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Volunteer for Orientation

Being part of orientation is a defining Cornell experience. Orientation volunteers help new students get to know campus and adjust to college life. They make lasting friendships, develop useful skills, and have fun.

We know you have a lot to offer, and you might discover a hidden talent for managing events, training volunteers, mentoring new students, teamwork, leadership, organizational analysis, troubleshooting and problem-solving, and all the details that go into welcoming 4,000 new students to Cornell.

We appreciate your interest and hope you get involved. Explore the roles below, and keep an eye on this page for application deadlines and links.

  • Orientation Leaders — Applications are now open.
  • Orientation Supervisors — Applications are currently closed, but if you are still interested, contact
  • January Orientation Leaders  Applications are now closed, they will next open Fall 2020.
  • Orientation Steering Committee  The OSC will next be selected in fall 2019 from a pool of candidates with previous Orientation experience. Contact for more information.

Orientation Leader (OL)

Orientation Leaders are highly valued student volunteers who mentor a small group of new students from their college during Orientation. They help new students feel at home, at ease, and supported upon their arrival to campus. New students look to their OL for guidance on how to navigate campus life, college-specific knowledge, and stories about what it's like to be part of the Cornell community. Being an OL offers the chance to develop transferable skills in leadership, empathy and communication, group facilitation and team building, and running both large and small events.

Going forward, Orientation Leaders can apply to be Orientation Supervisors and Orientation Steering Committee members. The OL commitment can be applied to Cornell Tradition leadership credit and other service hour requirements.

This is a great way to engage on campus and serve the Cornell community. You'll meet new people and get a look behind the scenes at how one of Cornell's largest volunteer opportunities works. Some of our volunteers have come once and returned to help with five more orientation sessions! We'd love to have you be one of them. Please note: Due to schedule conflicts, OLs may not be Residence Advisors and may not participate in fraternity/sorority fall recruitment.

The volunteer time commitment is approximately:

  • 2 hours — OL training during the spring semester
  • 16 hours — two days of OL training in August prior to Orientation
  • 22 hours — mentoring small new student group, assisting with new student move-in and Orientation events. All volunteers are able to move into their fall residence halls early to accommodate the OL training schedule.

Orientation Supervisor (OS)

Orientation Supervisors are crucial to Cornell's Orientation. They assist in the recruitment, training, and mentoring of Orientation Leaders, welcome and orient a small group of new students from their college, and help lead inclusive and fun social events. Orientation Supervisors may have the opportunity to take on more advanced roles in event management and volunteer training.This role is open to those who have already served as Orientation Leaders, January Orientation Leaders, and Orientation Supervisors, and to transfer students with prior relevant student engagement experience on other campuses.

The volunteer time commitment is approximately:

  • 1.5 hours — OS training during the spring semester
  • 10 hours — assisting with recruitment selection of OL’s in the spring semester
  • 18 hours — OS training in August prior to Orientation
  • 16 hours — assisting with OL training in August prior to Orientation
  • 25 hours — supervising OL’s, assisting with and attending events, and service as a mentor to a small group of new students throughout Orientation

January Orientation Leader (JOL)

The January Orientation program is a very unique and intimate program. Approximately 150-200 new students enter in the spring semester - some of them are transfer students and some of them are first-year students. Some of the transfer students have only had one semester at another university so they are entering as second semester freshmen, others may have as much as three years at another institution and are transferring to Cornell to complete their undergraduate degrees.

The JOL program is an excellent way to get involved with Orientation either as a returning volunteer or for the first time. Approximately 25 JOLs are accepted each year to work with the Orientation Steering Committee as guides to the new students, to assist with events and activities and to create a welcoming and supportive environment for the newest members of our community. This small group of volunteers is highly selective. The January Orientation program is small and very individualized to the entering students because of the attention they receive from Orientation Volunteers and the size of the January program.

The volunteer time commitment is approximately:

  • 6 hours JOL training on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.
  • Most of each day and evening from Thursday, January 18, 2018, through Tuesday, January 23, 2018, working directly with small groups of new students.

Orientation Steering Committee (OSC)

The Orientation Steering Committee (OSC) is a group of students who plan and implement the spring and fall Orientation programs. Not only does the committee create and carry out University Orientation events, but it also works with the Dean of Students Office, Campus Life, Environmental Health & Safety, CUPD, Office of Transportation, Risk Management and many other University offices in order to provide a united effort to facilitate the introduction and adjustment of new students to Cornell University.

Other responsibilities include recruiting, interviewing, selecting, and training a large staff of Orientation Supervisors (OS), and Orientation Leaders (OL & JOL). Finally, the OSC is responsible for planning, coordinating, and delivering over 50 events that vary in size and scope for new students both in January and August Orientation.

As a member, you will develop your organizational and leadership potential as well as improve your communication and interpersonal skills. As a student leader and representative of the University, you will cultivate a sense of confidence and poise in public situations as well as develop skills for how to effectively work on a large team, over a long period of time.

Contact the OSC.

Time Commitment

  • Full year from October 1 to September 30, each year
  • Attend weekly meetings during the academic year held on Wednesdays, from 5:00 - 7:00 pm in the Carol Tatkon Center.
  • Spend at least one hour in the OSC office each week during business hours (this facilitates the ability to contact campus offices with regard to event planning).
  • Attendance at all recruitment, selection, & training sessions for the OSC, OS’s, and OL’s. These occur before the end of each semester as well as prior to each Orientation.
  • Huge time commitments are anticipated from mid-August through the start of classes. During this period, it is not possible to hold a job or fulfill other commitments simultaneously due to daily-extended hours with Orientation.
  • You must be at Cornell for the entire academic year.
  • It is NOT possible to both be an RA and serve on the OSC
  • Most OSC report spending at minimum 3 hours per week, but as many as 5-10 hours per week throughout the spring semester (the time commitment is more for co-chairs).

Desired Skills and Qualifications

  • Highly motivated and energetic individuals who excel at meeting new people and making them feel comfortable and accepted;
  • Those that are eager for a new challenge and able to learn new things and apply them instantly!
  • Prior experience leading your peers;
  • Prior experience in planning and coordinating events;
  • Individuals who have a lot of experience on campus, but will be committed to Orientation for the upcoming academic year.
  • Prior experience with orientation at Cornell to be able to improve events and the volunteer experience.