Freshman Orientation: A Right of Passage

It is a new year at Washington University! This means a new wave of students. A new wave of excitement, stress, social movements, ideas, and tensions. The beginning of the year is different for everyone. Faculty and staff who have been at Washington University for a long time know the drill. Rising seniors are faced with the realization that they only have one year left of college. And freshmen are faced with the realization that they have no idea what the next four years have in store for them.

Washington University strives to be intentional with their freshmen orientation program. RAs (residential advisers) are trained for weeks on how to create an inclusive, inviting atmosphere in freshman living communities. Programs such as The Date and Our Names Our Stories give freshmen a platform to engage with sexual behavior and health, student life, identity, privilege. When freshmen are thrust into a world full of new people in a new place, and orientation can be very helpful to new students in that transition.

A few decades ago freshmen were bused to Quivre River State Park in Troy, MO in order to bond with their new class. Activities such as sports, skits, and horse riding allowed the freshmen to get to know one another before beginning their journey at Washington University.

Below are some pictures of freshmen orientation from 1948 to 1960:

Freshman-camp_race-1948(above: Freshman Camp, 1948)


freshmen_camp-cafeteria(above: Freshman Camp cafeteria, circa 1950s)

freshmen_camp-horse(above: Freshman camp activities, circa 1950s)

Freshman-Camp_ca1960_bus(above: arriving at Freshman Camp, 1960)

For information on freshman orientations, check out this collection:

For more information on Student Affairs historic role at Wash. U, see this collection:

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.