Creating a Sense of Belonging – the Value of Signature Back-to-School Events on Campus

Sept 9 - Welcome
Photo Credit: Prayitno

If you’re anything like me, your social media feeds have been filled with back-to-school photos. And, the amount of enthusiasm shown is likely dependent upon crucial factors like age and how many friends are nearby to witness.

But, as much excitement and anxiety come with the first day of a K-12 school year, those feelings can pale in comparison to those of the new students arriving on college campuses.

The more a school can do to bring new students together and make them feel like part of the community, the easier the transition will be. Creating signature events and traditions in the days before classes begin builds a sense of camaraderie, boosts energy on campus and inspires enthusiastic social media posts. All of which serve as key support for retention efforts – and offer priceless advertising to friends and family still on the college hunt.

As you make your way through an overloaded post-holiday week, enjoy a few examples from universities across Virginia – including my own alma mater, the College of William and Mary. Walking through the Wren building with my classmates to a sea of cheering students and faculty will always be one of my favorite memories from my time as a nervous-but-excited new student. (There were a lot of high-fives.)

What did your college or university do to welcome you?


College of William and Mary – Opening Convocation

“It all begins with Opening Convocation, the official start of the academic year and a chance for the entire W&M community—students, faculty and staff—to welcome the incoming class. After listening to a convocation speaker, the president of the College leads the new students through the Wren portico to the wild cheers and warm handshakes of the crowd.”

Virginia Commonwealth University – Welcome Week

“Welcome Week is jam packed with educational sessions, social activities, entertainment and much more! From the Commons to the Cary Street Gym, from Cabell Library to Larrick Student Center, get to know VCU and meet some great people!”


Longwood University – The G.A.M.E.

“The sixth annual G.A.M.E.—Greatest Athletics March Ever—brought out a record number of students and culminated at the soccer field for a thrilling match between the Longwood women’s soccer program and Youngstown State. Students, friends and community rally together. Students anxiously awaited the 2015 Longwood scarf before proudly marching to the Athletics Complex.”


Christopher Newport University – Community of Scholars Convocation

“Every incoming freshman takes an oath to live honorably and signs the honor code. Upon doing so, each is given a penny for luck and as a symbol of their commitment in the hope that he or she will keep it over the next four years, and then toss it into the Geese Fountain during the procession to the Great Lawn at commencement.”

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Photo Credit: Christopher Newport University
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Photo Credit – Christopher Newport University


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