Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Orientation 101

by CIA Student Morgan

Maybe this is your first time moving out of your home and starting a college adventure, maybe you've spent years in the food industry and decided it was time for more formal training or maybe you're changing your direction and pursuing what you're really passionate about by coming to the Culinary Institute. Whatever your walk of life before now, once you come to the CIA then you're all thrown in the same boat. Aaand it's called orientation.


I remember going into the CIA's orientation thinking that I knew exactly what to expect. I had been to college before afterall. Wrong. A fundamental difference between the CIA and just about every other college (you know, besides the whole 'cooking major' thing) is that every three weeks we have a new class. Every three weeks at least 75 students graduate, 75 students leave for their externship, 75 students return from their externship, and 75 students start anew. Everything here - including the student body - is constantly changing and evolving, and it affects new student orientation in a few key ways. The orientation song and dance is performed every three weeks non-stop except for summer and winter breaks. It is rehearsed and perfected, as you can imagine. When I was going through it though, I thought the system had a few gaps in it and I could have used someone to answer a few questions. Here's a few tips and tricks that looking back now, I wished I would have known. Before we get started, make sure you head on over to the CIA's website and check out the current orientation schedule. It'll help fill in the blanks!

  1. Business casual- no, really. Just do it. This is the first time you'll meet your future classmates and everyone else will be dressed nicely too. You don't have to over-do it with a suit and tie or heels, but don't look like you could be headed out for a night at Darby's either. If you need examples of what is appropriate, see the packet you'll get in the mail from the CIA a few weeks before your arrival.
  2. Breakfast- there is a lot of food that you don't need to actually use a swipe for that the CIA completely understates by calling 'continental'. I'm talking Belgian waffles, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and steel cut oats good. You can get your morning started off right and not have to worry about skipping lunch or dinner later! 
  3. Lunch/Dinner- K16 is the most likely the easiest option that works with your schedule for orientation. It's right down the main hall in Roth, right across from the Farquharson Dining Hall. People line up along the wall opposite the Apple Pie kitchens and you can't miss it! It's intimidating at first, but chances are there is a nice person in line that will help you out. Tell the person with the mic what you'd like from the menu behind him/her, swipe your ID, and then pick up your food from the pass. Make friends and find a seat :-)
  4. Being the "new kid"- the fact is, you'll stick out like a sore thumb. The first few days before I got my permanent uniform I really felt it. Don't worry, everyone feels the same way in a new setting. This is the best part though- it's only 3 weeks until you're no longer the new kid!
  5. Uniforms- when you try on your temporary uniform on Day 1, don't settle for something you think doesn't fit! If you're on the short side like me, you'll probably have to hem your pants. But I never knew that petite jackets are available, so FYI they are! It does shrink a little bit after a few washes, but not that much. If you've never worn a neckerchief before, just bring it with you and someone else will show you how to tie it.
  6. Tool kits and Books- It's like Christmas. You'll get books on two separate occasions (when you move in and day 2 of orientation) and your tools arrive on Day 3 when you're in your first class. Check out my previous post about what to pack for some more information on what you'll get!
  7. The info overload- Be patient and drink lots of coffee. It's a lot of information in two days but I promise it's important. This is where it gets hard because for the person giving the lecture they do this every three weeks and it's become a routine. But for all of [well, most of] the new students sitting in the chairs, this is new, confusing information. It'll all make sense in due time, but ask a lot of questions. Otherwise they're going to think you understand and they may leave out key information without meaning to. Remember: every three weeks. It's hard for them too!
  8. Living in the dorms- you don't get your wifi login until orientation. So for the first night after you move in but before you start orientation, don't count on having internet. 
  9. Placement tests- if you have been to college before or taken college level classes, then you might qualify to take a test that will place you out of college writing or culinary math. If you contact admissions before your start date, they can arrange all of this for you and will even send you a practice test. This is a case by case basis that could be different for everyone, so my advice is get in contact with the school and figure your situation out. But trust me, culinary math is an 8:30 am class. Study and make sure you pass that test if you're eligible! 
  10. More info- you can read even more about orientation here and here from student blogger Leah, plus other helpful pre-orientation posts here and here. As always, post any further questions you have below and we'll find someone to answer them. Good luck!


  1. I'm having a difficult time choosing between the CA campus and the NY campus of CIA. I would like more insight on both, to assure I'm making the right choice for myself. Is there anyone I could turn to for advice??

    1. Genee, your choice of campus really rests on what you're looking to get our of your college experience. Is it important to you to have access to intercollegiate & intramural athletics, a wide array of clubs & activities, and a larger campus? If so, our NY campus is probably the best fit for you. However, if you'd prefer to be part of a smaller community, have greater exposure to industry conferences, and experience all the Napa Valley has to offer -- then our CA campus would be a great fit.

      Consider giving the CIA student telecounselors a call at 1-800-CULINARY (285-4627), ext. 1515, on Monday through Thursday between the hours of 5:30–9 p.m. ET. Or you can e-mail them anytime at They may able to help you decide what's right for you.

  2. what date does the orientation start for the 29th september intake??

    1. The move in day is on 28th sept between 1-5 pm and the orientation starts from 29th sept.

  3. I am going to the new York campus but wondering if I should start in June July or Sept ...?

    1. Hi! What's great about the CIA's many start dates is that you can start when it's the right time for you! Consider your personal plans and commitments. And if you'd like to talk to a current student and get the opinion of someone who has been in your shoes, reach out to our student telecounselors: or call 1-800-CULINARY (285-4627), ext. 1515, Monday through Thursday, 5:30–9 p.m. ET.

  4. So if my start date is March 29, does that mean my move in date is the 28th?