University to expand freshman orientation when Class of 2020 arrives next year

Starting next year, students entering Princeton University will participate in a unified orientation program that will encompass Community Action and Outdoor Action events as well as a new program for first-year athletes in fall sports.

The new model for orientation will have all freshmen arriving on campus on a single weekend for a more unified experience in transitioning from high school graduates to Princeton students. 

With input from students and colleagues across campus, the offices of the dean of the college, dean of undergraduate students and the vice president for campus life developed the new program. Members of the Class of 2020 will be the first to participate. Their campus "move in" date will be Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, and they will spend the weekend being welcomed to campus and their residential colleges.

Outdoor Action Group Photo

Student Outdoor Action leaders and other staff who welcomed several hundred freshmen to the program pose in front of Blair Hall. Beginning next year, Outdoor Action and Community Action will be formally included as part of a newly developed orientation program for first-year students, which will also include a new program for athletes in fall sports. (Photo by Mark Czajkowski for the Office of Communications)

"Beginnings are important," Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun said. "How students start their first year of college should help to set a positive tone for their next four years. This change in our orientation program is designed to help first-year students make a successful transition to Princeton and to create a strong sense of community."

Jill Dolan, dean of the college and the Annan Professor in English, said "the unified orientation will strengthen our first-year students' sense of themselves as a class. The new plan will allow us to effectively engage students intellectually in programs like the Princeton Pre-read, as well as socially, as they're introduced to life in their residential colleges. Student Outdoor Action and Community Action leaders, as well as residential college advisers and the residential college decanal staffs, will continue to offer thoughtful guidance about academic work and campus-wide values and ethics for our newest students."

In recent years, before orientation had begun, new students participated in optional Community Action volunteer work in Princeton and surrounding communities while others took part in optional Outdoor Action adventures in a variety of camping settings from Virginia to Vermont. In the new model, first-year students will arrive to participate in those events or the new program for athletes. Community Action and Outdoor Action events will continue as small group experiences led by returning students.

As they engage in fall practices and games, student athletes will participate in workshops and discussions that will mirror those happening across the Outdoor and Community Action programs, reflecting the same cross-class and cross-residential college conversations in which all students will participate.

Once Community Action and Outdoor Action participants return to campus, first-year students will be welcomed at their first all-class assembly and participate in a rich array of programs that explain and explore the values of the Princeton community. Programs will include events such as "Reflections on Diversity," which addresses inclusion and belonging, and "The Way You Move," which addresses sexual misconduct and bystander intervention.

"This new approach to orientation," Dolan said, "will strengthen our ability to speak to first-year students as a unified class group, streamline how we provide services and information, and provide important small-group experiences to every first-year student while offering the choice of travel and engagement that best suits their interests and needs."