Beloved Associate Dean of Men Jeffrey “Chief” Rogers had wise words for freshmen at orientation: “Here you will learn and grow in your identity. This causes you to stop looking around and, instead, to look up.” Chief’s words struck me — but they were lost in the first few days of orientation due to the full schedule and busy moments.
Freshman orientation at any college could vary from a wonderful time to an overwhelming experience. Hillsdale does a phenomenal job of explaining the purpose of a liberal arts education, self-governance, and genuine relationships. However, darting from lectures to large social events can sometimes make a nervous freshman wonder how she could possibly succeed in those areas. Intentional, calmer moments may allow freshmen to relax and feel more comfortable in their new home.
While filled with valuable content, the packed schedule of tours, lectures, meals, and meetings make students feel drained and disheartened because of the stark contrast between themselves and upperclassmen. This contrast felt especially present at Hillsdale’s Welcome Party. Surrounded by people who seem to know everyone, one freshman felt like a fish out of water: lost in an unfamiliar environment.
Naturally, these feelings are common for freshmen. But Hillsdale could ease these feelings by giving new freshmen time to simply meet each other. Hall game nights or more dorm activities could allow moments of rest and reflection, reducing the shock of large social events.
As they leave family, friends, hometown churches, and old schools, every student must decide what their “Hillsdale” identities will be. Purposefully giving opportunities for quieter moments could teach freshmen to reserve time for personal devotion or godly fellowship with others and also ease them into the routine of classes.
Freshman orientation is a different experience for every person — but each student shares the common experience of learning to govern their lives. How they will define themselves is subjective, but the process has already begun. Hillsdale should assist students with an orientation schedule that reminds them to look up.