The First-Year Experience

Heading to college for the first time is an incredible experience that only happens once. From day one, Willamette seeks to make you feel welcome and helps you adjust academically and socially.


First-year students arrive on campus before the rest of the student body for a five-day orientation program, Opening Days.

This student-run program helps you settle into life on campus and connect with your classmates before the semester officially begins.

Activities include:

  • Floating candles down the Mill Stream to mark the start of your Willamette journey
  • Meeting with your academic advisor to map out your initial plans
  • Enjoying a meal with your Opening Days group in the home of a Willamette graduate
  • Learning about college life through "Reality Check," skits put on by orientation leaders


The students in your Opening Days group are also in your College Colloquium class, your first Willamette course. Colloquium introduces you to academic life and expectations at Willamette while giving you a chance to explore a wide range of topics.

Your Colloquium professor is also your academic advisor and will work with you throughout your first year, until you declare a major. He or she will help you hone your academic skills and discover your passions.

Becoming a Bearcat

As the year continues, you will experience many "firsts." Look for the activities fair at the beginning of each semester, where you can join one of Willamette's many student organizations or intramural sports teams. You can support Bearcat Athletics, watch the lighting of the Star Trees in December or join one of our Take a Break groups on a service learning trip during spring break.

By late spring, as you soak up the sun on an afternoon before finals, Willamette will be your home away from home.


Jump Start

If you want to join the Willamette community before Opening Days, check out one of our Jump Start programs: