New Student Orientation Prioritizes Mental Health

Starting college is a whirlwind, one that often takes a toll on the mental health of incoming students. Colorado College aims to use its New Student Orientation as a way to help first-year and transfer students begin their integration into college life and their new community. In past years this has meant sending the new students out on five-day Priddy trips across Colorado and other areas of the Southwest. But this year, during the long process of bringing NSO to life, a major change was made to the trips: the school chose to end them an entire day earlier.

A quick overview shows the grand scale of the NSO Priddy trip program. This year alone, there were four early athlete Priddy trips and 61 standard Priddy trips, with 566 total new students attending and 138 leaders. At this scale, coming up with the itineraries and locations of the trips as well as juggling all of the logistics is an enormous undertaking. The NSO staff and interns commit themselves to creating programs that run smoothly and consider the needs of all the students attending them.

Every year, the trips represent the varied interests of the student body. They range in type of service work from volunteering on farms, to assisting at charter schools and homeless shelters, to doing trail maintenance. The wide selection of trips aims to make sure that each student is able to participate in an activity which interests them.

In order to create this spectrum of options for the students, Colorado College partners closely with non-profits. Assistant Director of Outdoor Education, David Crye, elaborated: “Each organization that we partner [with] determines the type of service work that our groups will be performing based off of their current needs.” This goes for locations as well; the college looks to team up with organizations which have the capacity to host the trips or where camping nearby is a viable option. 

In planning the NSO Priddy trips, the NSO interns rely heavily on student feedback. For example, Outdoor Education will stop pairing with organizations that receive too much negative feedback. The decision to decrease the Priddy trip length from five days to four, in fact, was a result of student leader and freshman input.

The mental health of incoming students was the major consideration behind the change. Crye said that the NSO staff had “heard from incoming students and student leaders about the stress they often feel about starting classes the very next day after their return.” In an effort to ameliorate this stress and help students feel more prepared for the start of classes, the trips were shortened by one day, bringing students back to campus on Saturday instead of Sunday. To bring the new students back together, Campus Activities hosted Worner Center Live, which included many fun activities. The night concluded with CC weekend staple, Midnight Breakfast.

As orientation week can be overwhelming and exhausting to the incoming students, the staff hoped that having both Saturday night and Sunday free would allow students time to let loose and to rest and prepare themselves for the block ahead.

That being said, the NSO staff will be looking forward to getting feedback on how the shortened trip time was utilized by the students and how it affected the trips overall. All of the feedback will be closely considered when deciding whether to keep the trips at a four-day length again next year.

Entering college is often a daunting and stressful time for new students, and the NSO staff wants to make the transition as smooth and positive as possible. They will continue the process of refining NSO each year to make it the best it can be for each student pursuing their higher education at Colorado College.

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