the time to check out the dorms in person and figure out where you really want to live. On Day Two from 4:30 to 6 p.m., take advantage of the Dormitory Open House.

This all-access hour and a half will help you decide if you want to live in the infamous Thurston Hall, where more than 1,000 freshmen party in the rumored second-most sexually active dorm in the nation; in a more balanced dorm such as the Hall on Virginia Avenue; or in a quieter place such like Lafayette Hall. The housing application deadline isn’t until July 10, so take some time at CI to make sure that you’ve got your housing choices in order.

3. Don’t fight for your right to party

Many freshmen come to CI expecting to party like a college student right off the bat; not the best idea at your freshman orientation. You may have been accepted to GW, but you’re not a full-time student yet, so if you get caught drinking or doing drugs there can be some heavy consequences. Definitely take the two CI nights to explore campus, visit the Greek-letter houses or chill out in Thurston, but don’t risk your entire college career by getting caught doing something illegal; you could get kicked out of school before you even get here.

There will be plenty of time to drink and party once the school year begins, and the first-time consequences then won’t be nearly as harsh as they are at CI. So partake in some PG fun for now, and leave the R-rated festivities for the fall.

2. The District: home sweet home

“Colonial Inauguration is designed to get students connected to campus and our place in the city,” said Renee Clement Baldwin, director of CI. “In two and a half days it’s hard to educate students on (GW’s) campus and the city. They should get to know GW first.”

Well if you find yourself with a few extra hours, go out and explore the city you will soon be calling home. One of the greatest aspects of GW is the fact that it’s located in the heart of D.C. A tour of the monuments on the National Mall, just south of GW, is a must-do during CI, especially in the nice summer weather. There’s an opportunity to go with your small group during the first night of CI, or go during the day with your family or newly made friends.

Georgetown is another favorite hot-spot for GW students, and is only a 15-minute walk or five-minute shuttle ride from the Foggy Bottom Metro station. Enjoy an outdoor family dinner at Sequoia in the Washington Harbor, browse the upscale shops on M Street or munch on a burrito the size of your face at Chipotle. CI-goers can also head to Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan or Capitol Hill to experience some authentic D.C. culture.

1. Embrace your inner social butterfly

You’re leaving the safety net of high school behind: home-cooked dinners, teachers who know your name and people you’ve known your entire life. So it’s no surprise that people come to college a little overeager to make new friends and create the new support system they will rely on for the next four years.

While all those toothy smiles, nervous handshakes and countless introductions might make you dizzy, don’t crawl into your shell and become a CI hermit. Go to your small group meetings, shake your booty on the dance floor at casino night, chat up your two-night Thurston roommates and meet as many people as you can. They may become your lifelong friend or just a quick hello on the street, but they will definitely be a much-needed familiar face on campus come August.

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