For first year students and new students attending university in the US, the first week is most often called Welcome Week. Welcome Week is a series of social events where students are able to go out and meet other students, get to know more about the campus, and join clubs and societies that interest them!
Events that happen during Welcome Week will differ slightly campus by campus, but there are some general events that most Welcome Weeks feature across the board. These events include academic introductions to advisors, trivia, and club/society fairs. Welcome Weeks have seen changes though due to COVID-19, so the typical university event will see adjustments.
Here are five trademark events of the United States’ Welcome Week and how they might be different this year due to COVID-19.
Club and society fairs
Club and society fairs during Welcome Week are events where the different clubs and societies across campus will be able to set up a table and showcase their purpose and promote membership. Universities often have hundreds of clubs and societies that offer extracurricular activities. You’ll be able to meet with current members, ask questions, and learn more about the social opportunities at your school. Clubs can range from film appreciation club to book clubs and everything in between.
Normally you could expect to leave with flyers stuffed into your bag and free merch. But with COVID-19 keeping large gatherings from occurring, many campuses are shifting to online fairs. This means that clubs and societies are going to be trying to come up with unique ways to promote themselves online, via Zoom calls or other means.
Open house events typically involve getting to know advisors for your area of study, learning more about support offered on campus, and getting any last minute administrative paperwork out of the way. Open houses normally take place either in the advising offices where new students can easily walk in and out for short chats or in a larger space somewhere on campus.
This makes for a no-pressure setting where students can get to know their advisors.
This event might see changes in the form of moving online to Zoom calls, to Instagram stories, or some other virtual take on the event as advisors work to figure out the best way to still meet their new students.
Welcome receptions are events that happen for a wide variety of organizations and sectors of a university during Welcome Week. Different offices like Student Services and Student Health might hold a welcome reception so students can get to know more of the administrative staff that work on campus and have access to information on those services.
Groups like the LGBT+ club, multicultural student affairs, and even the library on campus might also host a welcome reception. Food is usually available and freebies like pens and brochures are common!
Again, like most Welcome Week events this year, welcome receptions are most likely being moved online. Zoom seems to be the most popular way to hold welcome receptions since more students can join a call and still get the experience of talking with different areas of the university and meeting other students!
Trivia events are popular during Welcome Week. They’re a fun and interactive way for new students to meet each other with something in common already since trivia is usually themed. Themes can range from movie or tv show specific questions to more general knowledge like history, pop culture, or travel! They can be held anywhere from a classroom to an on-campus rec room.
With the shift to online Welcome Weeks, trivia events are probably some of the easiest events to move online. Many universities are making use of Zoom (kind of popular, don’t you think?) and online trivia sites that let them host large games.
Who doesn’t like a bit of live music? Concerts are often a part of Welcome Week at universities in US! They’re usually towards the end of the week or over the weekend and offer a great way for students to unwind after what can be both a fun and stressful time. Concerts can be from large, well-known artists to local musicians playing the stage. No matter who's on stage though, you’re usually guaranteed a fun time with new friends, music, and refreshments.
But like with many other Welcome Week events, concerts too are seeing a shift in how they’re handled on campus. Many schools have moved to virtual concerts that remain exclusive to their students! These can take place over Facebook or Instagram lives that allow a little more freedom in their interactions or, once again, Zoom! Online concerts still deliver on the live music and social aspects even while everyone isn’t in the same space.
While Welcome Week may differ from its equivalent in other countries in some ways, the overall welcoming atmosphere and aim to help new students feel at home on campus is the same no matter where you are! From events that focus on helping students get ready for the upcoming semester by introducing them to faculty and advisors to more fun events like trivia where you can meet other students, Welcome Week aims to give students a good starting point for university.
With just about everything moving online that can, it’s not surprising that Welcome Week events have shifted to the internet too. Not having to deal with huge crowds and the possibility of more one on one time with potential friends and faculty are both positives to the move online. And while the Welcome Week may not be what you initially expected, there are still a lot of great memories to be made!