Pre-Orientations Introduce First-Years to Campus and Beyond

Ahead of first-year orientation, which took place from Sunday, Aug. 21 to Wednesday, Aug. 24, some members of the Class of 2026 jump-started their Colgate experience by participating in pre-orientation programs.

Departments and organizations around campus offered a variety of programs. The list includes Wilderness Adventure (WA), First@Colgate and Questbridge Scholars, WRCU Broadcast Media, Community Outreach, Journalism and Digital Media 101 with The Colgate Maroon-News, Raider Pep Band and Intro to Campus Events and Communities with Student Activities Association (SAA). In addition to these optional programs, there were also mandatory pre-orientation programs for international students and Alumni Memorial Scholars.

First-year Jacob Petoff said he signed up for Outdoor Education’s WA to get outside.

“I come from an area with a lot of wilderness around me, and I never really got out there as much as I’d like. But I’ve always liked being in the outdoors, so when I saw the opportunity, I signed up,” Petoff explained.

Students on WA trips explored the Adirondacks, enjoying outdoor activities like backpacking and kayaking. Petoff was one of six first-years and two leaders in a group that hiked, camped and canoed around Cranberry Lake, located nearby in Clifton, NY.

“The lake was gorgeous and we had a lot of fun solving some riddles our leaders threw at us on the way,” Petoff said. “We had a lot of fun being around each other and experiencing such wonderful scenery.”

Petoff also described how the WA program provided a learning experience in addition to an adventure.

“I learned a lot of useful skills to help preserve the environment we got to enjoy. We practiced a lot of LNT (leave no trace) […] [in order to] cut down on our impact on the environment,” Petoff explained.

The Max Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education’s (COVE) Community Outreach pre-orientation also spent time off-campus. First-year Thomas Vincent says he signed up for the program to focus on his interest in civic engagement.

“I chose [Community Outreach] because this involves community engagement and civic involvement, which is something I hope to do more of since I’m focused on studying politics, […] and I think it’s good to give back to the community,.” Vincent said.

Students traveled throughout Madison and Oneida counties, completing service projects at different host sites like animal rescues, cultural centers and soup kitchens. Vincent noted his increased familiarity with the community as the Outreach program progressed.

“I feel like I’ve gotten to know a lot about Hamilton and Madison county […] And I feel like I’ve gotten a feel for [the community] even though I’ve been here for a grand total of three days,” Vincent said.

Also a participant of Community Outreach, first-year Harshitha Talasila appreciated the sense of connection that came with getting to know the area surrounding Colgate, even if it meant not learning the ins and outs of campus life.

“I think since we’re not on campus as much, we don’t know campus culture. We haven’t gotten a feel for it,” Talasila said. “But definitely we’ve seen a lot of Madison County and the surrounding area, so I think we’re starting to get pretty well connected.”

Instead, the ins and outs of campus came from the stories and advice of upperclassmen leaders. First-year Sabrina Lin noted the comfortable space that student leaders created for new students during her time in COVE’s Outreach program.

“They give us so much advice. They’re in-the-know and they will talk about anything from academics to social life to what we do during breaks and little life hacks at Colgate,” Lin said, giving her leaders a ten-out-of-ten rating.

Student leaders facilitated days of both recreational and program-related activity. Senior Shane Knopp, who led the Introduction to campus Events and Communities as part of SAA, said he enjoyed seeing students gain event-planning skills.

“As a leader, I’m super excited to provide a pipeline for incoming first-years to get involved in SAA and beyond to become student leaders themselves and provide opportunities for other students to participate in events at Colgate,” Knopp said. “Part of their experience has actually been collaboratively planning two events scheduled for the first couple of weeks in September. We don’t have everything confirmed just yet, but the events they’ve been hard at work on sound amazing.”

Knopp said he is also grateful that COVID-19 regulations didn’t place a burden on the program this year.

“This year’s pre-orientation schedule was much less condensed than last year’s. Due to the COVID-19 regulations last fall, we basically did a three-day program over two days. There was much more flexibility this time around,” Knopp said.

Along with the chance to bond with student-leaders, pre-orientation provided students from the Class of 2026 a chance to bond with one another. Vincent commented on the new relationships the Outreach program cultivated.

“I feel like the most important thing I’ve done so far is form relationships and friendships […] because I think most people would be in the position of not having [relationships], not knowing anybody or only knowing one or two people who also [go] to Colgate, so it’s good to get to know people before arrival day because it gives you a support network,” Vincent explained.

Petoff pointed out how the connections he made while adventuring through the Adirondacks in early August helped his comfort levels as an incoming student.

“By connecting with other students, it made me feel a lot more comfortable about moving away from my home for the first time,” Petoff said.

Pre-orientation programs wrapped up on Saturday evening, and those students joined the rest of their incoming class on Sunday to kick off Orientation.