So, it’s September, and you’re headed off to college for your first year! What should you expect when you set foot on Carleton’s campus? Most colleges have an orientation day or two, but here at Carleton, there is an entire week devoted to first-years learning how to navigate the campus and adjust to life here.
Fondly called New Student Week, some upperclassmen (like Resident Assistants, Peer Leaders, and New Student Week Leaders) come to campus a week earlier before classes start in order to prepare for the arrival of first-years and help them get adjusted to life at Carleton.
Expect to meet amazing people.
Most of your first week on campus will consist of talking to your new classmates. You’ll be assigned to a group of peers for activities and games. Your New Student Week Group will be full of people from all over the country and the world.
Don’t be surprised if meeting amazing people seems to happen at times you’re least expecting it. One of my first in-depth conversations with another freshman happened in the laundry room at 6 AM. We talked about Star Wars and jazz. Embrace the awkwardness of brushing your teeth next to a stranger and sharing a foamy giggle. You never know which one of the amazing people you’re meeting will turn out to be a great friend.
Expect to laugh. A lot.
If there’s anything Carls are good at, it’s having a good laugh. Carleton College has some extraordinary traditions, such as Friday Flowers and chasing Schiller, but New Student Week has traditions that are built for ice-breaking laughter.
The Variety Show
The Variety Show is a talent show held at the end of New Student Week open to all first-years. It’s a great way to find out about people’s interests, both simple and well, outlandish. My Variety Show act was a recitation of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 76 with sunglasses on. Visualize me standing on the front stage of Skinner Chapel, clutching the microphone with sweaty hands. I was so nervous, but the applause that rang out after my performance made me feel so welcome and loved. Expect raging applause to happen after every Variety Show act.
The Class of ‘26 Variety Show included several piano solos, a person who did as many push-ups as they could*, an improv comedy skit, a card magic trick, a juggling routine, and lots of singing and dancing. It was incredible to see my peers’ diversity of talents and vast amounts of bravery.
*20, by my count.
In my experience, performing in the Variety Show is a great way to make friends. You’ll meet the other performers during rehearsal, and people who come up to you afterward asking, “Were you the person who professed their love to Carleton College via iambic pentameter?” Even months after the performance, I still get a few people saying they loved my act.
Your dorm floor will be matched against other dorms in competitive games like Waste Sorting, tug-of-war, and volleyball. It is a themed event, so prepare to scrounge together a costume from the things you brought with you. My floor’s theme was Shower. My roommate and I wore bathrobes and shower caps. This night was one of the first times my roommate and I really got to know each other.
Because NoOlympics typically happens on the field beside the Hill of Three Oaks, the grass there will be a little bit damp. Your shoes will probably get a bit muddy. Tip for you: bring a pair of shoes you don’t mind getting dirty with you to Carleton. That’s just good advice for all college students.
Expect to get settled into your new dorm room.
Remember all that stuff you bought and shipped in boxes to Carleton? (Note: You can ship your belongings to campus, it may be easier than bringing huge suitcases.) Now is the time to unpack all of it. I do recommend taking it slowly and steadily, but your first orders of business should be unpacking sheets and shower items. You probably want to be done with all of your unpacking before classes start.
You may realize that you’ve forgotten something important during this time, but don’t fear! The CCCE hosts a POP-UP REUSE SHOP where you can buy hangers, lamps, and dorm organizers, among other things. The shop really saved me when I realized I did not have enough hangers for all of the clothing I brought (which, in hindsight, means I probably brought too much clothing!).
Expect to cry. A little.
Coming to college is an extremely exciting time in your life, but with all that excitement of saying “Hello!” to a new environment, comes some anxiety of saying “Goodbye!” to previous environments. Saying “See you later!” to your family will be a big deal, and it’s okay if you (and your siblings who swear they won’t cry when you leave for college) shed a few tears. I know I missed my family and my dog a lot during the first week of college, but remember that a 6-week winter break is only 10 weeks away once the term starts! (Learn more about managing the trimester system here).
I still remember hugging my parents and older sister after the Frisbee Toss. That’s when it hit me that they were catching a plane back to California the next day and I was staying in Minnesota. Remember that many of your classmates are in the same nervous-excited boat you are. Talking to people about how I felt made those emotions more manageable.
After a few days of walking around campus, you’ll feel more confident in your ability to navigate space and time. It’ll be easier to find your way around, whether it be for classes or to get support from administration.
At the end of the week, you’re going to get to plant a tree in the Arb. I’ll let you think about all the symbolism there, but the whole idea of planting roots and growing big and strong applies quite well. After your New Student Week, you’ll be growing leaves and photosynthesizing in no time.
Lexi (she/her) traded her flip-flops for snow boots when she moved from sunny Orange, California to Carleton College. She is a first-year student who is interested in majoring in Sociology and Anthropology and minoring in Russian. When she is not working in the Rec Center or color-coding her daily agenda, you can find her baking absurd amounts of banana bread with her friends.