Rocking Welcome Week

The first week on campus has a buzz to it that makes it one of the most memorable times of the year for students and educators. Refreshed from summer, faculty, staff, and students alike return to campus with a renewed vigor and tales of a summer hopefully well spent. For incoming freshmen, however, this can be a daunting time.

By Xavier Royer — July 19, 2022

Tags: college life

Rocking Welcome Week

This article is part of a series targeted towards incoming freshman, and seeks to help new students integrate into a campus lifestyle. The first in the series, featuring advice on class registration can be found here.

The first week on campus has a buzz to it that makes it one of the most memorable times of the year for students and educators. Refreshed from summer, faculty, staff, and students alike return to campus with a renewed vigor and tales of a summer hopefully well spent. For incoming freshmen, however, this can be a daunting time. Months ago, they left their high school legacies behind at the graduation stage. Taking those first steps on campus represents a blank slate, which means new opportunities but also unfamiliarity. That first week on campus, particularly for those who have moved a long way from home, can be stressful. Thankfully, campuses across the country have developed a tradition to help ease their new students into the university environment.

Welcome week is one of my favorite campus traditions. It may have different names at different universities, but almost all universities make an event out of the first week back on campus during the fall. This week may be first week classes are in session or the week before, when students have moved back but classes have not begun. Some universities may extend this period over both weeks. Regardless of the timing, welcome week is a phenomenal resource for new students to begin integrating onto campus and enjoying themselves. This article will look to provide guidance on how to make the most out of this week.

My first piece of advice is go out. Find some event that seems even vaguely interesting and just go. Even if the event ends up being a snooze, there will almost always be free food (free food is a staple of welcome week). College is not the time to worry about being “cool.” Yes, many of the social events during welcome week may seem dorky… but who cares! If the casino night sounds remotely fun, go and enjoy it. These events not only help students learn the social rules of campus but can also lead to some budding friendships. It may feel awkward for new students to put themselves in that environment, but it is much more fulfilling than sitting alone in a tiny dorm.

That being said, welcome week burnout can be real. If after three nights of events a student really just wants to spend the evening alone with a frozen dinner and their Xbox, there is nothing wrong with that. Welcome week events should not feel obligatory, and the first week is also a great time to take a practice swing at learning time management. The stakes are relatively low in the first week, making welcome week a great time for students to begin making many more decisions in a day than they were previously used to.

Part of learning time management will be developing a routine. Students should begin familiarizing themselves with campus resources and “hot spots.” Learning sooner than later that one dining hall is superior to the others or being familiar and comfortable with using the campus rec center is incredibly important for developing a sense of belonging. Finding their classroom can be a big source of anxiety for students; welcome week is a great time to find them. Students should also get off campus a bit and spend some time learning about the community around them. Where is the nearest grocery store? Where is the best pizza? These questions may seem trivial but answering them can go a long way to making their new community feel like home.

Finally, welcome week is a great time for students to find clubs and other student organizations. Welcome week usually features an opportunity for all the organizations and resources on campus to come out and advertise. If a student is curious about intramural sports or joining a chess club, this is their opportunity to go find it! This is also a great opportunity for students who are looking for an on-campus job as staff use this as an opportunity to fill those student worker positions. If students are unsure if they want to join any student organizations or do not know what there is to offer, welcome week is the perfect time for them to see what is out there and, hopefully, find a good fit.

In my experience, welcome week is a blast and can go a long way to helping campus newcomers settle into their new environment. I implore even introverted students to get out and enjoy the celebration of the new school year before the hard work begins in earnest. Students who develop a sense of belonging will almost always outperform those who fail to do so. Rubbing shoulders with their fellow students is a great first step for students looking to make the most of their campus experience. And if all else fails, well, at least there is usually free food.

Xavier Royer

Xavier Royer

I am currently a full time instructor at a William Penn University, a small private university in Iowa. I am the lone political science faculty member there. In my time teaching, I have already connected with an incredible cohort of students in ways I could never have expected. Partnering with SAGE will allow me the opportunity to help even more students across the globe navigate those tricky questions.
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