The class of 2025 moved into campus on Aug. 25, inaugurating a semester that has brought all students back in person for the first time since the pandemic began. Despite the persistence of Covid safety precautions, the new class was met with pre-pandemic familiars like shared living arrangements, as well as cherished Orientation Week traditions. With the arrival of all returning students on Aug. 28 and 29, the total number of students on campus rose to nearly 2000, making the college the most populated — and overenrolled — it has been in years.
First-year students arriving last Wednesday were initially directed to the tennis court parking lots, where they were tested for Covid with both a rapid-response antigen test and a PCR test. After waiting the requisite 15 minutes and receiving a negative result, students and families were given the green light to continue to the First-Year Quad, where they were greeted by student leaders, staff and faculty, along with a giant, inflatable mammoth.
Per the college’s Covid protocols, family members were not allowed to enter any of the residence halls to help students move in. Students, staff and faculty on site assisted the new arrivals with loading their belongings into carts and wheeling them to their rooms.
The inclusion of 43 students who deferred in 2020 has resulted in a first-year class numbering 514 students this year — even more than the 497 students who matriculated into the overenrolled class of 2022. To accommodate the large incoming class, several rooms on the Quad have had to be converted to increased occupancy. These include six previously single-occupancy rooms in North and South dormitories that are now doubles. Across Appleton, James, Stearns and Charles Pratt dormitories, 19 rooms which served as doubles before the pandemic are now triples.
The crowding has caused significant dissatisfaction among some students. “Honestly, I’m very unhappy about it,” said Snigdha Ranjan ’25, who’s living in a triple in Stearns Dormitory, about her room situation. She explained that her dorm assignment consists of two adjoining rooms — one with a bunk bed and the other with a single bed — with furniture distributed unevenly between the two rooms.
“It's taking me a lot to accept it and move on,” Ranjan continued. “And it’s kind of stressful and worrying to think about how things will be when we have exams, how we are going to study.”
First-year students nonetheless reported adjusting well to living with roommates, which the college has not had students do during the pandemic until this semester. “My roommate’s pretty chill,” said Zoe Callan ’25. “We are not 100 percent the same or anything, but we have fairly compatible lifestyles.”
Orientation kicked off later in the day on Wednesday, with the President’s Welcome taking place on a specially erected stage in the center of the First-Year Quad. The rest of Orientation was a mix of virtual and in-person activities, with Orientation squads Zooming into trainings and information sessions from designated offices and resource centers, and the whole class gathering on the Quad for larger events, including the DeMott Lecture on Saturday and Convocation on Sunday.
“It's been pretty interesting,” said Callan about Orientation. “The different activities have been fun. I did actually really enjoy the SHE [Sexual Health Educator] skits, and the Voices of our Class performance — that was hilarious.”
“It's way better [this year],” said Abbey Skinner ’24, who served as an Orientation Leader. “For our [orientation] last year, everything was on Zoom, and we didn't really get any of the fun things, just the required things we had to do. This year has been way more engaging.”
With the arrival of returning students on Aug. 28 and 29, the campus has become noticeably fuller, said Skinner. “I feel like there’s much more of a social life and it feels much more lively here and really like a college campus. I’ve never seen so many people walking around campus, which is really cool,” she said.