This fall, the Class of 2026 arrived on campus for the first unrestricted orientation held at Wellesley in three years. Because of the pandemic, the first-year orientation for the Class of 2024 was completely virtual, and the orientation for the Class of 2025 was a hybrid of virtual and in-person activities with many restrictions.
Every year, the events for orientation are organized by the orientation coordinators (OCs). The first-years are split into groups and assigned to orientation mentors (OMs) who are responsible for welcoming them to the College.
Audrey Wang ’25 recalled that her orientation last year was largely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
“We had to do a registration thing … there was a capacity for every event and we could only sign up for three,” she said. “If someone wanted to do all the events they really couldn’t, because there was a limit to that. And we had to wear masks, but that was a given because of the protocols.”
Nevertheless, Wang was grateful she was able to have an orientation at all in comparison to the Class of 2024. Her overall positive experience at orientation prompted her to become an OM this year.
“I’m still friends with some of my orientation group to this day,” she said. “So I was like, I want to be that person for other people, I want to help the new students get acclimated to Wellesley, and I want them to feel welcome.”
According to Wang, almost all restrictions were lifted for this year’s first-year orientation. Apart from the events held in Alumnae Hall, masks were optional and events had no capacity limits. That meant the first-years could choose to participate in as many events as they wanted, from no events to all of them.
On move-in day, the first-years were given a packet of information, including a packed schedule of the activities they could participate in for the next five days. The schedule was not shared with them in advance, and as there had not been an in-person orientation in three years, there was little knowledge about what to expect. Even incoming students who already knew upperclassmen went into orientation with no expectations.
Layla Hassen ’26, a first-year with an older sister at Wellesley, was immediately overwhelmed by the influx of information.
“I thought that I’d be forced into doing everything,” Hassen said. “Until I realized that apart from some of the stuff with my OM group, I could basically do whatever I wanted.”
She decided to take the approach where she attended events that were interesting to her rather than trying to do everything, making the experience less chaotic for her than it was for others. Hassen had heard some of her peers complaining that the orientation events sounded boring, but thought that this was unreasonable because “if you didn’t like the activity you could easily just not go.”
With activities ranging from campus tours to wellness workshops, there were enough events on the schedule that students could be busy all day or pick and choose for a more curated experience. A highlight for many students, including Lilja Stone ’26, was the lake jump on their first night at Wellesley. Stone enjoyed how she was able to walk with and talk to a variety of people.
“It was really fun because none of us knew what we were doing,” Stone said, describing the walk in the dark. “We were all a little tired, but it ended up being one of my favorite parts of orientation.” According to Stone, the sense of camaraderie and community she felt on the first night carried through the rest of her orientation experience.
One criticism of the way orientation was organized was that too many of the events were for OM groups, and if members stopped attending then there wasn’t enough of an opportunity to meet new people. However, many students formed solid connections with their OM groups, and especially their mentors. Both Stone and Hassen brought up the fact that they see their OM as someone they could easily approach with questions, even after orientation has ended.