With equal parts warning and welcome, the community is bracing for the University of Virginia's move-in weekend, which officially kicks off Friday (though traffic has been thickening all week as upper-class students, many living off-Grounds, trickle into town).
For local residents, the beginning of a new academic session means, among other things, more cars on the road and longer lines in restaurants, but the students also add an undeniable sense of vitality to the community, not to mention the local economy.
Within the University, the pace of events is quickening. As U.Va. Police spokeswoman Melissa Fielding said, "It's probably a double-edged sword. It's exciting to start a new year and meet a new group of students, but we know that it is the start of a lot of hard work."
That hard work will start Friday at dawn, when minivans stuffed with students' belongings begin to line up outside first-year residence halls. For the second straight year, roughly half of the Class of 2016 is scheduled to move in Friday, with the other half expected to arrive Saturday. Though "official" move-in hours run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, the first wave usually begins forming at 6 a.m., with the peak coming between 8 and 11 a.m., Fielding said.
Extra officers will be on hand to direct traffic both days, she said. She counseled patience for motorists along McCormick and Alderman roads, Emmet Street and University Avenue, and suggested those who must traverse those areas allow a little extra time.
Meeting the students will be more than 500 upper-class student "Greeters," who annually provide friendly welcomes and helping hands to new students and their families in exchange for free, brightly colored T-shirts and the opportunity to move into their own University housing early, said Gay Perez, an associate dean of students and executive director of the newly merged offices of Housing and Residence Life.
In all, Perez said her office is anticipating welcoming 3,416 first-year students, which will require 28 "triples" in first-year residence halls rooms ideally designed for two students.
U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan noted in her press conference Tuesday that the incoming first-year class is once again "the strongest ever" academically.
About 93 percent of the class members were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes. Their median SAT scores are 666 for the verbal portion, 684 in math and 674 in writing. Seventeen students posted perfect 800 verbal and math scores, and four students got perfect scores on all three sections.
About 65 percent of the incoming students are from Virginia. The rest come from 41 states and Washington, D.C., as well as from 65 countries around the world. About a third will receive financial aid from the AccessUVa program.
For returning and transfer students, the move-in should be a bit easier, as about 1,200 of them – including members of the football team and marching band, participants in special academic programs, international students and the Greeters – received permission to arrive early, Perez said.
One change that should help ease the crunch: Upper-class University housing residents will pick up their keys in their living areas, rather than having to trek to the Housing office on Bonnycastle Drive, in the heart of the first-year move-in maelstrom.
Returning and transfer students will fill about 98 percent of the capacity of the upper-class housing, an occupancy rate Perez called "very healthy."
Some of the upper-class housing has gotten a facelift. Beside the well-publicized work on the Lawn rooms, the Lambeth Field apartments have undergone a thorough renovation. They received new roofs and fire-suppression systems, and each apartment will have new kitchens, cabinets, countertops, flooring and furniture, Perez said.
Once the students stow their belongings, they face a full calendar of welcome events. First-years will attend mandatory hall meetings the evening they arrive. Sullivan will give a welcome address on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Old Cabell Hall auditorium, with individual schools offering their own welcoming ceremonies shortly thereafter.
More required residence hall meetings are set for Sunday. Opening Convocation and Honor Induction will be held Sunday at 6 p.m. on the Lawn, followed by a reception at Carr's Hill, the presidential residence.
Monday's Student Activities fair (11 a.m.-2 p.m., McIntire Amphitheater and lower Lawn), sponsored by Student Council, will connect students with a huge variety of organizations and activities. Later in the afternoon, first-year students are mandated to attend "Grounds for Discussion" (3:30 at John Paul Jones Arena), followed by follow-up discussions in their residence halls at 7:30 p.m.
The University Programs Council has also scheduled large social events nightly from Friday through Monday, including "It's Glowin' Down" (Friday, 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m., Student Activities Building), a concert at the John Paul Jones Arena (Saturday, 9 p.m.-midnight), "Slaughter Surf & Turf" (Sunday, 9 p.m.-midnight, Slaughter Recreation Center) and a screening of "21 Jump Street" (Monday, 9 p.m., McCormick Quad).