July 5, 2011 — Summer Orientation, which begins this week, will bring several thousand new students and parents to the Grounds between July 7 and the first day of class. Students will receive their first glimpse of the University of Virginia as true insiders, taking care of important business such as registering for fall classes and obtaining their ID cards.
As of June 30, more than 3,560 new first-year students had registered for Summer Orientation, with one or more parents or guests accompanying the majority of them. The figure confirms that more students than anticipated accepted offers of admission this year, making the entering Class of 2015 larger than originally expected.
George Stovall keeps close tabs on the numbers as the University's director of institutional assessment and studies. He said that the target size of this year's entering class had been 3,360, already a bump of 120 over fall 2010 as part of the University's commitment to the state to increase enrollment between now and 2019.
The University's plan was approved by the Board of Visitors at its June meeting and is now awaiting approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. The plan calls for total growth (beyond previously approved plans) of 1,500 students – 1,400 undergraduate and 100 graduate – by the 2018-19 academic year.
"The number of new students is always a moving target over the course of the summer as plans change and shift for any number of reasons," Stovall said. "It isn't until late August, when students actually arrive on Grounds, that we definitively have a clear view of the class size. Based on what I have seen in the past, I expect the final count to be fewer than 100 additional students beyond the original target of 3,360."
In the meantime, the University's Housing office has been working to ensure that all new students are comfortably accommodated. More triples than usual will be assigned this year, utilizing rooms primarily in the Alderman Road and Gooch/Dillard residential areas.
"While the perception of some in the past has been that a triple is not ideal, our experience has been that many students who have lived in triples have not wanted to de-triple when space became available, said John Evans, director of accommodations. "Students found that they had formed close bonds with their roommates, and they found that they easily adapted to the configuration of the furniture in the room."
New students are receiving their notifications about housing and roommate assignments today (July 5). Once orientation begins on Thursday, Evans and others will be on hand to describe in greater detail various aspects of University housing to students and parents, including information on triple assignments.
Other big changes for this year include the opening of two new residence halls in the Alderman Road area – Balz-Dobie and Watson-Webb. (If the names sound familiar, it's because they are a combination of names of former residence halls in the Alderman area.)
The opening of the new residence halls, in combination with the recently begun construction of three adjacent ones, has led to an expanded move-in process for this year. To alleviate traffic congestion and unloading concerns, first-years who will be moving in to rooms in the Alderman area or Gooch-Dillard will be assigned to one of two move-in periods – either Friday, Aug. 19, or Saturday, Aug. 20. Move-in for McCormick Road residents will remain on Saturday.
Students will receive more details about move-in when they receive their housing assignments. Evans also has created a blog to post up-to-date information about University housing.
The University has conducted a Summer Orientation program since 1999. Several aspects of the program are different this year, with some of the changes aimed at efficiency and some prompted by construction on Grounds.
Instead of eight two-day sessions for first-year students, the program has been streamlined to five sessions with a larger number of participants in each session. And instead of mid-June, the starting date now falls after the Fourth of July.
Newcomb Hall, the traditional venue for much of the orientation programming in the past, is not available this year due to refurbishment, so different venues are being used around Grounds to accommodate dining needs and various breakout sessions. The Resource Fair, for example, will take place in the Aquatic & Fitness Center.
Despite the larger first-year sessions, each of which will average around 600 new students, participants will have opportunities for small-group interaction with orientation leaders and others helping to staff the program. The number of orientation leaders has increased from 27 to 52 this year to help ensure that new students forge personal connections. All of the OLs, as they are affectionately known, are U.Va. undergraduates, and they live with the new students in University housing for each of the sessions.
As in the past, two one-day orientation sessions also take place in mid-July for incoming transfer students, and a final two-day session occurs in August, just prior to move-in, for international students and others who could not attend orientation during the summer. The schedules for these sessions remain the same as in previous years.
While their daughters and sons are meeting new friends and learning their way around, parents and guests will attend a separate program tailored for them. The program for parents attending the two-day sessions held in July will begin with a late afternoon reception at Alumni Hall and will continue the next day with a full schedule of talks, presentations and the resource fair. As in the past, parents will learn about academics, health and safety, student involvement and the many other aspects of student life at U.Va.
"Although we plan to serve a larger group of students and parents at one given time, we have devoted months of planning to these changes to help ensure that the high quality of the program is maintained," said Tabitha Enoch, director of orientation and new student programs. "Taking care of business is a central purpose of Summer Orientation, but we want students to feel welcomed and to know how excited we are that they chose U.Va."
Greg Roberts, dean of admission, is excited about the class he and his team have admitted and is poised to roll out the welcome mat.
"The class enrolling in the fall will be our largest in history. We are excited that not only will we enroll more Virginians and non-Virginians, but we will also welcome a class that has the strongest academic credentials, as measured by class rank and SAT mean, that I have seen in my time at the University. This is a talented group. Collectively and individually these students will help shape the University for years to come."